Trish Wheatley looks forward to Unlimited

By Trish Wheatley on September 5, 2016

Trish Wheatley looks forward to this 2016’s disability arts festivals.

Noemi Lakmaier holding a bunch of colourful helium filled balloons
Noemi Lakmaier: Cherophobia, 7-9 September

The second issue of the Disability Arts International newsletter coincides with the launch of the Unlimited Festival at London’s Southbank Centre. This biennial event profiles a selection of the UK’s leading performing and visual arts created by disabled artists and companies. The Festival draws the vast majority of its content from the UK’s flagship Unlimited commissioning programme specifically for disabled artists, which is produced by Shape and ArtsAdmin.

This year sees a rich cohort of works across artforms and genres. There will be musical comedy that packs a strong political punch in Assisted Suicide the Musical from artist, actor and activist Liz Carr. Cherophobia by Noemi Lakmaier is a performance and a gathering, “a one-off event that intertwines people in their shared suspense and anticipation”. Taking its title from a psychiatric condition, defined as ‘an exaggerated or irrational fear of gaiety or happiness’ it promises to create defining images of this year’s festival as the artist is suspended by over 20,000 helium balloons over a 48-hour period. Live audiences can visit the performance at St Leonard’s, Shoreditch Church (High St, London E1 6JN), whilst those not in attendance can view the livestream at the Southbank Centre and online. The beautiful R&D film ‘Him’ produced by Sheila Hill, premiered at the Unlimited Festival in 2014 has now been developed into a stage show featuring the actor Tim Barlow. 

For anyone looking to programme work by disabled artists it is a rare opportunity to see so many performances and artworks in such a short period. This is only enriched by the wrap-around discussions and talks, with one of the best opportunities to network with artists and others involved in the sector. 

In an exciting development, this year the Unlimited Festival is also hosted by Tramway in Glasgow. The core commissioned work will be shown and performed, including Claire Cunningham’s The Way You Look (At Me) Tonight, which was co-commissioned by Tramway for this festival. Tramway have a great track record of programming disabled artists, but this is the first time they have billed a whole festival as work by disabled artists. There is also a fascinating range of discussion events to accompany the performance and visual arts programme. 

Part of the 2012 legacy is a glut of disability arts events every other year. Through Unlimited, and other events like DaDaFest and Liberty Festival this season, one can become totally immersed in seeing the world from different perspectives through the arts. I can’t wait to spend this Autumn being surprised, entertained and moved by these incredible artists.

Trish Wheatley is director of Disability Arts Online, the media partner for Unlimited. will be providing comprehensive news, review and opinion pieces throughout the Unlimited Festivals.

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