Unlimited: it’s global

By Jo Verrent on July 1, 2016

Jo Verrent, senior producer for Unlimited, the UK’s leading commissioning programme for disabled artists, gives us the latest update on everything Unlimited.

It’s a strange time to be living in the UK, but whatever happens in Britain in relation to Europe, Unlimited has always had all the world in its vision. Since the very start, the Unlimited commissions programme has worked in partnership with the British Council to ensure we extend practice, exchange perspectives and widen the horizons for disabled artists no matter where they live.

Photograph of Jo Verrent stnading next to a sign at a conference in Japan.
Jo Verrent, senior producer for Unlimited

So what is Unlimited? At its heart it’s a commissions programme supporting disabled artists and companies across all artforms create and tour exceptional new work. Why? Because we feel that the work disabled artists are currently creating includes some of the most innovative, interesting and transformational artwork that’s out there, and that the work deserves to be seen by a much wider audience. And that includes audiences from around the globe – many of our artists have profiles on Disability Arts International, why not check out the ever growing curated list here.

There is no point creating work and not showcasing it – and any work we support has to be shared in a variety of different settings, including at Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival in London which runs every two years. This year it is running from 6th to 11th September and will be followed by Tramway’s Unlimited Festival, in Glasgow running from 15th to 25th September. Both festivals are built around our commissioned work, but include plenty of other pieces. Unlimited doesn’t have a monopoly on talent! There is a rich and diverse seam of disabled artists in the UK that no one funder could support.

Young man in waistcoat and flatcap spins a bicyclewheel, lighting up the rim
Jack Dean – Grandad and the Machine. Photo: David Hevey

Work we commission is usually shown in both disability-specific events, like these, and also within mainstream festivals and events too. For example, we’ve just had pieces at Brighton FestivalSalisbury International FestivalFreedom Festival in Hull and many, many more. It’s important for us that disabled artists – like any other artists – can escape the sense that they have to only focus on one facet of their identity, if they wish to. For us, artists are artists first and foremost. 

Not all the artists we are showcasing this summer are from the UK. Thanks to additional funding from Arts Council England and British Council, we’ve been able to add a new strand to our work – Unlimited International. The main thrust of this programme is setting up a new round of collaborative commissions, enabling disabled artists/companies from England and Wales to partner up with disabled artists anywhere in the world to create new work in any artform. We will announce the full details for this in late July, and the application process will start in October with decisions due in March 2017 for work to be ready to tour summer 2018.

Unlimited International has meant we can bring over some incredible work by disabled artists around the world for this summer’s festivals – Billy Saga from Brazil, who is touring with the support of Drake Music, Nama Āto, an exhibition of three Japanese Outsider Artists from Atelier Corners showing their work in the UK for the first time, organised by Outside In at Pallant House Gallery and Unfixed, a focus on digital, disability and creativity led by the Australian Network for Art and Technology and Watershed, Bristol. 

We’ve also just appointed an International Placement to work with us across the festivals and exchange producing practice – but we’ll let them tell you all about their role in another blog coming soon!

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