Jonny Cotsen shouting into a megaphone
Jonny Cotsen. Image Credit Jorge Lizald.

12 disabled artists awarded BBC Culture in Quarantine commissions 

The BBC, in partnership with Arts Council England, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales, and Creative Scotland has commissioned televisual and audio works from twelve disabled artists to be hosted across BBC platforms this summer. Read on to find out which work is being made

BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative aims to deliver the arts to the homes of the public during lockdown. This second strand of specific commissioning champions the work of disabled artists by helping them produce work recognising that some disabled people are regarded by health professionals as being ‘vulnerable’ to the medical conditions associated with Covid-19 and simultaneously marking the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act into law.

The strand was established in partnership between BBC Arts, Arts Council England, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales, and Creative Scotland, and is being delivered by The Space and supported by Unlimited. It will support 12 new televisual and audio works for BBC platforms, all due to land this summer.

Commissions were selected by a panel including representatives from BBC Arts, Arts Council England, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales, Creative Scotland, The Space, Unlimited, and #WSNBR.

The new televisual and audio commissions are:

SILENT WORLDSignkid, England

Silent World is a musical short film using rap, spoken word and BSL sign-slang featuring ‘Signkid’ as a central character and musical narrator. The film will creatively explore the ‘SILENT WORLD’ that has intensified and deepened for people in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hen Night Vici Wreford-Sinnott, England
Hen Night is an all too real tale inspired by the award-winning journalism of Frances Ryan and written and directed by Vici Wreford-Sinnott. Against a backdrop of the pandemic and budget cuts, we meet young and fiercely independent Jessica, as she’s told her care package is to be cut. As her story unfolds, we see the extraordinary mix of pride and vulnerability, and the fight that comes when you want to hold on to your independence and dignity.

Spectrum SoundsAndrew Hugill, England

Arising out of lockdown, Spectrum Sounds is a collection of seven short pieces of music in the colours of the spectrum. As an autistic man, Andrew’s listening has several distinctive features: heightened sensitivity to patterns or details that others do not always notice, the ability to decompose music or soundscape into its constituent parts, and the synaesthetic association of colours with certain musical and non-musical sounds. Spectrum Sounds will draw out the richness and beauty of sound colours that are associated with the colours of the autistic spectrum.

Face It Miranda Walker, England

The Face It comedy/drama monologues reveal how two women feel about their faces in the modern swipe-right world, and the unexpected impact of wearing Covid-19 face masks. Meet straight-talking Leonie and ambitious Abbey.

How to Thrive in 2050!Kai Syng Tan, England

A manifesto by a human-octopussy of a more creative and equitable future. Blending science with mythology, interview with autobiography, geomancy with geopolitics, the intimate and the epic, this essay is a retort to our troubled moment of multiple crises. Put on your seat belts and face masks, and prepared to be disorientated, surprised, provoked, and re-energised.

Earth to AliceAlice McCullough, Northern Ireland 

Alice is a poet, but she tries not to show it. She doesn’t want to end up in hospital again. She doesn’t mean to disconnect from reality, it just kind of… happens. ‘Earth to Alice’ is a 3-part comedy-drama about a 30-something woman navigating the twists and turns of bipolar disorder down the rabbit hole of life in East Belfast. Set against the backdrop of the magical Beechie River, Alice moves between two worlds, simultaneously living out an adventure of colourful, mystical surprises whilst devastatingly stuck in a state of crippling disempowerment. At times moving and thought-provoking, at times laugh-out-loud hilarious, this combination of Art, poetry, film, and comedy is a timely and uncompromising look into the challenges and prejudices many people face on the road to recovery from serious mental illness.

Pandemic Parenting: PandemoniumShannon Yee, Northern Ireland

Pandemic Parenting: Pandemonium is a dance theatre piece exploring the unique and diverse challenges for parents of newly born and young children during this 2020 Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. The project integrates desktop research and interviews with parents, educators, and mental health professionals in Northern Ireland.

The Cat, The Mouse and The Sausage Joel Simon, Northern Ireland

An animated film adaptation of a Grimm’s Brothers fairy tale, ‘The Mouse, the Bird and the Sausage.’ The film is set in a large dystopian western city where three strangers – a cat, a mouse, and a sausage – meet on the street and share a small flat in order to save money. This tragicomic fable holds much relevance today, namely that no matter how well our life’s circumstances, we are bound to be dissatisfied if we think that we could lead a better life.

Louder is Not Always ClearerJonny Cotsen, Wales

An inspiring story of a Deaf man’s life journey in a hearing world, learning to get by while gaining a deeper understanding of his own identity. An adaptation of the Mr & Mrs Clarks’ celebrated stage show Louder Is Not Always Clearer, where physical theatre is used to act out moments from Jonny’s life – an honest portrayal of the vulnerability of a Deaf man, created and performed by a Deaf man.

Complexity of SkinMatthew Gough and Krystal S. Lowe, Wales

Complexity of Skin is a dance film which explores touch in periods of isolation. Set in a flat during lockdown, we meet two black, neurodivergent people whose desire for touch collides with the discomfort it causes. Moving in and out of physical contact, they share feelings, memories, hopes, and fears as their relationship develops.

Blind-sidedJamie MacDonald, Scotland

A dramatised version of a day in the lockdown life of blind comedian Jamie MacDonald. As the pandemic hit, Jamie’s high-flying wife landed her dream job as a paediatric surgeon in Sheffield, leaving him little choice but to leave the familiarity of his home in Glasgow. In a strange new place, stripped of the job he worked so hard to define him, he’s had to come up with ways to fill his days and reassert the control he once had over his disability, in a world that’s out of control.

AISLEEllen Renton and Jess Fig, Scotland

A film combining poetry and illustration exploring the disabled experience of being in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Focused on the act of going to the supermarket, AISLE will open up a discussion about the ways in which disabled people have been forced to relinquish their independence during this time.

 

Lamia Dabboussy, BBC Head of Arts said:

This batch of commissions from artists across the country showcases the breadth of inspiring work we’ve all missed experiencing over this past lockdown year. I’m thrilled that, as part of Culture in Quarantine, these pieces will be brought to life across BBC platforms. It’s imperative that D/deaf, neurodivergent and disabled professional artists are supported to carry on making brilliant work, as the constraints and continuing dangers of this pandemic threaten to silence their vital creative voice.”