A dark, dramatically lit photo of a woman with both arms folder across her chest and over her shoulders. A light shines brightly on her but the rest of the photo is dark and unlit.
NIGHTCLUBBING, Rachael Young. Image credit: Marcus Hessenberg.

Announcing the Unlimited Commissions shortlist

Following a record number of Expressions of Interest applications for Unlimited’s most recent open commissions round, our panels have been busy reviewing 468 applications over the past month. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this round of Unlimited Commissions has involved some of the toughest decisions ever taken in the programme’s history. The number of applications was 70% higher than in previous years, and both the quality and range of applications was astounding.

We can now share the shortlist of 77 artists and companies that we will be inviting to make full applications for Unlimited’s awards. We have over £500,000 to award across the three strands – main commissions, research and development awards, and awards for emerging artists.

Those selected here are the tip of an iceberg of exceptional work by disabled artists – we have only been able to shortlist 16% of the applications that we received.

Take a look at the artists and companies in the shortlist:


Download the full shortlist as an Excel document

Download the full shortlist as a PDF

Download the full shortlist as a Word document

A photograph of an atmospheric, flat landscape in which a woman stands. She wears a dark dress and has her hair tied up. She is stood on rocks, behind her is the sea going off into the horizon.
No Place Like (Flat) Holm – Circe’s Call. Image credit: Gina Biggs (SheWolf)

Why do we publish the shortlist?

We want disabled artists and companies to have the best support they can to enable their work to develop and thrive. By publishing the shortlist, we can link up artists with Allies – including arts organisation, festivals, venues – in the sector and help get them that support. This is a great time for venues, programmers, festivals and other arts sector contacts to get involved and help the applicants make their proposals the best they can be. We email the shortlists to our 300+ Allies to see how they can support our shortlist in ways such as:

  • mentoring
  • materials
  • free rehearsal, making or storage space
  • showcasing opportunity
  • a friendly offer to check over a budget or help edit down a word count.

It’s not too late to join our Allies and be part of that process – sign up here.

Get in touch if you are able to support a shortlisted project

How did the panellists make their selection?

These are the works that the relevant selection panels best felt met Unlimited’s criteria: showing quality, innovation and ambition, and being disability-led.

Each panellist was asked to prioritise around 20 projects for their award strand and the shortlist was created from the projects that were most frequently selected across all the different art forms and geographical areas.If a panellist has any kind of formal relationship with an applicant or any one mentioned within an application – if they have funded their work, are close friends or family, have worked with them or for them, or anything similar – they cannot shortlist that application so that we ensure they don’t influence the process.

Diversity and the shortlist

Each year, the range of work just gets wider in both art form and subject matter – this time ranging from tattoo culture, Iraqi folk tales and frogs, to challenging colonial perceptions, climate justice and Covid-19.

68% of the artists and companies on the shortlist are new to Unlimited and have never been previously supported or shortlisted by us before.

Part of our selection process is to ensure a balance of work across artforms and geography.

The shortlist has the following breakdown in relation to core artform: 32% combined arts, 22% theatre, 27% visual arts, 10% dance, 5% music, 9% other and 3% literature.

And the following in relation to where artists and companies are based: 30% England, London, 8 % England, South East, 17 % England, Midlands, 8 % England, South West, 12 % England, North, 16 % Scotland and 10 % Wales.

Due to our commitment to #PutUpOrShutUp, we are also including the broadest data here in relation to ethnicity.  Of those who provided data, 74% of the artist defined within the white categories and 26% defined in one of the non-white based categories. A fuller breakdown of all the equal opportunities and other data collected will be published next week alongside a more thematic look at the work included within the shortlist.

Two landscape photographs in a collage. Both show a dance studio in which the same two people are moving. In the top photograph, one person has their arms outstretched while the other stands still. In the bottom, they reverse, so the opposite person is now dynamic and folder over while the other remains standing.
Brut by Aby Watson.

What next?

These artists and companies are now invited to make full applications with a deadline in February. The panels will then decide the final selection of commissions we are supporting and we announce which ones will receive funding at the end of March/beginning of April. There is access support available, and each project has up to an hour of support and advise from our Unlimited team.


We ask panellists to select the work they feel best meets our criteria and not to comment on every proposal. This means we cannot give feedback to unsuccessful applicants at the Expression of Interest stage.

Each shortlisted applicant that submits a full application form will receive more detailed feedback at the next stage.