Southbank Centre's Unlimited Festival 2014. Image by Rachel Cherry for Unlimited.

Exploring the Unlimiteds

The Unlimited commissions programme (that’s us), Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival in London, Tramway’s Unlimited Festival in Glasgow and many other things share the name Unlimited. So where did it come from, why do they all use it and how do they all interact? Jo Verrent, Senior Producer for Unlimited talks with Tamsin Ace, Head of Festival Programme and curator for Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival…


JV: The name ’Unlimited’ was developed during the planning of London’s 2012 Cultural Olympiad and was given to both the commissions strand and the resulting festival at Southbank Centre – both of which have gone from strength to strength.


TA: I’ve been involved in all three Unlimited Festivals at Southbank Centre in a variety of roles and have seen the programme evolve from a range of angles. I’ve also seen the impact the festival has had on Southbank Centre’s way of working.


JV: That’s great to hear – can you give an example?


TA: It’s had impacts all the way through the building and its operations. For example, the whole of our marketing has become more accessible – in print and online. We just keep learning!


JV: And now you have a new role?


TA: Yes – I was very excited to take on the role as curator this year. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process and working with the Unlimited Commissions team, as well as having the responsibility of representing the amazing range of work that is being developed.


JV: On the commissions side, our focus is very much about supporting disabled artists to make work and companies to produce work that is disabled-led – is that an element of the festival too?


TA: Yes, we have a clear remit to support work by disabled artists, and the festival programme very much reflects this brief.


JV: How do you go about curating a festival? What things are you looking to put in place?


TA: A festival at Southbank Centre is not about a collection of events; it’s about the journey the audience members go on once they arrive on our site. It’s about how they engage with the theme or the programme, and we make sure that we always offer a range of events they can access. We think about every aspect of the programme: is it cross art form? Is there something for as broad an audience as possible? Can you spend the day with us trying a variety of events? All the while, of course, making sure that 50% of the programme is free. We also have a commitment to giving audiences the option to participate throughout.


JV: What about audiences? What’s the most important message that they take away?


TA: We want audiences to see great work, to be moved, inspired and challenged. To try something new, to feel welcomed and part of an arts community that celebrates difference and the power of creativity.


JV: Sounds pretty much what we all want – great work and great audiences! The programme for Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival is now confirmed and online – grab your tickets quick as many events are sure to sell out. There are plenty of free events too (some of which are ticketed to manage numbers). Whether you are an artist, an ally or an audience member – see you in September!


Unlimited Festival at the Southbank Centre, London takes place from 5 to 11 September 2016; Unlimited Festival at Tramway, Glasgow takes place from 15 to 25 September 2016. Both festivals will host a large number of our commissions and Unlimited-supported works.