Unlimited, in partnership with the British Council, is offering a placement for a disabled person who is based outside of the UK and who is working or beginning to work as an arts producer, arts curator or arts administrator. Unlimited Trainee, Simon Overington-Hickford, catches up with Morwenna Collett, at Australia Council, on her experience as a placement with Unlimited.
Simon Overington-Hickford: Hello Morwenna, so Unlimited are offering a new placement, you must be pleased?
Morwenna Collett: I’m thrilled to see the British Council partnering with Unlimited to offer an international placement in the lead up to the 2016 Unlimited festivals in London and Glasgow this September. Having had the privilege of interning with Unlimited during the 2014 festival, I found this to be one of the most life changing experiences of my professional career to date.
SOH: Tell us more about what you were doing professionally when you took up the placement with Unlimited and more about the cultural context of disability arts in Australia?
MC: At the time, I was working at the Australia Council for the Arts (our national arts funding body) in Sydney as disability coordinator and had recently developed their Disability Action Plan and introduced a new dedicated funding program to support artists with disability in Australia. With a population of 24 million, Australia has a relatively small number of artists with disability, a short history of support for these artists and as we are quite disparately placed, our artists are generally quite isolated from each other.
SOH: Did this partly inform your choice to come to the UK? What were you looking for out of the placement?
MC: Yes, I was keen to see how the UK approaches its support for disabled artists, be exposed to some seriously high quality work in one of the world’s leading arts venues and increase my understanding of what the provision of high quality access actually looks like. My self-organised Unlimited internship (supported by Unlimited and the Australia Council) turned out to offer all that and much more.
SOH: So what we all really want to know is, how was the festival? What were your highlights and most importantly what do you think you and Unlimited gained from the experience?
MC: During my time in the UK, I had the opportunity to work with the wonderful Unlimited team on a range of different tasks for a week before the festival commenced, during the festival week itself and contribute to the bump-out and debriefing processes after the event. I saw 15 performances, eight exhibitions and seven workshops during the six days of festival, more that I’d be lucky to see of this type of work in a entire year back in Australia. One of the real highlights were the networking opportunities that I had, meeting artists from all across the UK as well as arts administrators from venues, funding bodies and other arts organisations, many of whom I have been in regular contact with since. In particular, it was wonderful to participate in the British Council networking events and meet their delegates who had travelled from all over world to be there. Following the internship, I had a wealth of new ideas I brought back to implement in my organisation and increase the quality of the programs we offer to support artists with disability in Australia. I was also able to offer Unlimited some suggestions for process improvements that they could make, based on my knowledge working for a funding body in Australia, so it worked both ways and I believe it was mutually beneficial for both organisations.
SOH: What was the impact of the placement on your career and professional practice?
MC: The internship had a much greater impact on me than I could have ever anticipated. The internship offered some reflective time for me to re-examine the work that I was doing and think about what direction I wanted to head in the future. About nine months after my internship, along with my research partner Tandi Williams, I won an international tender to conduct a major evaluation of the impact that the Unlimited programme has had on the cultural sector in the UK and beyond. This was an amazing opportunity to ask some big questions and interrogate what’s working well and where future opportunities might be. In addition to kick-starting my career as an international arts consultant, since the internship I have also begun lecturing at the University of Sydney coordinating a subject called ‘Music Festivals and Arts Events Management.” Through this work, I’m able to influence the next generation of events managers by focusing on the importance of diversity in programming and providing access, which is wonderful knowledge to be able to share and embed.
SOH: Any final thoughts for someone thinking of applying to work with us at the festivals this year?
MC: I highly recommend the Unlimited arts placement opportunity to any disabled artworkers from any background in any country. It presents a possibility to work with and learn from a highly skilled, supportive and fun team and offers exposure to some incredible work by some of the best disabled artists on the planet in two leading venues. It’s a great way to learn a lot in a short amount of time and hopefully be able to bring your new-found knowledge back home to increase opportunities for disabled artists in your own country.
Good luck and I look forward to seeing you at the Southbank Centre in September!
You can find out more details about the grant supported international placement opportunity here.