Last week Jo Verrent, senior producer for Unlimited, was at the Arts & Disability: Crossing the Borders, organised by the British Council in partnership with the Theatre Institute, the Institute of Music and Dance and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in Warsaw, Poland. Here for the first time, she showed some of our tiny trailers about Unlimited, as she talked about why a programme like Unlimited exists…
When doing any presentation on Unlimited we always make the focus the work – without the incredible work disabled artists create, there would be no point to Unlimited. In the past we have mainly used photographs of art pieces, but now we have 4 tiny video trailers to share too – perfect for presentations!
They give a real sense of the variety and dynamism of the work, covering all artforms and all types of awards, from the work of emerging to established artists, from R&D’s to full commissions. The first one showcases ambitious work by disabled artists and includes work by the British Paraorchestra, Nicola Hunter, Claire Cunningham, Fittings Multimedia Arts (and the wonderful Edmund the learned pig), Chisato Minimamura, Lee Cummings, Kaite O’Reilly’s And Suddenly I Disappear, Him by Sheila Hill, Craig Simpson, Louise Coleman, Rachel Gadsden and a number of the artists she worked with in Palestine, Liz Carr, Jo Bannon’s most recent work for Unlimited, House of Krip and the late, great Katherine Araniello – and all in just over 40 seconds!
As the videos are primarily visual, we have created audio described versions which can be found here.
In Warsaw, I spoke about the barriers artists face – the obvious physical ones, of course, but also the less obvious like the need for quiet spaces, clear hosting between artists and organisations, which can be easily lost in the chaos of running big outdoor festivals, for example. Barriers to application processes – and how we try to provide support through encouraging alternative formats, providing access support and 1-1 advice and guidance. Some of the biggest barriers to artists applying for funds to make work in the UK are linked to our benefits system, and the impact on people’s confidence levels – everyone should have the right to make work – but is that what our current situation implies?
I addressed the barriers around accessing the institutions as well, when assumptions around quality and the ‘place’ of art by disabled artists often becomes discussed. Why do so many venues assume the role of art by disabled artists is part of their education programmes for example? And a different barrier – networking and forming the relationships with the sector as a whole, which leads to work being programmed – a complicated process for some disabled artists due to a range of different barriers.
I ended by talking about expectations – often there is an expectation on disabled artists to make small work with low production values, to make work ‘about disability’, to put over a particular ‘view’ of the world and to be grateful.
Instead, Unlimited believes artists are artists and that disabled artists are artists – they must make the work they want to make, the work they need to make, and these ideas may be messy, perfect, complicated, difficult, nuanced… varied.
I concluded with another tiny taster video – this one focusing on the way Unlimited aims to change perceptions by commissioning outstanding disabled artists. It includes, in addition to the above, Julie McNamara/Vital Xposure with Let Me Stay, Richard Butchin’s 213 Things About Me, Anna Berry’s Breathing Room installation, and a quick lick from Alice Holland as part of New Queers on the Block!