A group of people are sat at a table having a discussion. There is a colourful artwork in the background.
Photo by Rachel Cherry

Shortlisting for the Unlimited Awards

Last Monday was the deadline for Unlimited’s latest application call out. As we are all about transparency, we wanted to let people know how many applications we received and explain what happens next. Jo Verrent, senior producer for Unlimited, tells us more…

This year we were accepting ‘Expression of Interest’ applications for established artists for both Main Commissions and Research and Development (R&D) Awards, and also for Emerging Artists Awards. Overall, we received 271 applications – our highest number yet! We received 82 for the Main Commissions fund, 72 for R&D projects and 117 for the Emerging Artists Awards.

We’ve worked our way through all the applications, checking that all the material is submitted correctly and that all the applications are eligible – we removed 3 applications at this stage as they didn’t meet our basic criteria. We don’t look at the detail, just check criteria, that all the links work and that people haven’t made any simple errors in completing the online form. We also upload the forms of anyone who has applied via Word (due to access barriers with the online system) and translate forms received in alternative formats.

At this point, we delve into both equal opportunities data and also on other data form the application, which tells us more about the reach of Unlimited: across all the applications, we had most applications defined as Combined Arts (32%), then theatre (26%), then visual arts (24%), with dance (7%), music (5%) and literature (3%) having fewest applications. 4% described their art form as ‘other’.

Geographically, the applications were wide spread with 34% of applicants being based in London, 14% in both the North and the South East, 11% from the South West, 8% from the Midlands and 10% from Wales. Our Emerging Artists Awards are also open to those in Scotland (17 applications) and Northern Ireland (1 application).

The next stage of the process

Once we have checked that all the applications work as they should, we hand them over to our panellists. Each panellist is asked to read through all the applications in their strand and to longlist the projects they feel best meet the Unlimited criteria. This isn’t about what work they ‘like’ best, it’s about which meet our criteria best.

Our Key Criteria are as stated on the application guidance – principally that the work is disability-led and demonstrates quality, innovation and ambition. If a panellist already has a connection to people named in an application, they can’t long list that application but instead ‘declare an interest’ so that we know.

All the longlists are put together and the maths begins so that there is no penalty for applications with declared interests. A shortlist is produced for each panel of the top scoring projects, and we will be looking to support a range of work – in relation to artform, scale, and location across the commissions – throughout the shortlists.

We’ll be announcing the results of our shortlisting process on International Day of Disabled People (3 Dec 2018) so watch out for further news then – though applicants will be notified before. Any project shortlisted will have a couple of months to complete a full application, and have up to one hour of direct support from our team to do so. This assures that the applications are as strong as they can be when they come before the selection panel in March next year and the panels make the investment decisions (no one from Unlimited, Shape Arts or Artsadmin gets to vote at selection panel meetings, we remain impartial as we are so closely connected to the process).

Thank you to all the applicants for sharing their projects with us and trusting in our selection process – more news soon!