Wide shot of Jo standing in front of a powerpoint presentation, addressing an audience in a dark theatre space. She is a caucasian woman with grey hair and is wearing a bright flowery dress.
Photo by Rachel Cherry

Unlimited – a review of 2018

As we roar into 2019, Jo Verrent, senior producer for Unlimited, takes a glance back at 2018 – and what a year it was with our commissions, Unlimited: The Symposium, Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival and more… 

Reaching beyond borders 

2018 was the year some of our largest, most complex and expensive commissions ever came to life with the culmination of our 5 international co-commissions linking disabled artists based in England and Wales with those based overseas. As well as all touring the UK, we saw them travel to Italy and Brazil (VIVA Carnival’s Alegria Samba School), India (Baluji Shrivastav’s Antardrishti – Inner Vision), Palestine (Rachel Gadsden’s It was Paradise), Hong Kong and Argentina (Richard Butchins’ The Voice of the Unicorn); Kaite O’Reilly’s And Suddenly I Disappear: The Singapore/UK ‘d’ Monologues was livestreamed to the Philippines, Hong Kong and Taipei (and is still available to watch on Howlround), in addition to its physical performances in Singapore and the UK.

Our international programme also saw the launch of a range of resources; an animation about the Social Model of Disability, a number of case study resources and our Cards for Inclusion game which continues to evolve – we are now aware of versions being made in Braille, in Ukrainian and even a possible adaptation for schools and colleges.  We also played host to our international producer placements Nolan Stephens from Cape Town, South Africa and Sandi Yi from Taiwan/USA. You can get involved too by taking our survey so we can measure the impact of some of what we have done.

The team travelled to a number of places to talk about our work such as China and Japan, and was able to support the British Council to offer bursaries for disabled artists to attend IETM events in both Porto and Munich.


 Big conversations 

This time last year we posted Twitter polls allowing people to vote on Unlimited: The Symposium topics, following our call-out for ideas in late 2017.  This was our most successful Twitter campaign to date and raised both excitement and expectation for the Symposium itself which was part of September’s activities. Why not grab a cup of tea and read round up pieces from Marlene Le Roux and our session chairs Andrew Miller, Sonya Dyer and Caroline Bowditch.


A breadth of new artistic work 

Unlimited: The Symposium led straight into Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival where many of our commissions were programmed, or presented as part of our Pitch and Mix event. The programme included our international commissions mentioned above, as well as the British Paraorchestra’s The Nature of Why (heading over to Perth Festival Australia 21-23 February 2019), Jackie Hagan’s This Is Not A Safe Space, Jo Bannon’s We Are Fucked, Kai Syng Tan’s We sat on a mat and had a chat and made maps!, plus a late night Brownton Abbey event by Tarik Elmoutawakil, and even a crash course in Voguing with Unlimited House of Krip by Fittings . The Spirit Level at Southbank Centre showcased Kristina Veasey’s My Dirty Secret!, Raquel Meseguer/Uncharted Collective’s A Crash Course In Cloudspotting (the subversive act of horizontality) and Thompson Hall & Ian Wornast’s My Life in London. The events drew many reviews and responses – but we particularly enjoyed finding out the inside track from our placement Tom Goldstone and the first of our pieces from our Art House associate Linda Rocco.

In October we had Tramway’s Unlimited Festival showcasing yet more work by Unlimited artists. This included work by Amy Rosa with Gallanach, Aby Watson with -ish and Joel Brown with 111 as well as Juliet Robson’s hertz (which is on until 4th February at We The Curious in Bristol) and Felix Peckitt’s The Goldilocks Mixer.

Many of the commissions toured far and wide around the UK. Owen Lowery’s Transitions has toured from Margate to Manchester over the last year, with a stand out performance at Met Theatre in Bury – and you can watch a video of his work. Participative processes happened around the country: Vince Laws’ A Very Queer Nazi Faust in Norwich, David Tovey’s Man on Bench Fairytale in Manchester, and Neal Pike’s workshop series in Nottingham.  

 The programme continued to represent a wide range of artforms and resulted in blogs focusing on the Visual Arts, Craft, the importance of R&D, the work of Learning Disabled artists, Participation and also a focus on Wales. 


Changing faces 

The Unlimited team were busy and changing! Trainees came and went; at Shape Arts Becky Dann left us to become Marketing Assistant at artsdepot, and we welcomed James Greenhalgh. At Artsadmin Sonny Nwachukwu finished his traineeship and handed over to Sarah Thewlis. Beyond the remit above, the team also supported events such as Whose Identity is it Anyway? (with Eclipse Theatre), Be There at the Start (with Attenborough Arts Centre), an Emerging Artists Day (with Theatre Bristol) and Unlimited Connects (with Watershed and MAYK). 


What’s on the cards for 2019? 

We wrapped up 2018 by announcing our shortlist of projects up for funding in 2019 – an incredible list of over 50 artists in our main commissions, research and development awards and emerging award categories. We look forward to supporting them in shaping their projects and making connections in the sector and beyond. 

The new year begins with a bang, with trips to Turkey and Russia to talk about the work of Unlimited, plus the announcement soon about a co-commission with Turner Contemporary for an emerging artist, and news about other works we are supporting with Blackpool Art B&B, Marlborough Theatre and more. Stay tuned!