image of artist gloop with an elaborate head dress and bubbles surrounding them.
Oozing Gloop in GLOOPTOPIA! Photo by Kaleido Shoots.

Unlimited Commissions: Explaining this year’s Partner Awards

The Expression of Interest portal is now open! You can click through to apply by following the ‘start your application’ link at the bottom of this page.


Our Partner Awards see us partnering with a range of 11 exciting, innovative organisations covering a range of geographical areas, art forms and audiences.  But why do we have Partner Awards and what do they provide for Unlimited and for disabled artists? Ellie Liddell-Crewe tells us more… 

One of Unlimited’s core aims is ‘to embed disabled artists within the cultural sector’ – a grand aim and not one we can achieve alone. Working directly with established organisations provides a bridge between artists, their work and crucially the audiences for that work, and means a wider range of disabled artists and companies are known to the organisations involved. 

How does it work? Partner Awards are a bit different from our standard awards. Each has its own additional criteria that should be met. We know some artists prefer to apply with their own ideas and respond to as few criteria as possible. Equally we know some respond to the focus additional criteria provide, as they give a more detailed idea of the context and requirements needed for the work. 

This is why we are letting people apply twice to Unlimited this round – as long as at least one application links to a Partner Award. 

Who are we partnering with – and what do they want? 

We have two partners who are supporting main commissions designed to reach rural/non urban areas – Farnham Maltings and Pentabus – you can find out more details and even ask them questions directly at our event: Rural Touring: Accessible to Everyone? Its on 14 August.  

  • Pentabustour new plays about the contemporary rural world to new audiences in village halls, fields, festivals and theatres, telling stories with local relevance, plus national and international impact. They believe that every person living in an isolated rural community has a right to exceptional theatre. 
  • Farnham Maltings is a producing organisation that believes that creativity helps us make sense of the world, bring people together and has the potential to articulate new ideas. By encouraging people to participate in the arts, as audience and makers, we will foster a healthier, happier and safer contemporary Britain. 

 Also supporting main awards are Artsadmin and Wellcome Collection. 

  • Artsadmin is one of our delivery partners and wants artists to create without boundaries, producing bold, interdisciplinary work to share with local, national and international audiences. If your work involves environmental discourse/climate change from intersectional/disabled perspectives, is interdisciplinary, with an element of live performance or interaction at its core and/or is sited/outdoor/public realm work, then this might be one you want to consider. 

We partnered with Wellcome Collection last round – and funded Rowan James – ‘A Room Full of Elephant’, Matilda Ibini – ‘A.I.D.A.N and Cheryl Martin – ‘One Woman’ 

  • Wellcome Collections mission is to connect science, medicine, life and art and they are looking for projects that challenge how we think and feel about health. We are also funding with them to see how broad that definition can be and if it links to the work you make. 

For our R&D strand, we have 5 partners. 

  • Bagri Foundation is supporting 2 awards specifically for artists identifying as Asian artists / from the Asian Diaspora. You can work across any art form, and we are particularly keen to encourage proposals linked to the written word. Bagri Foundation encourages applications that explore the idea of the traditional in a contemporary way. Why not come to our online event with Bagri Foundation to finds our more on 11 Sept? More information about this event will be announced later this week
  • Museum of the Home is looking for work from discipline, that responds to the theme of ‘home’ (which includes linked topics such as homelessness, mental health and well-being, migration and immigration). Work can be for indoor and/or outdoors.  
  • Polka Theatre is after work in performance, theatre, dance, opera, circus or spoken word that will ultimately result in work aimed at children (0-12 years old), and be suitable for a studio theatre setting. 

Polka are delighted to be partnering with Unlimited on this awardAs we look to re-open our building next Spring, following a major redevelopment, we are committed to developing more Inclusive Theatre for Children , creatively led by and with D/deaf and disabled artists– Peter GlanvilleArtistic Director Polka  

  • Sage Gateshead is unsurprisingly after music based ideas, including those where this is in combination with other art forms and encourages artists with a connection to the North of England to apply. The award also includes a place on Sage Gateshead’s Summer Studios Residency, therefore they encourage individual artists or small groups to apply who would make use of this opportunity.  
  • Southbank Centre is open to ideas within any art form as long as they focus on public space/non-theatre space/outdoor space. They encourage people making work aimed at a family audience or work that is participatory to think about applying. 

“Southbank Centre and Unlimited have a rich history of collaborating, and together present the Unlimited Festival every two years. We’re hugely excited about this new opportunity to partner on one of their commissioning awards. Southbank Centre are committed to embedding work by disabled artists across our programme, reaching new audiences and shifting perceptions. The Unlimited commissions are a vital part of that work, and we are thrilled to be supporting an artist through a partner award in 2021.”     – Ruth Hardie, Interim Head of Public Programming, Southbank Centre

 And we have two partners supporting our awards for emerging artists –  

  • The awards from Coventry 2021 are geographically targeted at emerging artists based in a CV postcode or regularly working in Coventry although applications will also be accepted from artists based in the Midlands who are working in partnership with artists based there. They encourage artists whose work explores Environment, Nature and Green Futures; Public Realm / Spaces; Digital; Community collaboration and co-creation to apply. 
  • And finally, The Art House are looking for an emerging artist with a practice that includes the visual arts, including those where this is in combination with other art forms. They have an accessible residency space and encourage applications from artists who would benefit from the use of such space. 

“We are very pleased to partner with Unlimited on The Art House Emerging Partnership Award, an exciting opportunity to bring the work of outstanding disabled artists to the fore. Now, more than ever, it is vital for arts organisations to use their platform to support disabled artists in realising their ambitious artistic vision.” – Sydney Thornbury, Artistic Director The Art House  

What does ‘encourage’ mean? 

As it says in the guidance, each partner has additional set criteria. Anyone applying for that award will need to respond to those in your application. Some partners also have addition elements which are ‘encouraged’. These are not set criteria but are aspects in which that a partner has a stated interest. You do not have to respond to these unless you wish to and they fit your work.  

To find out more 

You can find out more about the criteria for each award within the relevant awards guidance materials and we really recommend you do a bit of research too – just go on their websites and find out more about the organisations and the kind of work they usually support. And we know people may have questions so ask us anything you want if you need to knowOne reason for advertising the awards a few months ahead of the deadline is to ensure that people have time to ask questions and we have time to get the answers (we are a small team so may not be able to reply straight away). For more information and to find out how to apply visit our apply to Unlimited page.

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