two women sit on chairs. One woman faces the camera, she has black hair and a white top. The other has her back towards the camera, she's wearing a red jumper
Sokny Onn at the Launch Night of Southbank Centre's Unlimited Festival 2016. Photo by Rachel Cherry for Unlimited

What our International Producer placements did next…

For the third time running, we are partnering with British Council to offer a placement for a disabled arts administrator, producer or curator, based outside of the UK. With applications now open for the most recent opportunity, we caught up with previous placement-holders to get their insights and updates:

What are you up to now?

Fred Batale, Uganda: When I returned from the international placement, I decided to focus on running and establishing a better disability art scene in Uganda. I resigned from a full-time role and now I fully work at the Disability Arts Project, Uganda.

Morwenna Collett, Australia: I’m currently on maternity leave, enjoying spending time with my first child Theodore – this is the most important and wonderful job I’ll ever do! Since Unlimited I’ve been fortunate to have a pretty eclectic and amazing career trajectory – highlights have been developing my own arts and disability consulting business and acting as the CEO of Accessible Arts.  I’m currently working as the Director, Major Performing Arts Projects at the Australia Council for the Arts, where I work closely with our large opera and orchestra companies.

Nolan Stevens, South Africa: Since Unlimited I have concentrated on my arts writing and through relationships made whilst in the placement, such as The British Council, I have contributed to a lot more international publications and platforms such as the British Council’s People Stories Places (PSP), Xeno Zine, as well as contributed to the Australian disability platform Outlandish Arts’ Rhizome section.

Sokny Onn, Cambodia:  In early 2017 I became Country Director of Epic Arts. My role ensures all of our students are in a supportive environment and are receiving a fully inclusive and high-quality education. It involves strategy and advocacy but also supporting and empowering young people with and without disabilities through the arts. I play a key role in managing and building relationships with policy makers within the Arts and Culture, Education, Disability Rights, Inclusion and government sectors.

What did you find the most useful during your placement?

MC: Firstly, spending time with UK based disabled artists, which deepened my understanding of the social model of disability. Secondly, seeing international level work by disabled artists was something that really opened my eyes to the possibilities. It was the first time I’d seen access embedded aesthetically into a show, and this is now starting to happen in Australia as well.

SO: It has helped my personal and my professional development, giving me the opportunity to see different art forms and develop a wider knowledge of disabled artists in the UK. Also, working with the Unlimited team is such a great experience. What is important is not only the outcome, but also the process and impact of the work.

Was there anything that surprised you about disability arts in the UK?

FB: I was surprised to see the quality of the commissioned work, which makes me think that commissioning artists gives them conducive time to think and develop good works, creating internal competition hence yielding the best results.

NS: The scope and range of the history and discourses attached to the culture was definitely a surprising factor for me.

SO: The variety of disabled art in the UK, such as street art, provoking and debating the current social issues that disabled people face. The freedom of expression, which creates a great opportunity for disabled artists to produce more work and advance the quality of disability arts.

What has stayed with you the most?

MC: The relationships I built by working with the incredible people associated with Unlimited have been some of the most rewarding in my life to date, both professionally and a lso personally. I’m in regular contact with artists and artsworkers I met, I call on them for advice and guidance when I need it and I see their work whenever I’m in the right place – for example, I can’t wait to see Claire Cunningham’s new work ‘Thank You Very Much’ – when I’m in Glasgow this November!

SO: The accessibility within the arts for disabled people and the high quality of disabled artists’ work. These two main points always walk along with me at my work.

Were there any new skills or ideas you developed during your placement?

FB: When I left Unlimited, I came back and developed an idea of starting a Disability Festival of Uganda. I wrote a concept paper which is developing and we have started attracting partners.

SO: My aim in the future is to host regular Disabilities/Inclusive arts festivals in my country and across South East Asia. I am now one of the leading committee members hosting Kampot Arts Festival (KAF) in Cambodia, which seeks to empower, encourage, and educate artists at a local level through festival programming. It is very small scale, but disability arts is embedded from the start and each year it grows organically based on the needs of the community.

What did you find the most enjoyable?

SO: Working in different areas of expertise in the disability arts sector, meeting inspiring disabled artists and arts leaders, and seeing work during the Unlimited festival. I was interested to see different ways of creating art, and how it can tell stories and become an advocate for voices and issues.  Unlimited is the only place that I can find such creative, high quality and strong advocatory art by disabled artists, with the potential to influence policy.

MC: It was a very intense few weeks, and it was really useful to see what Unlimited does from a commissioning perspective, but also during festival time. Even though the festival itself is run by Southbank Centre, the Unlimited commissions team do so much to support the artists and delegates during this time. I really appreciated the conversation elements that Unlimited built around the festival, as I think it’s really important to talk about the work so people understand it.

But for me really, the most enjoyable aspects were the people and the work. These are the things which kept me coming back to Unlimited in 2016 and 2018, and I hope to be there (possibly with a 1 year old) in 2020 as well!

How has working with Unlimited influenced your creative practice?

FB: When we are in an inactive art scene we lose energy to work due to a lack of people to inspire and encourage us. Attending Unlimited brought an answer to such issues because I met people who can influence and join with me on the journey of developing a disability art scene here in Uganda.

NS: I have grown in confidence. Through working with Unlimited I no longer feel as though I am less than others, I am able to converse, interact and engage with others from a place of self-confidence. This has also allowed me to be unafraid of saying if I am challenged by something expected of me.

What would you say to people considering applying for the International Placement?

FB: This is the best program for artists and arts administrators because it has a diverse history to learn from and it has different opportunities which you can’t know until you have been able to attend it. It is recognized internationally and adding it to your CV it adds international value.

NS: It’s life changing! Especially for someone who has little or no exposure to disabled led arts. The placement creates a wide sense of community, understanding and pride for anyone who experiences it.

SO: I recommend applying for the International Placement, because it is full of professional opportunities to gain more skill and knowledge as the facilitator and organizer of an arts event, especially as you engage with disabled applicants from the beginning of their application until the final decision for the festival. You also will meet new interesting disabled artists and expand your networks.

MC: It was a life changing experience for me, and helped set me on a path to help take arts and disability practice to a new level in Australia. It’s a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun, and the team really respect people’s access requirements. It’s a great way to meet people from all over the world and help facilitate amazing work by incredible artists. Apply!

Find out more about the International Placement 2020. Applications close Monday 14 October.