A blonde woman lies on the floor with her head cracked to pieces and scattered across her kitchen floor, as if she were made of porcelain.
Broken by Suzie Larke

What’s new? A closer look at our new commissions

With the announcement of over £550,000 to 26 new Unlimited awards across full commissions, R&Ds and awards to emerging artists, senior producer Jo Verrent digs a little deeper into the new projects we’re supporting…

It’s an incredible line up of work covering all art forms, such as:

  • visual arts, with Breathing Room by Anna Berry, a large-scale outdoor installation that breathes;
  • music, with Pencil piano – Koji Nishioka by Ailis Ni Riain, a work for pencil piano inspired by the visual scores of disabled artist Koji Nishioka from Japan; literature with Told in Parts by Ellen Renton which is a narrative poetry performance about running, the Paralympics and different views of disability;
  • dance – The Journey Between choreographed by Chris Pavia – a duet drawn from the movements of the planets with digital projection from learning disabled artists based at Carousel and… (last but not least)
  • theatre, with Lesbian Pirates! by Natasha Sutton Williams/Working Birthday, uncovering the history of disability and queer culture amongst the pirating fraternity.

It’s really exciting to be collaborating with even more partners on joint awards – both existing and new partners – which helps us to achieve our aim of embedding disabled artists within the cultural sector and maximising the amount of funding we can give to disabled artists. Wellcome Collection is supporting:

  • One Woman by Cheryl Martin, a high tech solo performance focusing on trauma with an innovative touring model
  • A.I.D.A.N. by Matilda Ibini with its focus on Artificial Intelligence, care and austerity and a literature project by Rowan James, also being funded via funds from Arts Council England
  • A Room Full Of Elephant focusing on identity and definitions that go beyond a simplistic understanding of the social and medical models of disability.

Farnham Maltings are co-commissioning Byron Vincent to adapt his practice for rural venues with Instagramming The Apocalypse; The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust is co-commissioning a R&D called Basketcase by Kristina Veasey, subverting the history of basket weaving as physical therapy for disabled people and Forma are co-commissioning Psychic Refuge by Sophie Hoyle, exploring mental health, trauma and its treatment, both in the UK and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

There are a record number of four awards to artists from Wales – three funded through Arts Council of Wales. These include a participatory photographic exhibition focusing on mental health called Unseen, by Suzie Larke; HHA (HEARING HEARING AIDS) by Jonny Cotsen, focusing on listening as opposed to hearing in an immersive project utilising art and technology; and Fluff by StammerMouth, a small-scale interactive theatre performance designed to raise awareness about intrusive thoughts. The final Welsh award is part of the Emerging Artists Awards, all of which are funded by Spirit of 2012: I Said I Love You by Stephanie Back looks at barriers, language and love with writer Alun Saunders.

The themes across the work are as varied as the artists – for example:

  • disability campaign politics in Reasonable Adjustment – The Disabled Armed Resistance Movement by Justin Edgar – a gallery-based evocation of an armed resistance movement that never happened;
  • deaf hip hop music drama with Here/Not Here, a by Bim Ajadi utilising British Sign Language, dance, music and Visual Vernacular;
  • and intersectional work such as the Brownton Abbey, an afro-futurist, inclusive performance party that centres queer, trans and intersex disabled people of colour by Tarik Elmoutawakil.

In supporting Cradled by Rhiannon Armstrong, Unlimited also marks its very first award aimed at reaching disabled children specifically as audience members.

Unlimited is known for supporting work that pushes the boundaries of art forms and this year is no exception, with awards to:

  • Circles by Sonny Nwachukwu, a choreopoem promoting healing;
  • an experiential movement, dance and paint workshop process called Colour Full from JoAnne Haines;
  • a series of works and workshops focusing on chronic illness, drumming and other forms within established gallery settings in You Are Already Here by Sop;
  • and our first foray into haptics with Finn’s Fish Tank by John Finn.

In addition to the above, we have 3 strategic partnership commissions to announce:

  • We are working with GOSH Arts to support Second Hand Dance to create an adaptation of their work Touch for hospital environments;
  • With Shwanda Corbett to create a collection of Cyborg Ceramics, and…
  • With The Art House to support Studio for Sanctuary, particularly focusing on the work of current artist-in-residence Mohammad Barrangi Fashtami, and his public art practice transforming Iranian pen and ink techniques into large scale transfers.

It’s certainly not ‘more of the same’ – only 8 of the 26 artists have any previous contact with Unlimited (6 having awards in other rounds, the other 2 through having been shortlisted previously) meaning that 70% of the artists being supported here are new to Unlimited.

You can look through all these projects on our website – please contact us or them directly to find out more and get involved in developing and showcasing this incredible work.

Let’s not forget that alongside these exceptional projects, there are a further 26 works considered for this round that we have not been able to fund. These artists and works are brilliant too – or they wouldn’t have been shortlisted. We will be working with these artists to provide feedback with the aim of trying to get as much of this work as we can supported through other funders. All the artists remain in our alumni and have access to opportunities, events, advice and contacts where we can provide them.

This awards round marks the last open round of commissions under Unlimited’s current delivery contract with Arts Council England, which sees the programme funded until October 2020. Our partners and team are thinking a lot about the future of Unlimited at the moment and we will share the outcome of this thinking as soon as we can. In the meantime we are in active conversation with Arts Council England as they develop their next 10 year strategy which you can follow and contribute to.