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Unlimited aspirations for new disability arts programme

Unlimited aspirations for new disability arts programme
10th December 2013 developer

A “hugely important” new £1.5 million disability arts programme has been launched at the Tate Modern art gallery in London.

The three-year Unlimited 2013 programme will see work commissioned from disabled artists based in England and Scotland, and follows on from the successful Unlimited programme which saw 29 pieces by disabled artists showcased during last year’s London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

This time, the two organisations leading the programme – the disabled-led Shape Arts and Artsadmin – hope the pieces that are commissioned will have more of an impact across the country, rather than focusing on London, although the aim is for some of the work to be shown at the capital’s Southbank Centre in 2014 and 2016.

The British Council hopes that some of the pieces will again be shown abroad, as happened with the first Unlimited programme, which saw work shown in countries such as Qatar, Jordan and Palestine.

Tony Heaton, chief executive of Shape, said: “The eyes of the world were on London. What we are going to do now will be about getting that art out and about the country.”

He said he hoped Unlimited would attract “ambitious” work, and that the £1.5 million would draw in more funding from other sources over the three years. There will also be a mentoring scheme running throughout the programme.

Heaton said: “What we have got to do, and I think what happened with Unlimited the first time, is that disabled artists produce really exciting work that will compare with any work you will see anywhere.”

He told the launch audience that the £1.5 million in lottery funds from Arts Council England – with further support from Creative Scotland – was a “fantastic vote of confidence” in the first Unlimited programme.

Manick Govinda, head of artists’ advisory services at Artsadmin, said: “We really want to build on that momentum from 2012 and ensure work from disabled artists sits alongside other artists in the heart of our cultural infrastructure.”

Joyce Wilson, area director for London at Arts Council England, said the ultimate aim was to develop a “cohort” of emerging disabled artists who they could work with through their mainstream programmes.

Ruth Gould, artistic director of DaDaFest, one of the partners in the bid and chair of the Unlimited selection panel which will choose the commissioned projects, said she believed they would prove to be “groundbreaking and exciting”.

She said: “Unlimited has changed the playing field and been a fantastic opportunity for disabled artists, so I am more than delighted it is being rolled out again for two more rounds.”

Some of the work to be commissioned will be existing work with potential for further exposure, while other bids will be for research and development awards.

News provided by John Pring at