International delegates gather for festivals of new work by disabled artists

The Unlimited Festivals in London and Glasgow this September premiere cutting-edge work by Deaf and disabled artists

The Unlimited Festivals 2016 kick off in September, with the Southbank Centre in London (6-11 September) and Tramway in Glasgow (15-25 September) presenting brand new work by an eclectic range of Deaf and disabled artists.

London audiences will see the first ever solo stand-up comedy performance by Jess Thom AKA Touretteshero in the work-in-progress showing Stand Up, Sit Down, Roll Over, as well as You and I Know, a new Candoco Dance Company duet choreographed by Arlene Phillips, which is set to a pop soundtrack and draws on a variety of dance genres and Just a Few Words, a darkly comic one-man performance by StammerMouth.

In Glasgow, there’s the chance to see Marc Brew’s MayBe, a collaboration with Brazilian artists Natalia Mallo and Gisele Calazans that explores the inevitability of love and was created after Brew toured to Brazil with the British Council. There’s also the UK premiere of Hiraeth, a meditation on homesickness and belonging performed by Armenia’s first inclusive dance company, choreographed by Stine Nelson and directed by Jemima Hoadley (Candoco). The Armenian company came about as a result of the British Council’s Unlimited: Making the Right Moves programme.

“The work of the UK’s Deaf and disabled artists is gaining international prominence on an unprecedented scale”

There’s a wide range of work for festival audiences in both cities, including Assisted Suicide: The Musical, in which activist and artist Liz Carr works with artists from Duckie to tackle a controversial political issue through musical theatre; The Way You Look (at me) Tonight, a new duet by Claire Cunningham (UK) and Jess Curtis (USA); Him, a reflection on life by an 80-year-old actor for theatres or gallery spaces by Sheila Hill; and Demonstrating the World by Aaron Williamson, a performance-exhibit that unfolds over one day in a public space and explores how we negotiate everyday activity.

The British Council is welcoming delegates from our international network, with over 70 international disability arts practitioners and British Council overseas staff visiting. Our aim is to enable international colleagues to share best practice, discover new artists and embark on new projects. We’re hosting special industry events, such as a briefing on the history of UK disability arts and a talk about the international events that Unlimited has inspired over the past four years. We’ll be live tweeting these talks, as well as others in the festival programmes from @UKTheatreDance.

“Our artists are helping to define the international disability agenda”

Most of the new work in the festivals has been created through the Unlimited commissioning programme, led by Shape Arts and Artsadmin. The programme highlights work that doesn’t just feature disabled artists but is led by them, and is the world’s biggest commissioning project for disabled artists. Its ambitions are to embed work by disabled artists within the UK and international cultural sectors, reach new audiences and shift perceptions of disabled people. The British Council has supported the commissioning programme since it began in 2012 and we are a funder of the 2016-19 programme alongside Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, Creative Scotland and Spirit of 2012.

Neil Webb, our Director Theatre and Dance, says, “We are witnessing a real step-change since the launch of Unlimited in 2012 with the work of the UK’s Deaf and disabled artists gaining international prominence on an unprecedented scale. Our artists are helping to define the international disability agenda and quite literally changing lives. I am very excited about the prospect of further international collaboration and where this will lead us. And I’m proud to be involved.”


Join us on Twitter #UnlimitedFest

We’ll be live tweeting the following events (all times are UK time):

>  History and Context of Disability Arts in the UK An introduction to the UK’s disability arts scene.
Tuesday 6 September, 11:30-12:30 from @UKTheatreDance

> Unfixed: a conversation UK and Australian artists explore the characterisation of bodies as ‘disabled’, following a residency supported by the British Council.
Wednesday 7 September, 14:00-15:00 from @UKTheatreDance 

> Drake Music Hackathon Makers of accessible musical instruments are invited to assemble and showcase their designs. This is not formally part of the Unlimited programme but will take place at the Southbank Centre alongside the festival.
Friday 9 September, starting 12:00 from our colleagues @BritishMusic

> The Unlimited Legacy Find out about inspirational international projects that have come about through previous Unlimited Festivals.
Friday 9 September, starting 14:00 from @UKTheatreDance 


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