Unlimited has been a key funding platform for deaf and disability arts with four iterations since the original 2012 festival originally conceived as part of the Cultural Olympiad. I’ve attempted to capture something of the essence of the intention behind Shape and Arts Admin’s criteria to program work that is experimental and innovative as well as entertaining. Disability arts at its best questions the narrow confined idea of what it is to be human. I’ve looked to find clips of work that captures the strength of disability arts to embrace the ideal of breaking through barriers.
This festival trailer from 2012 gives a brief glimpse of the excitement that Jez Colborne, Sue Austin, Claire Cunningham, Graeae, Rachel Gadsden, Caroline Bowditch, Laurence Clark, Bobby Baker, Janice Parker and Ramesh Meyyappan brought to the Southbank Centre.
Laurence Clark created a sit-down comedy show that turned the theme of the festival on its head to ask why everyday activities are inspirational when they’re done by disabled people.
An unforgettable memory from the 2012 festival at the Southbank Centre was the spectacle of Jez Colborne’s siren collection dotted on the roofs of the buildings like sentinels set up as an advance warning of an alien invasion. The Sound of the Sirens gives a flavour of the otherworldliness Mind the Gap created with their show Irresistible.
I never got the opportunity to see Fittings The Ugly Spirit. It features one of the most charismatic and challenging performers of my generation David Hoyle, with a clip of an extraordinary painting of the artist by Tanya Raabe-Webber.
For the 2014 Unlimited Festival David Hevey created a series of quirky 2-minute shorts all invested with the film-makers trademark inventiveness, using the camera to capture something of his interviewees’ personalities. Unlimited has always had a capacity to surprise – and when Birds of Paradise came up with a sex comedy Wendy Hoose – they took audio-description to a new level by introducing the audio-describer as a cynical character commenting on the action in this bedroom farce.
Owen Lowery reinvented himself as a poet after a life-changing accident having been a Judo campion. When Carcanet Press published his first collection Otherwise Unchanged, Unlimited gave this exceptional poet an opportunity to become a performer.
Kaite O’Reilly’s Cosy explored the taboos of ageing and dying.
Having been an overwhelming success with an R&D of her first show Backstage in Biscuitland Jess Thom came back in 2016 with Stand Up, Sit Down, Roll Over.
Unlimited has always attempted to achieve disparate goals. One of them is spread the word about disability arts to engage globally. The international placement for 2018 was Nolan Stevens from Johannesburg, South Africa. I’d like to end this brief foray into the world of Unlimited with a few words from Nolan on the potential for disability arts to change attitudes towards disabled people.