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£700,000 awarded to artists for final round of Cultural Olympiad programme Unlimited

04 August 2011

The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, Arts Council England, the UK Arts Councils and the British Council have today awarded £700,000 of funding in the final round of Unlimited Commissions, the ground-breaking Cultural Olympiad programme that celebrates arts and culture by disabled and deaf artists on an unprecedented scale.

The 12 new commissions include a children’s theatre show taking families on an adventure inside a bee hive, an animated film about a group of mis-shapen toys who escape from their factory, and a comedy show about a ‘demotivational’ speaker.

Four of the commissions are international collaborations which will be supported by the British Council. These include partnerships between groups of disabled performers in the North-East and Brazil, and an ambitious digital musical collaboration with artists in up to seven countries. (Full details of the winning commissions are listed in notes to editors)

Unlimited encourages collaborations and partnerships between disability arts organisations, disabled and deaf artists, producers, and mainstream organisations to celebrate the inspiration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, to create original and exciting work. The £3m programme is principally funded by the National Lottery through the Olympic Lottery Distributor, and is delivered in partnership between London 2012, Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council.

The previous rounds of Unlimited Commissions were announced in March 2010 and January 2011, awarding 23 artists funds totalling £1,200,000. Commissions supported include a dance work exploring the fusion of classical ballet and contemporary dance by choreographer Marc Brew, a circus show exploring the ups and downs of Bipolar Disorder, and thousands of hand-made ceramic flowers that will appear in historic gardens around the country in 2012.

Ruth Mackenzie, Director, London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, said: ‘Unlimited is about commissioning world-class artists to create brilliant work which will change perceptions of the work of disabled and deaf artists. Through the Cultural Olympiad this is the largest commissioning fund for disabled and deaf artists the UK has ever seen. Congratulations to the commissioned artists and we look forward to seeing how their work develops.’

Moira Sinclair, Executive Director London, Arts Council England said: ‘As we announce the final Unlimited Commissions, I’m struck by the enormous diversity and scale of ambition of these artists. The work of deaf and disabled artists has been going from strength to strength, and we are thrilled that these extraordinary projects will help form the centrepiece of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. It promises a truly long lasting legacy of increased profile for this groundbreaking art.’

Sir Vernon Ellis, Chair of the British Council, said: ‘I’m delighted to see that a third of the Unlimited Commissions in this final round are collaborations between disabled and deaf artists in the UK and overseas. Unlimited will take their work to new audiences, build their credibility and confidence, and enable the arts world to work more effectively with disabled and deaf people. As an organisation that builds relationships for the UK around the world through culture, the British Council is proud to contribute to the international legacy of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.’

Rt Hon Dame Janet Paraskeva DBE, Chair of the Olympic Lottery Distributor, said: 'Unlimited is really helping to develop the talent of disabled and deaf artists
and I am delighted that National Lottery funding is supporting these new
commissions. This excellent final round of commissions illustrate in a tangible
way how that funding is helping creativity to flourish for those artists.’

Minister for the Cultural Olympiad, Ed Vaizey said: ‘The artists being recognised through the Unlimited programme truly represent the Olympic and Paralympic spirit. Their talent and commitment are inspirational and these awards will mean that excellent, innovative works can be enjoyed throughout the country.’

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: ‘Unlimited is bringing the talent, wit and originality of deaf and disabled artists and performers to the fore and will be a key part of the excitement and success of the cultural celebrations in 2012. I'm also pleased that more London artists have been successful in this final commissioning round, some of whom will be familiar to people who have attended the capital's annual Liberty festival.'

Notes to editors

Further information on Unlimited

Unlimited is principally funded by the National Lottery through the Olympic Lottery Distributor, and is delivered in partnership between London 2012, Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council. Unlimited is delivered through four pillars:

  • Unlimited Commissions: Over three years artists have been applying for awards as part of a £1.9 million commission fund to support high quality collaborations between disabled and deaf artists and producers. Applications had to respond to a number of criteria including:
  • Celebrating London and the whole of the UK welcoming the world
  • Inspiring and involving young people
  • Increasing opportunities for the public to engage in arts activities
  • Generating a positive legacy
  • Unlimited Talent: Successful applicants receive support in developing their commission winning ideas through bespoke training and mentoring from experienced practitioners
  • Unlimited Presents: Work created through Unlimited Commissions will be showcased in London and across the UK up to and including games time
  • Unlimited International: Supporting collaboration between artists in the UK and other countries, and showcasing new work around the world. It will also promote a global debate amongst young people about disability rights. This pillar of the programme is being led by the British Council.

The winning commissions for Round 3 of Unlimited are:


Heart’n Soul, The Dean Rodney Singers
Dean Rodney, a young artist with autism, will lead this participatory music project. Using technology to connect with artists from seven countries across the world to create a new kind of music, the audience will become part of the project, seeing the music as it is being created and helping to develop it. Leading creative producing company Heart’n Soul will produce the work.

Simon Allen, Resonance at the still point of change (working title)
Resonance at the still point of change is an audiovisual opera integrating music with moving images, text, audio description, lighting and sound projection. Composer Simon Allen will work with multi-screen projections from Joe King and Rosie Pedlow, text by Alasdair Middleton and a live eight-piece ensemble. Imagery gathered from locations where profound states of change are often imperceptible, will join with sound and text, to play with the ways we can access artistic meaning. Searching for uncommon relationships between our senses, the work is designed to celebrate the wide diversity of response that an audience can take home.

Tin Bath Theatre Company, Bee Detective
Bee Detective is a children’s theatre show which invites young audiences and their families (deaf and hearing), on an adventure into the inner sanctum of a bee hive. This intimate spectacle will evoke the sights and sounds of a hive through inventive new technology and creative captioning. Featuring 360 degree animations by James Merry, vibration effects to represent bee buzzing, and bee “waggle dance” choreography by Chisato Minamamura, the show encourages the audience to play detective and discover why bees are under threat, and how we can help them. Written and performed by Sophie Woolley and directed by Gemma Fairlie, and supported by Polka Theatre and Oily Cart, this is Tin Bath’s first theatre show for children.


Helen Petts, Throw them up and let them sing
Helen Petts is making a digital film exploring Kurt Schwitters’ journey to Ambleside in the Lake District via Norway, when escaping Nazi persecution because of his “degenerate” art and his epilepsy. The film will be shown next summer as an installation at the Hatton Gallery Newcastle alongside Schwitter’s Merzbarn Wall. Featuring improvised sounds by leading experimental musicians, there will also be a concert of music at the Sage Gateshead and associated talks, workshops and events exploring Schwitter’s influence today.

Lawnmowers, Boomba down the Tyne
Learning disabled artists are at the heart of this collaboration between Brazil and North East England. Together they will create an inspirational large-scale performance for venues down the Tyne which explores and celebrates northern culture and spirit.


Joel Simon, Escape from the Factory
Escape from the Factory is an animated film, which centres on a group of mis-shapen toy figurines who attempt to escape from their factory when they realize they are destined to the waste bin. In a style reminiscent of old POW camp films, these figurines escape to find themselves in an alien world. Using a combination of time lapse photography and stop-motion animation, this innovative process means the public can view the evolution of the film on video screens during the shoot.


Laurence Clark, Demotivational Speaker
Demotivational Speaker is a comedy show which questions why some things are considered inspiring and others aren’t, and why everyday activities are considered inspirational when disabled people do them. Audiences will be encouraged to re-examine the stereotypical way in which they view the Paralympics.


Ramesh Meyyappan, Skewered Snails
Inspired by Italo Calvino’s ‘The Baron in the Trees’, Skewered Snails is the darkly comic tale of a dysfunctional family and follows a son escaping his brutal home environment for the solace of the forest. Powerfully told through Ramesh Meyyappan’s masterful storytelling, it uses physical performance, an ingenious set, aerial choreography, animation and a complementary live score to poignantly unfold the lives of a young boy and his sibling. Ramesh will be accompanied by three physical theatre performers who together will embody the four members of this quirky family. This is the further development of a one-man show which received funding in the first round of Unlimited Commissions, Snails and Ketchup.


Rachel Gadsden, Unlimited Global Alchemy
Unlimited Global Alchemy is led by visual artist Rachel Gadsden in collaboration with South African artist and activist Nondumiso Hlwele and the Bambanani Group based in Khayelitsha Township near Cape Town. Together they will explore issues of identity, survival in the face of chronic medical conditions, and the politics of HIV. The project will culminate in an exhibition of visual artworks, a performance and a documentary film shown at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge in July-August 2012, touring to London during the Paralympics and then internationally.


Diverse City, Breathe
Breathe will be an outdoor spectacle for the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games on Weymouth beach, telling the story of the Olympian god of wind, Aeolis. The performance will be unleashed upon an audience of 10,000, as our differences, diversity and stories are blown centre stage. A company of 80 professional and amateur performers will realise the creative vision of renowned disabled artists Jamie Beddard, Alex Bulmer, Mat Fraser and David Toole. Collaborating companies will include Double Act, Cirque Bijou, Remix, JAM, State of Emergency, Activate, Desperate Men and APAE from Brazil.

Susan Austin, Creating the Spectacle! ­
Creating the Spectacle! will present an ambitious series of performances of a self-propelled underwater wheelchair. It will leave traces of its joy and freedom as it flies along through the water with its human occupant. This surprising and unexpected juxtaposition has proved to be a powerful vehicle for transforming preconceptions about the wheelchair in the mind of the viewer, as they then become part of the art work too. Creating the Spectacle! is the latest in a series of innovative projects conceived by Sue Austin and produced through Freewheeling, in conjunction with ICCI at University of Plymouth and B- Side Mulitmedia Arts Festival, Weymouth.


Jez Colborne, Irresistible
Irresistible is a 'symphony of sirens', a musical experience that combines warning sirens, non-traditional instruments and singing voices to create a breathtaking choral work. Devised by Jez Colborne, a multi-talented composer, musician and performer, in collaboration with Mind the Gap, Jez is further developing this work, which received funding in the first round of Unlimited Commissions. The open-air piece will be performed at The Cow & Calf on Ilkley Moor in West Yorkshire and on London’s south bank as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2015 and 2018, we plan to invest £1.1 billion of public money from government and an estimated £700 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.


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