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10 commissions announced for Unlimited, the UK’s largest programme celebrating arts, culture and sport by disabled and deaf people

18 March 2010

Arts Council England and London 2012 today announce that over £400,000 of funding has been awarded to 10 commissions for the first round of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad project Unlimited. Unlimited will celebrate disability, arts, culture and sport on an unprecedented scale and is set to transform the disability arts movement in the UK.

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, and produce work like never before.

Applications for the second round of commissions are now welcomed from disabled and deaf artists or disability arts groups wishing to create high quality work to form part of high profile showcase events across the UK. Further information on the application process can be found at

The project is principally funded by the Olympic Lottery Distributor, and is delivered in partnership between London 2012, Arts Council England, the Scottish Arts Council, Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council.

The winning commissions announced today are:


Candoco Dance Company - Candoco Unlimited

Candoco Dance Company performed in the handover ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games – the first time disabled performers have appeared in both events. Candoco Unlimited will build on their reputation as leaders in the dance and disability field to showcase some of the leading disabled artists working in contemporary dance today. Candoco will engage two disabled choreographers to each make a large scale dance piece for disabled and non-disabled dancers, including those from Beijing and Rio de Janeiro to link the past, current and future Olympic host nations. This will result in two world-class inclusive dance pieces that will be performed at a range of festivals and events leading up to 2012.

Graeae Theatre Company - The Garden

The Garden takes its inspiration from Blake’s poem Jerusalem and is an innovative exploration of ‘England’s green and pleasant land’. It is the first of three Graeae / Greenwich + Docklands International Festival (GDIF) co-productions aimed at building the pool of disabled sway pole & street art performers in the UK.

The work will be developed in partnership with Strange Fruit and features a deaf and disabled artistic team and a new ensemble of deaf and disabled sway pole/street art performers. The Garden will make its premiere at GDIF in June 2010. The resulting work will be developed alongside further pieces over the next three years to form a single spectacular for 2012.


Maurice Orr - The Screaming Silence of the Wind

Visual artist Maurice Orr will create four sensory installation pieces inspired by the raw, barren landscapes of his native Northern Ireland. Through sound, paint and natural materials such as fish leather, the piece will evoke a holistic feeling of place. Visitors to the exhibition will be encouraged to touch the surfaces, look at the landscapes and listen to the sounds that have inspired him.


Fittings Multimedia Arts - The Ugly Spirit

Using the fascinating lives of conjoined Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker as inspiration and metaphor, The Ugly Spirit will explore the conflicting notions that lie within us in a challenging and critically engaging performance piece. Developed in partnership with David Hoyle, Tanya Raabe and Garry Robson, Fittings will work with disabled and non-disabled young people from the North West to explore issues of identity. The resulting piece will tour a variety of mainstream venues and unusual settings around the country.


Janice Parker - Private Dancer

Private Dancer is an artistically ambitious large scale performance event by professional and emergent disabled dancers. Performed in and around a real sized luminous ‘house’, purpose built with a series of individual rooms, each solo dancer invites audience members to enter their private performance domain. As well as the individual pieces, the hour long performance will include disabled and non-disabled dancers performing throughout the structure encouraging audiences to walk and move around the house. Private Dancer is the result of research and development work which received funding from the Scottish Arts Council’s Disability Arts Open Fund.

Ramesh Meyyappan - Snails and Ketchup

Snails and Ketchup explores the turbulent relationships that prevail within dysfunctional families, inspired by Italo Calvino’s  ‘Baron in the Trees’. This darkly comic tale poignantly highlights that despite familial love being unconditional, it is not always possible to exist within the same environment as those we hold dear.

The plight of the family members will be revealed in a solo performance that allows Ramesh to explore several character transitions using an eclectic range of physical / visual styles including: sign mime, movement, aerial and stilt work, bold storytelling and strong characterization.


Chris Tally Evans - Personal Best: Turning Points

Personal Best will be a nationwide community storytelling project focusing on those turning points in our lives when we realise what we can become – unique. The resulting tales of hard-won battles and personal triumphs will become a life-affirming online resource and audio soundscape, which can be downloaded or broadcast in a variety of public spaces across the UK. This will ultimately lead to a touring installation and series of interactive workshops for young people exploring the theme of inspiration, role models and turning points in people’s lives.

Kaite O'Reilly with The Llanarth Group - The ‘d’ Monologues

The ‘d’ Monologues will be a dramatic collection of monologues for Deaf and disabled performers, inspired by the stories and experiences of disabled and Deaf individuals across the whole of the UK. The Llanarth Group hope to produce a body of work that will address the dearth of pieces written from a disability perspective, and parts written for disabled performers. The ‘d’ Monologues will be performed in venues in Wales and across the UK.


Jez Colborne with Mind the Gap - Irresistible

Irresistible will be a ‘siren symphony’!  Noisy and spectacular, it will be a live performance combining warning sirens and choral music with projections on walls and rocks and dramatic lighting. Developed by learning disabled musician and performer Jez Colborne, with support from Mind the Gap, Irresistible will be presented in a variety of urban and rural outdoor spaces such as Bradford City Centre and Ilkley Moor.

Stumble danceCircus - Bipolar Ringmaster (without a Circus)

Bipolar Ringmaster will be a one-man show performed by actor Eric MacLennan demonstrating the wild extremes experienced with bipolar disorder and enjoyed in circus. The piece plays with the audience’s perceptions and expectations of mental ill health and performance, blurring the lines between colourful character and delusional insanity, grand achievement or endless obsession. The piece will incorporate a short film of new circus choreography, and will be flexible in performance both for theatre or non-art settings

Moira Sinclair, Executive Director, Arts Council England, London said: ‘Unlimited Commissions will bring projects by some of our leading disabled and Deaf artists to new audiences across the UK in the run up to London 2012, showcasing their work on a world stage. We hope that the Commissions will leave the legacy of a strengthened sector long beyond the Games, and we wish all the artists the very best as they develop their work in the coming months.’

Ruth Mackenzie, Director, Cultural Olympiad said:
‘These are my first commissions since I started work for the Cultural Olympiad Board and I am proud to be working on a festival which will be offering more commissioning for disabled artists than any Cultural Olympiad and festival anywhere in the world. This is a chance to change the way work by disabled artists is perceived and enjoyed round the world, and we are thrilled to have such exciting commissions to get the programme started.’

Unlimited Commissions is a commissioning fund of £1.5m for new work which is believed to be the largest single investment in creative work by disabled artists. The second half of the Unlimited programme will provide support to artists to develop their talent and skills and present their work to audiences in the UK and abroad. Through Unlimited Talent there will be resources and training to foster young talent and develop skills across the sector, forging new partnerships between disability and mainstream arts organisations.

Unlimited International will support collaboration between the artists in the UK and other countries, showcase new work around the world, and promote a global debate amongst young people about disability rights.

Tessa Jowell, Minister for the Olympics, said:

‘We want the London 2012 Paralympic Games to help break down the barriers disabled people can often face. The inspirational projects announced today not only showcase the true depth of artistic talent we have amongst disabled people in the UK, but also communicate disability in a creative and thought provoking way that will challenge people’s perception of disability.


Press Contacts

Paul Woodmansey at London 2012 on 0203 2012 100, 

Sophie Woodward at Arts Council England on 020 7608 4149,

Notes to editors

Further information on Unlimited

Unlimited is principally funded by the Olympic Lottery Distributor, and is delivered in partnership between London 2012, Arts Council England, the Scottish Arts Council, Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council.

Unlimited is delivered through four pillars:

·  Unlimited Commissions:  Over the three years artists can apply for awards of around £25,000 – £50,000 as part of a £1.5 million commission fund to support high quality collaborations between disabled and deaf artists and producers, and mainstream arts organisations. Applications will be made through the existing Grants for the arts process run by Arts Council England but with annual deadlines from now until 2011. Applications must respond to a number of criteria including:

o       Celebrating London and the whole of the UK welcoming the world

o       Inspiring and involving young people

o       Increasing opportunities for the public to engage in arts activities

o       Generating a positive legacy

Artists can find out more information at

·        Unlimited Talent:  Successful applicants will receive support in developing their commission winning ideas.  Unlimited Talent will provide this support, delivered through bespoke mentoring from experienced practitioners and training specifically created for the needs of each artist or partnership.

·        Unlimited Presents:  Work created through Unlimited Commissions will be showcased in London and across the UK up to and including games time.  

·        Unlimited International:  This will support collaboration between the artists in the UK and other countries, and showcase 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 and is still in development, full details will be announced later in 2010.

London 2012 Cultural Olympiad

The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad is a national celebration of culture which is happening now and is about:


  • Giving everyone in the country a chance to be part of London 2012
  • Bringing sport and art together on a scale that has never been done
  • Using the power of the Olympic Games to inspire creativity across all forms of culture, especially amongst young people.
  • Making a real impact which will leave a lasting legacy well beyond 2012


BP is the Premier Partner of the Cultural Olympiad.

As it heads towards its £2bn budget for staging the Olympic and Paralympic Games, LOCOG has six domestic Tier One Partners - adidas, BP, British Airways, BT, EDF and Lloyds TSB. There are now five domestic Tier Two Supporters – Adecco, Cadbury, Cisco, Deloitte and UPS. There are eleven domestic Tier Three Suppliers and Providers – Airwave, Atkins, Boston Consulting Group, Crystal CG, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, Holiday Inn, McCann Worldgroup, The Nielsen Company, Populous, Ticketmaster and Trident.

The Worldwide Olympic Partners signed up for London 2012 are Coca-Cola, Acer, Atos Origin, GE, McDonald’s, Omega, Panasonic, Samsung and Visa.

About the Olympic Lottery Distributor

The Olympic Lottery Distributor was set up by Parliament to use National Lottery money to support the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  It is the single biggest contributor to the Cultural Olympiad, funding six of the ten major projects of which Unlimited is one.  The Olympic Lottery Distributor also supports the network of Big Screens around the UK with a grant of £2.6 million and it will also be providing up to £1.8 billion for the infrastructure of the Games.

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.