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Over £820,000 awarded to artists for Cultural Olympiad programme Unlimited

24 January 2011

Visual Arts ands Crafts

Arts Council England, London 2012, the UK Arts Councils and the British Council have today awarded £820,000 funding to a new round of major commissions for Unlimited, the ground-breaking programme that celebrates arts and culture by disabled and Deaf artists on an unprecedented scale for the Cultural Olympiad.

The 13 new commissions range widely in artform and include a circus show exploring the ups and downs of Bipolar Disorder, a physical performance piece about the search for the perfect partner using dance, puppetry, animation and music; and thousands of ceramic flowers planted at historic sites across the country. The works will take place across the UK and with support from the British Council many of the commissions will see collaboration between the artists in the UK and other countries including Brazil, China, Germany and South Africa. (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, and produce work like never before. The programme, with a total fund of £3m, 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 first round of Unlimited Commissions was announced in March 2010, and awarded ten artists funds totalling £400,000. These projects are now being developed and have demonstrated the significant talent of disabled artists at festivals and events across the country including DaDaFest 2010, the Network for Contemporary Performing Arts (IETM) showcase in Glasgow, Greenwich + Docklands International Festival, and the 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where Janice Parker was awarded a Herald Angel Award for her Private Dancer performance.

Ruth Mackenzie, Cultural Olympiad, Director, said: ‘Unlimited is about world-class artists creating brilliant work which will change perceptions of the work of disabled and Deaf artists. Congratulations to the commissioned artists and we look forward to seeing how their work develops.’

Moira Sinclair, Executive Director London, Arts Council England said: ‘It is so exciting to see the quality and range of these commissions. When we started to devise this programme, we could hardly imagine the collaborations that would develop, the scale of ambition that would be realised and the audiences that would be reached, both in the UK and internationally in the run up to 2012. We are thrilled to see the growing strength and confidence of Deaf and disabled artists and we would like to congratulate all the successful applicants in this round.’

Minister for the Cultural Olympiad, Ed Vaizey said: ‘Through performance and visual art the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be brought to life in communities across the country. This exciting new series of commissions from talented disabled and Deaf artists captures some of the key values of the 2012 Games. This is a Games for everyone and is about more than sport alone but is also a celebration of culture, diversity and human achievement.’

Applications for the third and final 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. The British Council will continue their support for applications who wish to develop partnerships with any of the participating countries which include Brazil, China, Columbia, Croatia, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Venezuela. Further information on the application process can be found at

Notes to editors

The winning commissions for Round 2 of Unlimited are:

Candoco Dance Company – Unlimited International

As a development of their first Unlimited commission, Candoco will commission two emerging disabled choreographers; Marc Brew and Claire Cunningham to each make a large-scale dance piece for disabled and non-disabled dancers. The international cast will include dancers from Brazil and China to link the past, current and future Olympic and Paralympic host nations. This will result in two world-class inclusive dance pieces that will be performed in 2012. For Candoco Unlimited International, Candoco will commission Raimund Hoghe to create a work for four Candoco company dancers and members of his own company. Both Candoco and Raimund Hoghe are driven by a belief in the value of the artistic contribution of the individual and the creation will be guided by this belief. This site-sensitive work will be international in ambition, and will celebrate difference.

Daily Life – Mad Gyms and Kitchens

Mad Gyms and Kitchens is a large-scale touring project based on performance artist Bobby Baker’s experience of recovery from serious mental and physical illness. Investigating the benefits of exercise and nutrition in the pursuit for health and wellbeing, this show burgeons into Bobby’s ‘visionary crusade’ on behalf of autonomy and personal choice. By celebrating and critiquing some of the advice she has received as a result of her disabilities, Bobby will perform a series of demonstrations using fantastical ‘wellbeing’ equipment, created in collaboration with sculptor Charlie Whittuck. The performances will then unfold in to an intricately crafted, mechanical installation.

Rachel Gadsden - Unlimited Global Alchemy

Unlimited Global Alchemy is a commission led by British visual artist Rachel Gadsden, in partnership with South African artist and activist Nondumiso Hlwele, and the Bambanani Women’s Group based in Cape Town, South Africa, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, and Artsadmin. Sharing a powerful sensibility and complicated life-giving medical regimes, the women are united by their ability to survive, and their shared desire to communicate important messages about human fragility through art. Unlimited Global Alchemy will create an exhibition of large-scale visual artworks in South Africa and in the UK. During 2012, a film, an exhibition and a live multi-media theatrical visual performance will take place involving Rachel Gadsden, choreographer Mark Smith and Nondumiso Hlwele.

David Toole – Boundless (working title)

David Toole and Lucy Hind are working with acclaimed UK choreographer Liam Steel in collaboration with South African dance company Remix to create a new integrated dance work in partnership with DanceXchange in the UK, and The Baxter Theatre in South Africa.

Twelve artists, both disabled and non-disabled, will come together for an eight-week collaborative residency in South Africa including a combined creative team from both nations. The creative team comprises acclaimed artists including choreographer Liam Steel, South African born composer and performer Neo Muyanga; and UK performer and musician Dominic Lawton.

Simon McKeown – Motion Disabled

This Unlimited commission will be a large-scale development of Simon McKeown’s previous work, Motion Disabled, and will use a complex mix of technologies and software usually associated with the film and computer gaming industries.

Using motion capture, Simon will record the signature movements of disabled athletes’ motion, which will be combined with 3D software to create large inflatable sculptures using rapid prototyping techniques. Paralympic body shapes and actions will be presented as large models, and will be played out on both large screens and smart phones, challenging perceptions and invigorating our view of human motion and body shape.

Michele Weaver – Bipolar Circus

Building on the success of her first Unlimited commission, Michele Weaver will develop Bipolar Ringmaster from a one-man show into an ensemble circus show with a difference. It will become a spectacular live performance integrating film, acrobatics, live music, colour and humour. The character, delivery and quality of Bipolar Circus will challenge public perceptions of Bipolar Disorder - both the negativity associated with depression and the contentious links between mania and genius creativity. Through articulating a myriad of conducts associated with the disorder, the performance will inform and engage while challenging classic stereotypes.

DASH – M21

M21 will be a unique live art event which will take place in Much Wenlock, Shropshire in May 2012 in collaboration with DASH. In a time when widespread cuts are affecting the quality of life of disabled people, M21 will explore with a group of disabled live artists the themes of contemporary life and how this relates to our past.

M21 aims to have a fundamental influence on the development of disability live art in the UK and will be a statement of what it is to be alive in the 21st century through a disability aesthetic.

Paul Cummins - English Garden Flower installation

Fine ceramic artist Paul Cummins will create a quintessentially English flower garden made up of up to 10,000 individual blooms crafted by hand. During 2012, Paul will hold a series of exhibitions at specially selected venues across the UK chosen for their historical and social significance. Each bloom will be unique but will form part of a larger flower community. The flowers will be hand-thrown on a potter’s wheel and will be attached to galvanised steel rods, ranging from 50 - 70cm in height, allowing the flowers to move in the breeze.

Claire Cunningham – Ménage àTrois

Ménage à Trois is a physical performance piece created, conceived and performed by Claire Cunningham combining dance, puppetry, projection, animation and music, created in partnership with the National Theatre of Scotland. In a dark, private chamber, echoing with the chimes of hundreds of silver strands of threaded crutches suspended high above, the story of a lonely woman unfolds. Her need for companionship drives her to begin to craft a man. The perfect man....out of the only thing she knows, the only companion she has.....crutches. A study of love, obsession, loneliness, manipulation and all the insecurities and misconceptions we face in our search for someone that accepts us, and of trying to accept ourselves.

A beautiful, haunting study about the nature of love, loneliness and the search for a perfect partner will be created by Cunningham together with a team of highly respected collaborators including Video Artist Gail Sneddon.

Caroline Bowditch – leaving limbo landing

Leaving-limbo-landing is a new multi-artform collaborative work that will be created by independent disabled dance maker and performance artist, Caroline Bowditch. Presented by East London Dance, leaving-limbo-landing is about journey, placement, displacement, settling, arrivals and departures. It will include an interactive installation with performance elements in air, water and on land. Caroline is interested in working in non-traditional performance locations with bodies that don’t generally fit the dance mould and she is passionate about creating work that is accessible to audiences.

Marc Brew - Fusional Fragments

Choreographer Marc Brew, in partnership with DanceEast, will create a new dance work exploring the concept of fusion of fragments between classical ballet and contemporary dance. Accompanied by original music by Philip Sheppard and acclaimed composer and percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, a cast of six dancers will investigate the difference and influences of the two styles, questioning whether elements can be fused together or if they should remain as fragments in isolation.

Fusional Fragments will be created and presented at DanceEast in Ipswich, The Royal Opera House in London and DanceXchange in Birmingham.

Kaite O’Reilly – The ‘d’ Monologues

The ‘d’ Monologues are a series of witty and provocative monologues written by Kaite O’Reilly. They are inspired by the experiences, attitudes and imagination of disabled and Deaf people from across the UK. In this second commission from Unlimited, National Theatre Wales will join forces with Kaite in a groundbreaking production, offering an outstanding showcase of talent and featuring new monologues created throughout 2011. Performed by an ensemble of new, emerging, and established disabled and Deaf performers from across the UK, disability culture and Deaf arts will take centre stage in an unprecedented production by a National Theatre.

Sinead O’Donnell - CAUTION

Led by Sinead O’Donnell and produced by Artsadmin, CAUTION will bring together some of the world’s leading performance artists - Sylvette Babin (Montreal, Canada), Mariel Carranza (Los Angeles, USA/Lima, Peru), Paul Couillard (Toronto, Canada), Poshya Kakl (Erbil, Kurdistan-Iraq) and Shiro Masuyama (Tokyo, Japan)- to collaborate on a major international project exploring ‘invisible’ disability. The resulting performance and exhibition will showcase high quality, ambitious work by disabled and Deaf artists at Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast. The process will encourage the artists to challenge their methodology and to create work that brings their disabilities into new territories. Artists will be encouraged to create work that opens doors, changes minds and inspires new work and collaboration.

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 the three years artists can apply for awards of around £25,000 – £50,000 as part of a £1.9 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.