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25 February 2015

"A programme that's bucked stereotypes and packed a powerful creative punch" Bella Todd, Time Out UNLIMITED, the £3million programme delivered by Shape and Artsadmin, has concluded its first year supporting outstanding work by disabled artists, making an unprecedented impact on the cultural sector. Here's the round up...

The two performers are looking at the camera. Jess Mabel Jones is wearing a black top and smiling. Jess Thom is dressed as a superhero with a blue cape and blue headdress. She is grimacing.

Jess Mabel Jones and Jess Thom

The work of nine artists was commissioned and showcased throughout 2014, appearing at many events across the UK and five overseas countries, reaching a total audience of over 14,000 through 309 performances. Unlimited also funded 17 artists through a research and development phase and co-commissioned an additional digital work with The Space, the arts portal created jointly by Arts Council England and the BBC.

The works came together at Southbank Centre’s week-long Unlimited Festival, an international level showcasing opportunity that gained widespread attention from the press, arts industry and general public. Reviews and Interviews of all commissions can be found in Dao's Unlimited Project page here.

Artist Jess Thom (Touretteshero) commented:

“It exceeded my wildest expectations. It was amazing to have an audience of people from all over the world, as well as key programmers from the UK.”

Artist Sheila Hill commented:

“Our work has reached a large and diverse audience more quickly than we would have anticipated. I don’t think this would have been the case without the skilled support of the Unlimited team.”


Unlimited now has over 90 allies. These venues, festivals, producers, promoters and individuals share Unlimited’s aim to change the perception of disabled people within the arts. Through mentoring and festival attendance and direct support for artists, 80% of these allies have directly engaged with the Unlimited programme.

Further growth in engagement is expected over the next year with 55% of allies offering mentoring to disabled artists, 40% offering programming opportunities and 40% seeking further support with wider issues connected to programming.

Fierce festival’s artistic director Laura McDermott commented:

“The overall tone of the project is fantastic. It is large-enough scale (and with sufficient funding) to make considerable impact and get noticed. The brand feels cool and contemporary and not preachy. The first round of commissions and the festival at Southbank have felt really vibrant. Celebrating difference rather than tip-toeing around it.”


Unlimited senior producer Jo Verrent commented:

“Unlimited continues to exceed expectations - proving not just the quality of art from disabled artists but the demand for this work from festivals, programmers and venues in the UK and internationally. Its success really is all down to the quality of the work that is out there.”


Unlimited may be celebrating its first year of success, but this is just the beginning of the programme’s long term objective to significantly change the perceptions of disabled people within the arts. Jo continues:

“Having selected this work and these artists, our job really begins - we have to make sure the cultural sector is ready to respond. That means conversations about programming, representation, visibility, language, access, audiences and much, much more. We all know one size doesn't fit all, so it’s about sharing a range of approaches that work for different organisations - which is why we are so pleased that our allies are growing and are increasingly diverse.”

Unlimited is funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England (ACE), Creative Scotland (CS), Spirit 2012 and Arts Council Wales (ACW).

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