Festival proves Unlimited potential of disabled artists

MayBe, a dance piece by Glasgow-based choreographer Marc Brew, is among the shows at Tramway's Unlimited festival. Picture: Susan Hay

MayBe, a dance piece by Glasgow-based choreographer Marc Brew, is among the shows at Tramway's Unlimited festival. Picture: Susan Hay

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AN ARTS festival which grew from the London Olympic Games hopes to inspire the next generation of Scottish performers living with disabilities.

Unlimited, which opens at the Tramway in Glasgow on September 15, features a range of original dance, music, spoken word and theatrical performances.

Artists Gary Gardiner and Ian Johnston, whose multimedia work 43 per cent will also appear at Unlimited. Picture: 21st Century Challenges

Artists Gary Gardiner and Ian Johnston, whose multimedia work 43 per cent will also appear at Unlimited. Picture: 21st Century Challenges

The programme includes works by acclaimed international talent such as Sheila Hill, Liz Carr, Marc Brew, Jack Dean, Claire Cunningham, Gary Gardiner and Ian Johnston, Koji Nishioka, Makoto Okawa and Yasuyuki Ueno.

What makes this an event with a difference is that all of the work featured is by disabled artists.

“It’s become a very large part of the disabled arts scene in the UK and is a respected arts festival in its own right,” said Tim Nunn, festival programmer at Tramway.

“It’s one of the most substantial cultural legacies of the London games. It’s so multi-arts. It really does cover all the bases.”

Scotland has led the way in disability arts

Helen Trew, Creative Scotland

Unlimited began as an arts commissioning programme in London offering talented disabled artists support to produce and display ambitious works. It grew from the Spirit of 2012, a legacy programme set up in the wake of the London Olympic Games.

This is the first time works created for Unlimited will be displayed in Scotland.

Several new commissions will be on show, including Pioneer [03] - an interactive game which invites audiences to play as a disabled protagonist, created by Glasgow-based multi-disciplinary artist Maki Yamazaki.

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Claire Cunningham's work The Way You Look at Me Tonight. Picture: Sven Hagolani

Claire Cunningham's work The Way You Look at Me Tonight. Picture: Sven Hagolani

“Unlimited features artists who regard themselves as artists who are disabled - but the majority are professionals with established backgrounds,” added Nunn.

“It puts it in something of a contrast to the amazing work by other agencies which is more about participation.

“We can’t stress enough this is great work. It will be a stunning exhibition filled with surprises.

“Unlimited is a vehicle to show off the quality of this art, and to encourage other promoters to take it in for their own shows.”

Helen Trew, equalities officer at Creative Scotland, works with many of the established theatre and artistic groups north of the Border which offer opportunities to those with disabilities.

“Scotland has led the way in disability arts,” she said. “We have some best thinkers, trailblazers and performers - some who have trained here, and others who have moved here and established themselves.

“When disabled artists had to fight for space, Scotland was open to it.

“Unlimited really shows artists who are the top of their game. Tramway is a fantastic platform to show our radical history.

“We want the next generation to see these performers in Scotland and see them as role models. Because we need people who will take this further.”

Trew is working with more than 100 organisations across the country to offer improved access routes into the arts for those with disabilities.

“We have a number of companies in Scotland, like the Solar Bear theatre company in Glasgow, who play an important developmental role,” she said.

“They work with emerging deaf performers in British Sign Language (BSL) - it integrates the language into the core of the shows, rather than sitting at the side of the stage signing.

“Lung Ha, a theatre company in Edinburgh, work with people with learning disabilities and regularly tour productions across the country.

“It’s not only disabled artists who are gaining experience. Many professional directors and producers work with the likes of Lung Ha to develop their own skills. There’s a mutual development in how to create more inclusive practice.”

Unlimited is on from September 15-25 at the Tramway, Glasgow. For more details visit the festival’s website.

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