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The 2014 round of the UNLIMITED programme supports 26 disabled artists and companies across the UK to create ambitious work covering all genres. Dao is pleased to announce that we are the official media partner for the exciting Unlimited programme led by Shape and ArtsAdmin. As well as populating Dao with reviews and interviews with the Unlimited artists and producer, we've published this blog, which contains reflections from our writers on aspects of the Unlimited Festival at the Southbank Centre 2-7 September 2014.

The Unlimited Festival: an overall impression

16 September 2014

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By Gary Thomas I should begin with a note that I didn’t go to everything, but when I did attend the Southbank Centre was buzzing, and so was I. The first thing I noticed when I walked in on the Tuesday, the opening day, was Jo Verrent & Luke Pell’s striking ‘Take Me To Bed’, on the large screen at the back of The Clore Ballroom. It’s a choreography of sleep, with familiar faces from the disability art world on a bed, sleeping in various positions. The screen is...

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Owen Lowery reading at the Southbank Centre on 7 September

15 September 2014

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By John O'Donoghue I was a little underwhelmed last week by the Poetry Book Society’s announcement of the ‘Next Generation of 20 Poets expected to dominate the poetry landscape of the coming decade.' For one thing I’m sceptical about marketing campaigns that seek to highlight poets and poetry. The Great British Public seems as indifferent to their bards as they are to their politicians, as if the two tribes are becoming beleaguered, endangered species. And whilst...

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'Shifting Identities: Otherwise Unchanged’ panel discussion at the Southbank Centre on 6 September

14 September 2014

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By Emmeline Burdett Skillfully chaired by Tony Heaton, the chief executive of Shape, various disabled artists took part as panellists in the discussion: performance artist Sue Austin, dancers Marc Brew and Michelle Ryan, and the poet Owen Lowery. Introducing the debate Tony mentioned that Shape Arts had been founded by a dancer who had met a young disabled person and had been determined to refute the claim that his impairment made it impossible for him to be a dancer. All of the panellists have...

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'Happy to be Me': panel discussion at the Southbank Centre on 6 September

14 September 2014

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By Emmeline Burdett ‘Happy to be Me’ was chaired by Jude Kelly, featuring the disabled artists Liz Carr, Alex Bulmer, Claire Cunningham and Katherine Araniello. The subject under discussion was the ways in which disabled artists use art to get across ideas about impairment and disability which often differ markedly from those to be found in mainstream discourse. To this end, the session opened with a performance of the opening number from Liz Carr and Alex Bulmer’s...

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The Royal Festival Hall hosted a series of Unlimited presentations, visual arts, film and t-shirts

12 September 2014

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By Richard Downes Summer can’t decide whether it should be autumn today. Reaching the end of Hungerford Bridge I hear the Buzzcocks asking ‘Ever Fallen In Love’, Diverse City’s Young Performance Company have drawn a crowd appreciative of dance and circus skills. Entering the foyer Tom Doughty and Adrian Lee from the Paraorchestra are strumming and singing to an attentive audience. The whole place is buzzing. I’ve got friends here and I’m at Unlimited a...

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The Kaos Signing Choir took over the Clore Ballroom on Sunday morning to spread a bit of happiness

9 September 2014

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By Amardeep Sohi I went to the Learn How to Sign, Sing and Dance to Pharrell William’s Happy Workshop and participatory workshop Happy: a state of mind and the title of the infectious single by Pharrell Williams, which induced adults and children alike, to gather at the Southbank Centre on a sunny Sunday afternoon to sign, sing and dance. It’s not often that I abandon my pen and notebook when reviewing, but abandon them I did. Learning how to sign is engraved onto my list of...

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Two of the British Paraorchestra’s finest musicians, Tom Doughty and Adrian Lee, entertain an appreciative crowd in the main foyer space of the Royal Festival Hall

9 September 2014

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By Lloyd Coleman Because of the nature of this free Unlimited Festival event, last Friday afternoon, audience members were able to come and go as they pleased. It was a testament to the skill and natural charm of these two men that so many chose to stay for the whole hour-long set, once we had settled into the comfy sofas and (not so comfy) chairs laid out in front of the performance area. Tom led the proceedings with his usual dry wit, which I have come to know and love through our...

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Ian Johnston & Gary Gardiner share some tender moments in 'Dancer'

7 September 2014

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By Sophie Partridge You know you've found yourself on to a good thing when entering a space and Greatest Dancer by Sister Sledge is playing! A lady `terp signs the lyrics, whilst two men dressed in dinner suits dance in front of a screen on which they are projected. On the dark floor are placed pairs of those white feet silhouettes, used in dance classes. I come in half way through the track and to my delight, it's looped again. Dancer was created by Ian Johnston and Gary Gardiner,...

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Michelle Ryan lays bare some intimate moments in one of the most compelling shows in Unlimited

6 September 2014

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Blog by Colin Hambrook I was very excited when I heard Wendy Martin talking about her reasons for programming Michelle Ryan & Torque for Unlimited. Michelle had been a dancer with the Belgian Dance Company Les Ballets C De La B and Alain had encouraged Michelle to carry on dancing after the onset of MS meant that her movement changed enormously. She was frightened to dance. She was frightened she’d fall over. And Alain said “what’s to be frightened of? You just get up and...

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Be there at the start: Ailís Ní Ríain talks about her fascinating BSL, film, live music, new writing and live drawing project 'The Drawing Rooms'

4 September 2014

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By Colin Hambrook It became clear this morning during the presentations of Unlimited projects in research & development that the clear thing that Unlimited is doing, is to allow the voices of individual disabled artists to come through; to experiment in new and exciting ways; and to allow something fresh to happen, outside of the often limiting constraints of companies within the disability arts sector who work to specific impairment-related agendas. I was entranced by the imagination of...

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Be there at the start: Pete Edwards talks about making work on sexual abuse

4 September 2014

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By Colin Hambrook Pete Edwards has set himself some interesting challenges for his Unlimited research and development project. Pete’s award is to explore the difficult and taboo subject of rape and sexual abuse. He wrote a play about his life story after doing a Graeae Missing Pieces training course. However, when it came to the proposal for Unlimited he put the script to one side, making the decision that he wanted to devise a piece with actors, who like himself, have different speech...

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The Flickering Darkness in the White Room in the underbelly of the Royal Festival Hall

2 September 2014

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Blog by Colin Hambrook Unlimited kicked off today with slow, measured start. It was a day of watching films and chatting to disabled artists and friends.  I made sure to see Juan delGado’s Flickering Darkness and decided it was a point in the festival I’d return to a few times during Unlimited at the Southbank Centre. It’s tucked away in the White Room on the downstairs Spirit Level of the building; an space easy to miss as you have to journey through the Tunnel of Love...

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The Unlimited opening event: Does It Matter? WW I Shorts commissioned by Channel 4

2 September 2014

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By Colin Hambrook The launch event of the day was a presentation of the series of World War I shorts commissioned made for Channel 4 by a series of artists who feature regularly on Dao: Claire Cunningham, Simon Mckeown, Katherine Araniello, Tony Heaton and Jez Colbourne. I’d thoroughly recommend going to the Channel 4 website to view the films. However, it was a treat being able to see them in the Clore Ballroom on a large scale. And to hear some of the stories behind the making of the...

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Julie McNamara's 'Let Me Stay', another of the shows which has just received Unlimited funding, previews at CoolTan Arts

4 April 2014

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I am delighted that Julie McNamara and her company Vital Xposure have received an Unlimited award for Let Me Stay. I’ve known Julie a long time now – through thick and thin you might say. And I know her well enough to say that she puts everything into whatever she turns her attention to. Let Me Stay is a treat. I saw Julie perform Let Me Stay in a makeshift theatre space – the sort of space that proves that you can make theatre anywhere, if you are good...

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Trish Wheatley gives her first reactions to the Unlimited selections

1 April 2014

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Unlimited represents a big investment in disabled artists and the selection for this round of full commissions and research and development projects contains some really exciting work. After the huge success of the Unlimited programme in 2012, which culminated in the Unlimited Festival at the Southbank Centre it is easy to try to make comparisons. Without the backdrop of the Olympic and Paralympic Games there is less funding – and that which is available has to stretch across three years,...

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