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Unlimited @ Southbank Centre - disability arts online
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Deborah Caulfield blogs about the talk 'Unlimited and Beyond' / 2 September 2012

A collage of black and white photographs of people in an urban setting

Leaving Limbo Landing explores the stories of East London life. Image courtesy Caroline Bowditch

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So... what happens after Unlimited, after London 2012? What’s next for disability arts?

I’m under-qualified to describe the extent to which Unlimited has provided new audiences for disabled artists, but I imagine it’s unprecedented. The questions are, is this being measured, and can it or should it be repeated? More generally and crucially, what and where to next?

Caroline Bowditch has been catapulted onto an international stage and the big time is here to stay as far as she’s concerned. No going back into obscurity. Nor is she planning to wait around for commissions. Delighted by reaching an audience of 5000+, she plans to keep touring and get her work seen by many thousands more.

Jez Colborne would like to direct, pass on his skills, and give others the chance to shine.

Jude Kelly, Southbank artistic director, is in no doubt that the perspective of disabled artists completes the picture. There is a need (for audiences) to understand the world through different eyes.

Clearly, Unlimited has been an amazing experience for participants and their collaborators. What, I wonder, are the audiences making of it? I haven’t seen any evaluation forms around the Festival Hall, which has been my home for two days, but I hope someone is gathering audience feedback. Otherwise we’ll only have a partial view of the festival, which is not the best place from which to start planning the future.

Near the end of the discussion, someone briefly hinted at the government programme to re-assess disabled people receiving DLA and other welfare benefits. This will bring fundamental changes to the whole system, which threatens to wipe disabled people from the social map, returning them to what Vic Finkelstein called ‘social death’.

Unless disabled artists are happy to be part of a small elite, they need to get out there and start shouting about this, along with the rest of us.

Keywords: 2012 olympics,dla,vic finkelstein