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Unlimited and Beyond: What’s next for disability arts? Amardeep Sohi reflects on a discussion about where Unlimited artists go from here / 4 September 2012

Jez Colborne on stage outside the National Theatre, Southbank

Jez Colborne on stage in the theatre square outside the National Theatre. Photo by Tim Mitchell

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After a successful two-week stint on one of London’s largest platforms, it was only right and natural to broach the topic of life after Unlimited. Jo Verrent brought together a rather large panel consisting of artists, producers and strategic bodies to ask the question teetering on everyone’s mind:  “what’s next?”

Artist Jez Colborne kicked off the discussion by stating his desire to become a director, travelling the world and collaborating with new musicians and actors. As he continues on his artistic journey he holds true the mantra: “No one can bruise a good warrior.”Caroline Bowditch followed suit with her far reaching vision for Leaving Limbo Landing: “I can’t go back to making little tiny pieces and I won’t allow myself to do that…for me to back down from that would be wrong.” She spoke of touring her work, remaking the work in other places and being able to build on the relationships with her company of performers. Their words confirmed that Unlimited had become a very real way of thinking for both Jez and Caroline.

CEO of Dada Fest, Ruth Gould shifted the conversation to the larger cultural landscape: “I really hope this will see big changes in thinking about what our work is about.” She spoke of how DadaFest was born out of “frustration” and has allowed artists to develop and subsequently “raised the bar in thinking”.

Jude Kelly, artistic director of the Southbank Centre, Carole McFadden of the British Council and Moira Sinclair of the Arts Council were then asked: “Have you got it right yet?” McFadden spoke of the scope for international collaboration, whilst Kelly spoke of the Southbank’s responsibility “to help audiences see the world through new eyes” but rather honestly pointed out that “when you’re trying to push political agendas, there’s a hell of a long way to go”.

Sinclair reinforced the Arts Council’s commitment to work from deaf and disabled artists but declared there were still barriers in place and there remained “a huge amount of work to be done”.
Although the discussion offered no definitive answer, there’s no question that the temporary platform offered by the Southbank Centre should transform into a permanent cultural shift. Let’s ensure that Unlimited becomes the springboard to creating a legacy built on equality and opportunity. To Unlimited and Beyond.