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What worked well about the Unlimited International programme?

February 19, 2018

(Part 4 of 10 in a series of blog posts evaluating the Unlimited International programme)

In what ways did the Unlimited International stakeholders feel that the Unlimited International programme worked well?

Many stakeholders reported that Unlimited International offered an international platform for the work of disabled artists, which was appreciated.

“This project brought my work to a wider audience which has influenced its development.”  (Uganda)

“It has given me a bit of a profile, as Unlimited has kudos.  It is great to have on the CV.” (Australia)

“Local disabled artists have struggled with getting due recognition and opportunities to train and practice. A collaborative work like Singapore ‘d’ Monologues, with funding from the UK, has opened doors for so many of them.” (Singapore)

“We used it to foster those in Singapore and create a platform, and get some performers that were not as experienced and introduce them.  A fulcrum to elevate the artists.” (Singapore)

“It helped them to gain an international profile.” (Japan)

“I was looking for international experience in disability arts.” (Cambodia)

“It has changed the lives of the participants, broadening their personal and professional horizons.” (India)

As described earlier, many of the international participants were looking to the UK for direction around disability arts.  The Unlimited International programme was felt to be an opportunity for emerging artists and producers from outside the UK to learn from their peers in the UK.

“It has offered opportunities to artists and producers in countries where less opportunities, or opportunities of lesser quality, are available.” (Australia)

“It is about bringing a toolbox from a country which has a much larger toolbox, and showing the country with the smaller toolbox some of the tools they could be using.” (Singapore)

That said, the Unlimited International stakeholders were clear that the programme worked because it was a genuine collaboration where all participants played a valuable role.

“Some of the leaders were from the UK which was useful because they have a lot of experience, but the local community had a weight in the collaboration.  It was a collaboration with a lot of integrity.” (Singapore)

“International work in the field of disability arts and culture is about building solidarity.” (Singapore)

“Nature of collaboration has brought UK and Japanese artists together – this is a good thing and opens up the dialogue in both countries.” (Japan)

“Any resulting collaborations are ‘natural’ and not forced.” (Japan)

“He flew to the UK to engage, usually it’s the other way around – people coming to East Africa to tell us what to do!” (Uganda)

This type of collaboration proved to be personally and artistically challenging for all, which was beneficial for both UK and international participants.

“Because it challenges how we do things and look at things.  Because it promotes mutual understanding and provokes discussion and disagreements, in the name of making quality professional art.  Because art-making should not be easy but should be constantly a shift of mindsets which stimulates creativity and problem-solving.” (Singapore)

“People in different countries can share their work. The experience changes both sides, to really understand.  A different way of working from each culture but we enrich each other.”  (Cambodia)

“Artists sharing ideas work and practice from different cultural backgrounds is important to generate new ways of thinking and looking at our world and the bigger picture in terms of building social inclusion, inspiring creativity and generally improving the quality of lives.” (Japan)

What can Unlimited International learn from this?

As described earlier, there is a considerable desire for UK and international colleagues to work together and learn from one another through equitable relationships.

From what the stakeholders are telling us it appears that this is happening, with relationships resulting from Unlimited International being described as ‘natural’ and having ‘integrity’.  As a result of these relationships stakeholders reported experiencing personal and artistic challenges which were ultimately ‘stimulating’, ‘enriching’ and ‘inspiring’.  This is a considerable achievement for the Unlimited International programme, and is something which must continue as it is the key to the programme’s success.

Working internationally in this way is an opportunity for individual artists from the UK and internationally to raise their own profile and to increase the visibility of disabled artists locally in new international locations, hopefully raising the profile of disability arts generally.  This has been welcomed by stakeholders, although it should be noted that Unlimited International is by no means the only route into working internationally.


Image: Sokny Onn, Unlimited International Placement at Southbank Centre’s Unlimited festival 2016. Photo by Rachel Cherry

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