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What was unique or unusual about the Unlimited International approach?

February 26, 2018

(Part 5 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 was unique or unusual?

The international artists and producers, and stakeholders from outside the UK, felt strongly that the approach taken by Unlimited International was very different to anything that they had experienced before.

Firstly, the work was disability led which is an approach new to many.

“A disability-led project, that is unseen in Singapore.”  (Singapore)

“Led by blind composer, and involving blind musicians and dancers from UK and India living and working together in India.” (India)

“Unlimited requirement – which I agree with – was it had to be disability led. Our group are brilliant at the creative component, so it is creatively led with no problem.” (Brazil)

Secondly, the programme was an opportunity for people to tell their own stories in their own ways.

“We’re seeing disabled artists, on stage for the first time, telling the stories they want to tell.” (Singapore)

“What I like about this project is that it isn’t just saying people within the disabled community can do it too, it is saying we have our own vision and contribution and innovation, we can make our own aesthetic.  How do they want to represent themselves?” (Singapore)

“This project is all about our identity, culture, and language, and we are showing this to the hearing world.” (China)

“It’s about empowering people with disabilities.” (Palestine)

Thirdly, the programme generated and showcased high quality disability art.

“It has brought to the fore the true depth and high quality of the work that disabled persons in Singapore are capable of.” (Singapore)

“It shows clearly how good theatre makes no distinction between abled-body performers and disabled-body performers. A good play is a good play. I will view other theatres for disabilities with a much higher expectation/benchmark.” (Singapore)

“It really was inspirational to work with such talent. To reinforce and prove the fact that having a disability doesn’t prevent someone from being a great artist.”  (India)

“It was embedded to really promote creativity and quality.” (Cambodia)

“Now that I have a better understanding of the potential of how high the quality of work by artists with disability can be.” (Australia)

Finally, the stakeholders were exposed to new ideas around blending access into productions.

“The multi-layered approach to the performance, the nuances and detailed care being taken so that everyone can be included e.g. the announcer had subtitles.”  (Singapore)

“The production surpassed our expectations. We were particularly surprised by the seamless integration of access (some sign, some audio description) into the piece of work.” (Singapore)

“In terms of form it’s about dance / sign language / non-verbal theatre / audio description / visual music and composition, with expectation that a new art form is established.” (China)

“Work using embedded access stuff which is just starting to kick off in Australia.  Wendy Hoose really shifted my thinking in the potential of using access as a creative tool, I’d never seen anything like that here.” (Australia)

“The project has caused us the refine our understanding of disability and to work in even more inclusive ways.” (Brazil)

As a consequence of these ways of working, the Unlimited International approaches and final outputs were considered ground-breaking.

“It has been amazing, a game changer.” (China)

“The work is unprecedented and ground-breaking.” (Singapore)

“From an artistic angle, wow, the creative case is strong. We’re seeing works never before seen on a Singapore stage.” (Singapore)

“New area of work in the country.” (Palestine)

“He is a game changer in his environment.” (Uganda)

“It is an eye openingly exciting funding stream.” (Brazil)

There was a certainly a will to continue to share these ways of working globally, after the close of the projects.

“Need to share this model of collaboration between Deaf and hearing artists and the model of this practise. Finding should be shared with the wider artistic community.”  (China)

“Unlimited International’s experience of working with disabled artists globally.  The learning points gained could be shared.  That would be immensely valuable.”  (Singapore)

What can Unlimited International learn from this?

The work emerging from Unlimited International has been disability-led, high in quality, included blended access, and has enabled disabled people to tell their own stories in their own ways.

These outcomes match the intentions of the funding stream as outlined in Unlimited’s strategic documents (i.e. disability-led, high quality, innovative and makes the creative case for diversity) and are consistent with the type of productions that we are seeing in the UK at the moment.  It will be vital for Unlimited International to continuously evaluate whether the work that they are showcasing remains at the forefront of disability arts practice, and take measures at every stage to ensure that this continues to be the case.

Working in this way has been described as ‘ground-breaking’ or similar by many of the international stakeholders.  The benefits for international artists, practitioners and audiences are thus clear as they are being exposed to good practice and opportunities that are new and exciting for them.  But what can the UK artists, practitioners and audiences learn from this?  As well as developing reputations for being ‘ground-breaking’, there are multiple artistic and personal benefits from engaging in international collaborations and the importance of these must not be lost at the expense of recognising the ‘ground-breaking’ impacts elsewhere.


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



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