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The future for disability arts internationally

March 26, 2018

(Part 9 of 10 in a series of blog posts evaluating the Unlimited International programme)

How do the stakeholders feel about the future for disability arts internationally?

The stakeholders were very ambitious about the future of disability arts in their own countries.

Many felt that they would like to bring their produced work to a wider audience.

“Showcasing the work in a high profile context.” (Brazil)

“Give access to larger venues and more performance dates.” (Singapore)

“For there to be more of them!” (India)

“Scale up the project.” (Palestine)

Some of the stakeholders felt that they would like disability arts to be more mainstream.

“Hope to have this project the first initiative that opens doors for disabled to be involved in mainstreamed arts.” (Singapore)

“Being competitive in the mainstream is ultimately what we all want.” (Australia)

However, there was a concern that the work so far may only be reaching those that are already interested in or educated about the approach.

“A general audience, not just an audience of people interested in disabled artists.  You are already preaching for the converted.” (Singapore)

If this is the case, much more international work will be needed to change attitudes towards disability arts.

“Being with and looking after many of the blind artists on this for two weeks just showed me though that many people’s attitudes still need to change towards this disability.” (India)

“It will take time for the bureaucracy and structures to see this change.” (Singapore)

“Some local cultural policymakers have acknowledged that disability arts is “too political” for Singapore and have therefore refrained from actively championing disabled artistic leadership.” (Singapore)

“Sometimes people in Cambodia don’t understand why we are doing this, they don’t recognise why this is important.  Just the last few years they start to see, slowly.  There’s a ladder to climb up!  We try to advocate through the art.” (Cambodia)

This would require more money.

“Additional funding would allow complementary activities born out of the project to be taken forward in a structured and sustainable way such as skills development programmes for the performers.” (Singapore)

“We don’t have the resources to put access in place and make it work, we are trying to do our best with limited resource. In the UK people have funding for the arts.  I just dream for that in Cambodia.”   (Cambodia)

What can Unlimited International learn from this?

Going forward, it will be necessary for Unlimited International to consider the extent to which they wish to be responsible for the continued development of the disability arts sector abroad, along with expectations of what can be achieved and how this can be funded and evaluated.

Unlimited International should also consider ways to expand their reach beyond the ‘already converted’, both internationally and in the UK.

This will certainly become increasingly relevant as the programme leaves the R&D stage and moves towards full touring productions.  Unlimited International has always recognised that different countries have differing levels of exposure to disability art as a starting point, but these hesitant comments from the stakeholders highlight that an increased supply of skilled and confident disabled artists and high quality productions may not in itself be enough to influence change.


Image: Visiting disabled artists in Seoul, Korea

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