Disabled artists to get widest audience via Southbank

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Disabled artists are to get a global audience for the first time in January with the Southbank’s Unlimited festival.

Announced today, International Day of Disabled Persons, the five day Unlimited festival, born out of the 2012 London Olympics, will for the first time reach a global digital audience with dance, performance, comedy, film, talks, workshops and art. The event will run from January 13 to 17.

 “On International Day of Disabled Persons, we are absolutely delighted to reveal the Unlimited festival programme, and to be able to present the powerful artistic vision of disabled artists digitally, to a global audience for the very first time” said the Southbank’s interim head of public programming, Ruth Hardie. “The Covid-19 pandemic has hit both the arts and disabled communities hard, and I am incredibly impressed with and grateful for the artists who’ve been working hard, in the most challenging of situations, to adapt their work so we can present this festival online. 

“The concept of Unlimited festival remains unchanged since it was born as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad - the festival is about bringing ambitious creative projects by outstanding disabled artists to new audiences and challenging perceptions of disabled people. The festival remains an integral part of the programme at the Southbank Centre and we cannot wait to recreate the festival feeling in the living rooms of all who tune in.”

The festival predominantly showcases works commissioned by Unlimited, an arts commissioning programme and one of Arts Council England’s strategic diversity initiatives, delivered by the disability-led arts organisation Shape Arts and producing organisation Artsadmin. The aim is to help embed work by disabled artists across all art forms within the cultural sector, reach new audiences and change perceptions of disabled people. A biennial event, it was devised to coincide with the London Paralympic Games and was last held at the Southbank Centre in 2018 but was delayed in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Highlights in the programme include the world premiere of Second Hand Dance’s Insect Hands for four to seven-year-olds (above); The Origin of Carmen Power, storytelling created by an 11-year-old from her experience of cancer when she was seven; and the first screening of Byron Vincent’s black comedy Instagramming the Apocalypse.

An online exhibition, Reasonable Adjustment - The Disabled Armed Resistance Movement (main image), will chronicle a 30-year battle for disabled rights; there will be comedy including  Abnormally Funny People, a live performance broadcast live via Zoom; Sophie Woolley’s one-person show Augmented which shares the joys and conflict of being welcomed back into the hearing world; and Here / Not Here (is a new hip-hop film exploring British Sign Language, Krump street dance, football and visual vernacular, directed by award-winning film-maker and deaf artist Bim Ajadi and written by Jonzi D, artistic director of Breakin’ Convention.

And the powerful dance duet 111 (above) will be performed by Joel Brown (Candoco Dance Company) and Eve Mutso (former Principal Dancer of Scottish Ballet) as they explore their different strengths and vulnerabilities - 111 is the number of vertebrae the performers have between them.

Listings for Unlimited can be found here.

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