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The Unlimited Festival blog engages with artists, producers and audience at one of the biggest exposures of Disability Arts ever to happen in London. Coinciding with the Paralympic games, the festival runs from 30 August – 9 September, 2012

Deborah Caulfield's in-the-moment impression of the Unlimited dicussion 'Just Look What We Started'

2 September 2012

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Loosely painted portrait of Nabil Shaban who set up Graeae Theatre Company

'Just Look What We Started' was the first in a series of discussions on disability, art. labels and life in the Royal Festival Hall. Jude Kelly, artistic director of the Southbank Centre, kicks off with a personal reflection on Unlimited, ‘a triumph for team work.’ She says it has been a joy to see that what has emerged is (with no apology for using this word, although she knows it has been criticised) an extraordinary body of work. I’m thinking: From...

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Nina Muehlemann reviews Mat Fraser's burlesque show 'Criptease'

2 September 2012

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a photograph of performer Mat Fraser dressed in a black leather jacket and thong

The Southbank Centre’s Clore Ballroom is packed, and there is a constant stream of people who still look for a good space, even if it means sitting on the floor. As Mat Fraser enters the stage, singing and dressed in a dandy-esque suit, the Clore Ballroom is instantly transformed into a hip up-market night club, which is quite a feat, considering that the space is mostly populated by playing children during the day, while their mummies are having a cup of coffee. BSL interpreter Jaqui...

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Deborah Caulfield blogs about Unlimited Voices: 'Hidden or Hiding'

2 September 2012

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A woman in a white overall appears to be running on 5 legs.

            This session in the Royal Festival Hall was billed as an opportunity to explore the options and consequences for artists with hidden impairments.             Artists Bobby Baker, Rachel Gadsden and Sinéad O’Donnell responded to questions put to them by Wendy Green, about coming-out as disabled. Rachel said she was both a working artist and a disabled...

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Richard Downes on the Unlimited discussion: 'Art On The Edge'

2 September 2012

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black image of an edge with a figure falling

Jo Verrent, Katherine Aroniello, Noemi Lakmaier, Simon McKeown and Janice Parker talked about Art and Artists Pushing Boundaries For me, this panel was not as successful as others I attended. My third of the day... maybe I was too tired. Maybe the panel was mismatched or maybe the chair felt as I did. Regardless it became difficult to say where or what the edge was. Some panelists wouldn't accept there was one, others would say if there is, it's not within me but, the beholder. Maybe...

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Richard Downes on the Unlimited discussion: 'Just Look At What We Started'

2 September 2012

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photo of two DAN protestors pictured holding up placards against a blue sky

Jo Verrent, Sarah Scott, Tony Heaton and Jenny Sealey MBE look back - Looking Back at the history of the disability arts movement. The panelists hold a legitimate right to claim to have been involved in the movement since close to its inception. They were in the right place to define what Disability Arts was and what it hoped to be. They achieved this within the environment claiming through Unlimited to have broken the notion of what a Disabled Artist is and by extension changed what...

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Deborah Caulfield blogs about the talk 'Unlimited and Beyond'

2 September 2012

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A collage of black and white photographs of people in an urban setting

So... what happens after Unlimited, after London 2012? What’s next for disability arts? I’m under-qualified to describe the extent to which Unlimited has provided new audiences for disabled artists, but I imagine it’s unprecedented. The questions are, is this being measured, and can it or should it be repeated? More generally and crucially, what and where to next? Caroline Bowditch has been catapulted onto an international stage and the big time is here to stay as far as...

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Richard Downes on the Unlimited discussion, 'Changing Priorities Ahead'

2 September 2012

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Led by Sarah Pickhall, Clare Cunningham, Marc Brew, Mat Wandsworth and Jon Adams talked about - Disability, Art and Impairments. Some think Disability Arts is not what it was; not because the values we once applied are no longer valid but, because the culture we live in has changed. Disability Arts as was depended on political ideals ensconced in the Social Model and a sense of pride. It helped us to succeed and break down the barriers that excluded us. The change we made stimulated diversity....

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Deborah Caulfield reviews Throw Them up and Let Them Sing

2 September 2012

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Sign outside the room where the film  is showing

Tucked away in  little room at the far end of the Festival of the World Museum, this film, by artist filmmaker Helen Petts, explores the later years of Kurt Schwitters’ life and work, following the German artist’s journey to Ambleside in the Lake District where Schwitters escaped Nazi persecution because of his ‘degenerate’ arts and his epilepsy. With no commentary and no subtitles, no words whatsoever, this beautiful film is a collage in pictures and sound. Scenes...

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Nina Muehlemann reviews Fittings Multimedia Arts' 'The Ugly Spirit'

2 September 2012

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a drawing and photo montage of two babies in an old-fashioned pram

We expect promenade theatre, a backstage tour through the 'secret spaces of the Queen Elizabeth Hall', but instead there is a party going on. It is someone’s birthday, so say the balloons, and performance artist David Hoyle, dressed in flowers, a flappy hat and high heels, hands out bubbly and strawberries as he welcomes the guests, which we are, apparently. He grins at us, but in a slightly discomforting way, saying: ‘Oh, lovely to have you here… Does anyone know...

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Nicole Fordham Hodges blogs about Kaite O'Reilly's Writing Workshop: You Say Inclusive, I Say Subversive

3 September 2012

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Colour photograph of Kate O'Reilly

I am a poet with a very undramatic disability. I go along to this performance writing workshop slightly nervous. Like gleeful energetic birds picking apart an old carcass, we get stuck into dissecting hackneyed representations of disabled people. We trace stereotypes through the primeval forest of fairy-tales, find hunchbacked villains with the marks of evil, find sexless mermaids floating in heavenly bubbles, discuss their sex lives. And the Superhuman disabled person with extraordinary...

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Deborah Caulfield on Liberty's Tenth Anniversary Cabaret

3 September 2012

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This show was a startling mix of mildly amusing silliness, overly loud but otherwise quite pleasant singing (sound technicians please note) with occasions of utter brilliance, punctuated by moments (too many) of thumb twiddling dreariness, when absolutely nothing happened and one was forced either to stare longingly at an activity-free stage, or seek alternative entertainment elsewhere. Talk about talk amongst yourselves. Is it too much to expect gaps between acts to be filled by someone...

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Gary Thomas blogs about his first live Bobby Baker experience - Mad Gyms & Kitchens

5 September 2012

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A woman in a white overall appears to be running on 5 legs.

I sit waiting in anticipation of seeing my first Bobby Baker Show. A sign led us to meet at the ticket office, the guide telling us they're expecting 50 people. We’re going on a 'story tour' of the Southbank Centre first, but I wonder if this is actually part of the show. My thoughts are unfounded as I overhear staff say 'the artist will take them down’. The tour wasn’t really a tour but a brief walk down to The Blue Room, via Bobby Bakers drawings that she...

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Nina Muehlemann reviews 'The Garden', an outdoor theatre spectacle by Graeae and Strange Fruit

8 September 2012

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photo of a performer high up on a pole against a blue sky

After the fantastic spectacle that was the Paralympic Opening Ceremony, which was speckled with both Shakespearian and punk influences and saw golden wheelchairs flying through the air, I have very high expectations of ‘The Garden’. This short outdoor play is a co-production between the theatre company Graeae and Strange Fruit, a performance company from Australia. It is co-directed by Jenny Sealey, Artistic Director at Graeae, who was also the artistic co-director for the...

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Nina Muehlemann celebrates the last day of the Unlimited with 'Reasons to be Cheerful'

10 September 2012

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a male and female singers share a mike - next to the slogan 'Oi Oi, We're Back'

The last eleven days, during which the Unlimited Festival happened, were more amazing, exciting, and exhilarating than I could have ever imagined. And, fittingly, they ended with a massive bang. Graeae and the New Wolsey Theatre’s hit musical ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ saw an extremely diverse cast perform a coming-of-age story while playing, with a full band, the greatest hits of Ian Dury and the Blockheads. As we get to our seats in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the cast is...

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Viv Colvill from Freewheelers introduces Steep Rain @ Liberty

23 August 2012

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Steep Rain is a new digital artwork from Freewheelers, created by the Company. It is one of the results of three years' work on the Audacity project funded by the Arts Council which has enabled us to collect stories about disabled people's lives and interactions in society.  Steep Rain explores experiences of disability choreographed imagery, animation, with a sound track of stories, set to music by Graham Dowdall, to create a visually stunning and powerful experience...

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Colin Hambrook responds to Motion Disabled Unlimited @ Southbank Centre

27 August 2012

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photo of a large inflatable sculpture of a figure with short arms in Leicester city centre

A core part of Simon McKeown's 'Motion Disabled Unlimited' commission is an 11-metre-tall  inflatable sculpture of a disabled avatar with short arms, which has been touring the country. Deborah Caulfield wrote a response for DAO, analysing its impact as part of the torch relay celebrations, in South Park, Oxford last month. Since then its been hard to keep up with it. The sculpture appeared in the Festival Square in Edinburgh and in Leicester. From the 29th August to 2nd September it will...

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Chas de Swiet, Associate Producer of Liberty talks about his hopes for this years' showcase

29 August 2012

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black and white portrait photo of chas de swiet

Liberty is an exciting project to be involved in and since being first commissioned by the Mayor of London ten years ago it has grown to become a significant event for the capital – as a showcase of deaf and disabled artists of course, but also as a great cultural event in and of itself. We are always pleasantly surprised to find how keen performers are to appear as part of the Liberty festival and we believe that this reflects the reputation that the festival has built up over the...

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Colin Hambrook blogs about a workshop with Rachel Gadsden and the Bambanani group, whose exhibition opens at the Royal Festival Hall today

31 August 2012

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abstract detail from portrait painting of a young woman's face, decorated with white spots by Rachel Gadsden

Unlimited Global Alchemy is opening today at the Southbank Centre, Level 2 Foyers at the Royal Festival Hall. The exhibition contains a body of drawings, paintings, sketchbooks and films by Rachel Gadsden and the six members of the Bambanani artist-activist group from Khayelitsha Township, South Africa. I had the privilege of meeting three members of the group with Rachel at a presentation at DaDaFest yesterday at the Bluecoat in Liverpool. Films of Nondumiso Hlwele, Thobani Ncapai and Bongiwe...

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Rachel Gadsden shares some excitement about the opening of Unlimited

1 September 2012

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photo of four artists from the Bambanini group

It is early Saturday morning, 6am in fact, and I am off out to Unlimited Global Alchemy rehearsals shortly, but before I whizz out of the door I am compelled to write and share the amazing euphoria of last night’s opening of the Unlimited Festival at the South Bank Centre last night. My Khayelitsha Township collaborators, Nondumiso, Thobani and Bongiwe were there to share the moment, Bongiwe has never travelled out of South Africa before and this is just the 2nd time for Thobani who came...

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Amardeep Sohi reflects on opening Unlimited talk: 'Welcome to Unlimited Voices'

2 September 2012

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Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre, Jude Kelly and Joyce Wilson, Director of Combined Arts and Capital from the Arts Council launched Unlimited Voices by giving an insight into how the festival came to fruition. Jo Verrent, (who will be leading the series of discussions) opened by announcing their desire “to open up to difference.” She invited Jude Kelly and Joyce Wilson to the platform to set out the journey which led to the creation of the ten day festival at the Southbank...

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Colin Hambrook reviews Kaite O'Reilly's 'In Water I'm Weightless'

2 September 2012

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five members of the cast of In Water I'm Weightless face the audience on stage against a purple-lit background

I was really looking forward to seeing 'In Water I'm Weightless' and certainly wasn't disappointed. The writing and the staging were beautiful. Tom Wentworth summed up the punky gutsiness of the show in a review of the show at the Cardiff Millennium Centre published on DAO four weeks ago. From the opening moments as the six glowing spheres which hang above the stage fade and the performers come into focus we are confronted by the fact that impairment is an inevitable part of...

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Jez Colborne from Mind the Gap shares a few soundbites in response to the Dean Rodney Singers installation on level four of the Royal Festival Hall

3 September 2012

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a man stands facing the camera doing peace signs with both hands

The lift sings you onto the fourth floor of the Royal Festival Hall. After being invited into Dean Rodney's world you go through a series of installations. It's all very spacey, with a wonderful futuristic feel to it. There's a lot of cool stuff with a lot of light and shade. It takes you into another world where you can find both heaven and hell represented at one and the same time. The graphics and the lighting are incredible; the way they change and the fact you can interact with it. The...

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DAO reader Katie Fraser celebrates how an Unlimited production, In Water I'm Weightless, transforms and challenges her perceptions... about herself

3 September 2012

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a photograph of a woman smiling looking at the camera and holding up a filled champagne glass

This wonderfully written piece by Kaite O'Reilly challenges society's preconceptions about disability. It is a joy to watch from the very beginning and it transforms thinking right from the start when the actors  Nick Phillips , Dave Toole , Karina Jones,  Sophie Stone, and the very lovely Mat Fraser (my friend!), sadly minus Mandy Collleran  because of injury, come bounding on to the Purcell Room stage. Taking my seat right near the stage, I got a really good view. And...

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Unlimited: Dive Deep - podcast from Roundhouse Radio

4 September 2012

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a collage with a wavy blue background, the words unlimited dive deep in the centre then four cut-out pictures of people working and having fun

Reporters from Roundhouse Radio caught up with Unlimited artists Dean Rodney (Dean Rodney Singers) Joel Simon (Macropolis) Sophie Woolley and Barnabee (aka Daniel Alun) (Bee Detective) and Chris Tally Evans (Turning Points) and also Jessica from Southbank Centre’s Learning and Participation team. Listen to their podcast Unlimited: Dive Deep or read the transcript. The reporters are: Lula aka Cycle Squid Hani aka Phil the bus driver Tori aka Ocotogirl Brooke aka Dori Sagal aka...

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