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> > > Unlimited Commissions announced

£700,000 awarded to artists for final round of Cultural Olympiad programme Unlimited

image of Sue Austin in a wheelchair photographed under water in swimming pool

Submerged, I Stand Proud - underwater wheelchair image © Sue Austin

The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, Arts Council England, the UK Arts Councils and the British Council have awarded £700,000 of funding in the final round of Unlimited Commissions.

The 12 new commissions include a children’s theatre show taking families on an adventure inside a bee hive, an animated film about a group of mis-shapen toys who escape from their factory, and a comedy show about a ‘demotivational’ speaker.

Four of the commissions are international collaborations which will be supported by the British Council. These include partnerships between groups of disabled performers in the North-East and Brazil, and an ambitious digital musical collaboration with artists in up to seven countries.

Unlimited encourages collaborations and partnerships between disability arts organisations, disabled and deaf artists, producers, and mainstream organisations to celebrate the inspiration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, to create original and exciting work. The £3m programme is principally funded by the National Lottery through the Olympic Lottery Distributor, and is delivered in partnership between London 2012, Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council.

Ruth Mackenzie, Director, London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, said: ‘Unlimited is about commissioning world-class artists to create brilliant work which will change perceptions of the work of disabled and deaf artists. Through the Cultural Olympiad this is the largest commissioning fund for disabled and deaf artists the UK has ever seen. Congratulations to the commissioned artists and we look forward to seeing how their work develops.’

The winning commissions for Round 3 of Unlimited are:


Heart’n Soul, The Dean Rodney Singers
Dean Rodney, a young artist with autism, will lead this participatory music project. Using technology to connect with artists from seven countries across the world to create a new kind of music, the audience will become part of the project, seeing the music as it is being created and helping to develop it. Leading creative producing company Heart’n Soul will produce the work.

Simon Allen, Resonance at the still point of change (working title)
Resonance at the still point of change is an audiovisual opera integrating music with moving images, text, audio description, lighting and sound projection. Composer Simon Allen will work with multi-screen projections from Joe King and Rosie Pedlow, text by Alasdair Middleton and a live eight-piece ensemble. Imagery gathered from locations where profound states of change are often imperceptible, will join with sound and text, to play with the ways we can access artistic meaning. Searching for uncommon relationships between our senses, the work is designed to celebrate the wide diversity of response that an audience can take home.

Tin Bath Theatre Company, Bee Detective
Bee Detective is a children’s theatre show which invites young audiences and their families (deaf and hearing), on an adventure into the inner sanctum of a bee hive. This intimate spectacle will evoke the sights and sounds of a hive through inventive new technology and creative captioning. Featuring 360 degree animations by James Merry, vibration effects to represent bee buzzing, and bee “waggle dance” choreography by Chisato Minamamura, the show encourages the audience to play detective and discover why bees are under threat, and how we can help them. Written and performed by Sophie Woolley and directed by Gemma Fairlie, and supported by Polka Theatre and Oily Cart, this is Tin Bath’s first theatre show for children.


Helen Petts, Throw them up and let them sing
Helen Petts is making a digital film exploring Kurt Schwitters’ journey to Ambleside in the Lake District via Norway, when escaping Nazi persecution because of his “degenerate” art and his epilepsy. The film will be shown next summer as an installation at the Hatton Gallery Newcastle alongside Schwitter’s Merzbarn Wall. Featuring improvised sounds by leading experimental musicians, there will also be a concert of music at the Sage Gateshead and associated talks, workshops and events exploring Schwitter’s influence today.

The Lawnmowers, Boomba down the Tyne
Learning disabled artists are at the heart of this collaboration between Brazil and North East England. The Lawnmowers will create an inspirational large-scale performance for venues down the Tyne which explores and celebrates northern culture and spirit.


Joel Simon, Escape from the Factory
Escape from the Factory is an animated film, which centres on a group of mis-shapen toy figurines who attempt to escape from their factory when they realize they are destined to the waste bin. In a style reminiscent of old POW camp films, these figurines escape to find themselves in an alien world. Using a combination of time lapse photography and stop-motion animation, this innovative process means the public can view the evolution of the film on video screens during the shoot.


Laurence Clark, Demotivational Speaker
Demotivational Speaker is a comedy show which questions why some things are considered inspiring and others aren’t, and why everyday activities are considered inspirational when disabled people do them. Audiences will be encouraged to re-examine the stereotypical way in which they view the Paralympics.


Ramesh Meyyappan, Skewered Snails
Inspired by Italo Calvino’s ‘The Baron in the Trees’, Skewered Snails is the darkly comic tale of a dysfunctional family and follows a son escaping his brutal home environment for the solace of the forest. Powerfully told through Ramesh Meyyappan’s masterful storytelling, it uses physical performance, an ingenious set, aerial choreography, animation and a complementary live score to poignantly unfold the lives of a young boy and his sibling. Ramesh will be accompanied by three physical theatre performers who together will embody the four members of this quirky family. This is the further development of a one-man show which received funding in the first round of Unlimited Commissions, Snails and Ketchup.


Rachel Gadsden, Unlimited Global Alchemy
Unlimited Global Alchemy is led by visual artist Rachel Gadsden in collaboration with South African artist and activist Nondumiso Hlwele and the Bambanani Group based in Khayelitsha Township near Cape Town. Together they will explore issues of identity, survival in the face of chronic medical conditions, and the politics of HIV. The project will culminate in an exhibition of visual artworks, a performance and a documentary film shown at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge in July-August 2012, touring to London during the Paralympics and then internationally.


Diverse City, Breathe
Breathe will be an outdoor spectacle for the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games on Weymouth beach, telling the story of the Olympian god of wind, Aeolis. The performance will be unleashed upon an audience of 10,000, as our differences, diversity and stories are blown centre stage. A company of 80 professional and amateur performers will realise the creative vision of renowned disabled artists Jamie Beddard, Alex Bulmer, Mat Fraser and David Toole. Collaborating companies will include Double Act, Cirque Bijou, Remix, JAM, State of Emergency, Activate, Desperate Men and APAE from Brazil.

Susan Austin, Creating the Spectacle! ­
Creating the Spectacle! will present an ambitious series of performances of a self-propelled underwater wheelchair. It will leave traces of its joy and freedom as it flies along through the water with its human occupant. This surprising and unexpected juxtaposition has proved to be a powerful vehicle for transforming preconceptions about the wheelchair in the mind of the viewer, as they then become part of the art work too. Creating the Spectacle! is the latest in a series of innovative projects conceived by Sue Austin and produced through Freewheeling, in conjunction with ICCI at University of Plymouth and B- Side Mulitmedia Arts Festival, Weymouth.


Jez Colborne, Irresistible
Irresistible is a 'symphony of sirens', a musical experience that combines warning sirens, non-traditional instruments and singing voices to create a breathtaking choral work. Devised by Jez Colborne, a multi-talented composer, musician and performer, in collaboration with Mind the Gap, Jez is further developing this work, which received funding in the first round of Unlimited Commissions. The open-air piece will be performed at The Cow & Calf on Ilkley Moor in West Yorkshire and on London’s south bank as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.