Unlimited Access, a project co-funded by the EU Culture programme, seeks to profile some of the best disabled-led performing arts work in Europe, and to promote increased access to the arts of both disabled audiences and disabled artists alike. Activities are framed through two perspectives
- Access - removing barriers and working towards true equality for Deaf and disabled artists
- Aesthetics - developing and promoting a narrative around the excellent and unique work created by Deaf and disabled artists
This collaboration is delivered in the UK, Greece, Portugal and Croatia by four arts and cultural partners that bring their own distinct expertise:
- Vo'Arte (Portugal), an association specialised in producing inclusive artistic projects having founded CiM, their own integrated dance company
- Onassis Cultural Centre (Greece), a multi-arts venue in Athens with a vibrant, high-quality and experimental artistic and educational programme attracting Greek and international audiences
- Croatian Institute for Movement and Dance (Croatia), pioneering better infrastructure for contemporary dance in Croatia and currently supporting the country’s first and only integrated dance collective
- British Council, the UK's international organisation with 80 years of experience in global cultural relations.
Programmers and promoters can be curious or excited about the work of disabled artists but feel apprehensive about how equipped their venue is for different access needs, or how audiences will react to new and different work.
Unlimited Access began with a three-day study visit to Glasgow, inviting 26 arts professionals from countries across Europe, to discover practical tools for inclusion and provide ideas for inclusive arts practice and audience engagement. Scotland has a particular history of engaging with disabled artists in the mainstream and good practice to share in supporting their development. See a video exploring Scotland's unique success.
Talks and presentations from artists - Jenny Sealey MBE (Graeae Theatre Company), Robert Softley, Claire Cunningham and Pedro Machado (Candoco Dance Company) - were mixed with insights from institutions - Creative Scotland, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and National Theatre of Scotland showing how they are supporting disabled artists' work and their development, and improving accessibility for disabled audiences. Practical sessions focussed on integrated work and tools for marketing, promotion and audience engagement with a workshop led by FLIP.
"Seeing how artists and the government have achieved so much in Scotland really has inspired me to try and use their model at home. If they can do it, why can't we?"
Festival Director, Ireland
A series of ‘Creative Encounters’ in Croatia, Portugal and Greece provided an experimental space for disabled and non-disabled artists and performers to interact, connect and learn from each other in practical dance workshops.
In Zagreb, IMRC (Zagreb-based dance collective) continued to develop their practice with Spanish choreographer Jordi Cortés Molina, and you can read about his experience in this blog. In Athens, a cycle of workshops with three mixed groups is documented through the impressions and thoughts of the choreographers working with them in our Blogs pages. In Lisbon, participants from all four countries joined together for an intensive week’s work led by choreographers Pedro Ramos and Miguel Pereira (Portugal) and Caroline Bowditch and Claire Cunningham (UK).
Unlimited Access offers opportunities to showcase the work of Deaf and disabled artists through programming in mainstream major arts festivals, in the four partner countries.
In the UK, Claire Cunningham and Gail Sneddon’s excellent Ménage à Trois was supported by Unlimited Access and seen by international promoters and festival programmers from 60 countries at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, alongside 23 other artists and companies representing the best of young British talent in theatre and dance at the British Council's biennial Edinburgh Showcase.
In Croatia, Candoco Dance Company performed a double bill to a full house at the 31st Zagreb Dance Week festival with Thomas Hauet’s playful Notturnino and Trisha Brown’s Set and Reset / Reset - the latter a restaging project of the original choreography intially conceived for non-disabled dancers. Zagreb Dance Week also featured the first-ever full-length performance by IMRC, Integrated Movement Research Collective, the only integrated dance group to be working in Croatia, who talk more about their work in our Case Study.
Vo'Arte produced the most inclusive edition to date of their annual InShadow Festival, a festival exploring dance, technology and the body. Ring the Changes+, a collaboration between London-based deaf artist Chisato Minamimura, Nick Rothwell and body>data>space premièred for the first time in Portugal, in a programme featuring 100 artists from 30 countries, and Sue Austin's installation, Finding Freedom, attracted large audiences at the Oceanario de Lisboa.
And in a four day festival in Greece, the Onassis Cultural Centre presented three pieces of work by their first fledging in-house integrated dance groups, alongside the UK's Candoco Dance Company with the duet 2 for C, Claire Cunningham, CiM from Portugal, IMRC from Croatia and Ver Te Dance from the Czech Republic.
"We have re-designed some elements of our building related to accessibility; we have initiated training for staff related to supporting and working with disabled people; we have reflected on our communications and we are cementing work by disabled artists as a permanent aspect of our programme."
Christos Carras, Executive Director, Onassis Cultural Centre
The Athens Festival also included two dance workshops led by Candoco Dance Company, a screening of Silent Moves, a commission produced by Ireland's Ignite programme, and a live-streamed panel discussion exploring the question of "how disabled artists can be a radical force in the arts"
In our Blogs section, you can read more about the work presented, including Claire Cunningham's reflections on evolution, a piece she refers to as an "old friend", and from Croatia, Vesna and Silvia's thoughts on the international première of their dance theatre collaboration Magnolia (in Defiance). Watch a short clip of Edge performed by Portugese company CiM at the festival, or read more in our Case Studies about what the Onassis Cultural Centre have learned through the Unlimited Access partnership.
Deaf and disabled artists are uniquely placed to push boundaries, challenge the art forms through which their work is expressed and, for audiences, change our ways of seeing and experiencing – as all good art should. We believe that wider programming and support for Deaf and disabled artists can only leave the arts sector vastly enriched and enhanced, as a truer reflection of our societies in Europe.
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Creative Encounter, Greece
Creative Encounter, Greece