10 ways arts organisations can engage with Unlimited

Image by Rachel Cherry.

Jo Verrent ,Senior Producer for Unlimited, tells us how you and your organisation can get more involved with Unlimited…

Now the dust is slowly settling on both Southbank Centre’s and Tramway’s Unlimited Festivals, we are turning our focus to the future – as are many arts organisations we know. Of course, not all arts organisations are Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisations, or looking to become one, but many in England are. So here are our top ten tips for engaging with Unlimited (and of course with other disabled artists/companies/ initiatives too) just in time to inform your application.

We usually hate tick boxes, but it might be interesting to see how many of the ten you can tick off?

  1. Present work by disabled artists – not just those we commission but the full range of amazing disabled artists you can find in the UK and beyond. Disabled artists work across all artforms and cross all boundaries. Don’t know any? Where have you been? Check out our commissions page and our blogs, find those mentioned on DAO, those listed on Disability Arts International or simply get on Google… And don’t just use disabled artists within disability-specific contexts – they are perfectly able to fit in your main programme…


  1. What about supporting and/or partnering with artists as they make applications to our next commissioning round? Don’t know what this is? Watch our commission call out film. It’s available subtitled, with audio-description and with BSL-interpretation. You could also share our ‘Which could I apply to?’ flowchart or direct people to our FAQs section.


  1. And alongside that, why not kick out the information about our commissioning opportunities to the artists and arts networks you know too – through your e-bulletins, meetings and social media. The more people who know the better.


  1. Presenting work and supporting projects are only part of the picture. What about employing disabled artists for residencies, workshops, talks and events? This can be a great way to start relationships that might lead to programming opportunities long term. Have a look at Aidan Moesby’s reflections on being part of Salisbury International Festival for inspiration…


  1. Or how about supporting disabled people in other ways – bursaries, work experience, training? If you regularly run events and no disabled people come, then what about offering free bursaries and access costs for disabled people to attend – and then tell you why they didn’t come before?


  1. If you are worried about accessibility – then get some training, auditing or do some research and commit to making improvements. Read and share our publications: a brief access guide, demystifying access for performing arts promoters, accessible marketing and audio description.


  1. Want to play a more active role and be part of the change? We have a call out for selection panel members – we want to widen the range of people selecting our commissions. You have until 13 Oct to apply…


  1. Already doing great work? Then talk about it. We have a number of case studies from the work that we have funded on our website – have you read or seen these? Check out our videos from Summerhall (captioned or audio described) and Battersea Arts Centre’s Collaborative Touring Network (captioned or audio described). Case studies help us all learn more about what can be done to shift the status quo. Why not offer to create a guest blog for us and tell us more about what you do and how it all links up?


  1. Simple one this – be our friend on Twitter and Facebook and repost, comment and talk to us! We often post and retweet adverts for people if they do the same for us – which should help us all reach new people…


  1. And if you aren’t already, why not become an Unlimited Ally. We can’t deliver Unlimited without our allies network, currently at over 300 individuals and organisations. Want to know what that means, watch the video we created earlier in the year (captioned or audio described) or read this blog.


Many organisations we know want to engage more deeply with equality, diversity and inclusion – but you can’t do that without taking action. The list above should help you turn that desire into real concrete steps. If you want to achieve a different outcome you’ll have to start doing something differently – and the main point here is to DO something differently – and not just talk about it.