Making Art Available and Accessible to Everyone Everywhere

A woman in profile with a pink light shining on her face
Unlimited's Fiona Slater checking out some digital work at Southbank Centre's Unlimited Festival 2016. Photo by Rachel Cherry

Last week Jo Verrent, Senior Producer of Unlimited, was at New Art Exchange, Nottingham for an event run by The Space and the BBC Academy taking copious notes and planning a rather special partnership with The Space for disabled artists…

The Space is working to reach new audiences through digital technologies. And when they say new audiences they mean all audiences, hence the title of their event, which looked at a range of ways that artists, creatives and organisations could broaden access to their works, both online and offline.

Working with the BBC Academy they curated an interesting programme of provocations and practical hands-on workshop sessions, including inputs from:

  • Online access with tips, tricks and support to make websites and social media content accessible with Yacoob Woozeer, Open Inclusion
  • Live and cued subtitles for the cultural sector, with Melanie Sharpe, Stagetext
  • Enhanced audio descriptions for theatre and museums with Mariana Lopez, University of York on a project she is working on linked to VocalEyes
  • The Armchair Gallery using digital tools to give elderly people virtual tours of the world’s cultural collections with Claire Ford, We EngAGE
  • Artists funding, organisational development, diversity resources and a whole lot more from Abid Hussain, Arts Council England
  • Me – talking about my own and Unlimited’s work in access and tech since 2012, including Short Circuit, Unfixed, Push Me for The Space in 2012 and more

(There will be a bigger write up of this event coming soon from The Space – follow @TheSpaceArts to pick that up if you want)

The Space are keen to support the best new and original talent too – again, meaning all talent, including from disabled artists. They run a range of commissions – for live capture of works for online distribution, extensions of work by digital means and also ‘born digital’ works – new works which have digital at the heart of the creative process exploring new forms of digital storytelling, interactivity and participation – watch out for their next commissioning round opening soon- sign up for alerts here.

Unlimited and The Space have been hatching a plan since I met with Fiona Morris, Chief Executive and Creative Director in Korea at the end of 2016. We’ll be running a day together hopefully in September this year for artists connected to Unlimited looking at skills development around digital work and live streaming options, and following that with some additional R&D support for a small number of artists.

Fiona said “At The Space we’re committed to diversity and accessibility in all our commissioning, and we see digital as offering major opportunities in terms of making work accessible for the widest audiences. We want to ensure that disabled artists access these opportunities and drive forward practice in this area so we can all benefit – artists, arts organisations, commissioners and audiences alike, and linking up with Unlimited feels like a natural and exciting next step.”

At Unlimited we believe that disabled artists should choose both the themes and the forms for their work just like any other artist – and that includes digital. If there are barriers to developing work in specific artforms, we want to be part of dismantling them – and pairing up artists with experts is all part of that.

We’ll be releasing more details in the next weeks, but if you’re an artist and could be interested in taking part, drop us an email to let us know at info@weareunlimited.org.uk

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