The Art of Selection

People sat around table holding up signs that say yes or no
Photo by Rachel Cherry

We’re looking for selection panel members to choose the next works we’re going to support. Jo Verrent, Senior Producer for Unlimited, explains the crucial role they will have…

Many of the last round of Unlimited commissions are currently on tour – like Bekki Perriman’s The Doorways Project, which has been to both Brighton and Liverpool recently, or Aaron Williamson’s Demonstrating the World, which is just about to head over to Bounce in Northern Ireland. Some are just about to premiere – like Sheila Hill’s Him, Liz Carr’s Assisted Suicide: The Musical, and Claire Cunningham and Jess Curtis’ The Way You Look (at Me) Tonight. But how did these works get chosen by Unlimited? Who makes the decisions about which work gets commissioned and which doesn’t?

It’s actually very simple: work is chosen by a panel of individuals, some representing funders and some selected by an open recruitment process; they aren’t there to pick work they like, but rather work that meets our criteria. We are called Unlimited and that’s our aim – not to limit artists, but to showcase the widest range of work we can, as we know that just because someone is a disabled artist it doesn’t mean that they have to make a particular type of work. That means we need panel members who get this and who understand that we are looking for high-quality work across all art forms, not just work that hits their individual interests.

I spoke at the No Boundaries arts conference last year about the way we run our panel process and the fact I don’t vote on Unlimited commissions. We keep the whole process as transparent as we can – all the panel members are listed on our site, and the process that we went through previously was also clearly explained.

We are currently recruiting for fifteen new panel members to aid us in our next round of important decision-making at the beginning of 2017. We’re looking for five people for each individual panel for the three new commission opportunities – Main Commissions and Research & Development Awards, International Commissions and Emerging Artist Commissions – for which we’ve just launched our call-out. Could it be you?

Sarah Pickthall, a previous independent Unlimited panel member told us: ‘I would definitely encourage people to apply to sit on an Unlimited panel, if only to witness the wealth of great practice that disabled and deaf artists are developing across the UK which is remarkable in itself and now, with the potential within the international strand the ideas shaping in collaboration with partners farther afield will be even more exciting.’

But don’t think it’s all easy, as she goes on to say: ‘Being on a panel is a challenging task and requires time, commitment and responsibility. What has made it particularly powerful for me personally is that the panel processes are meticulous, equitable and fair and that makes all the difference. There’s nothing cosy about it, it’s hard work!’

We want to commission a real diversity of people, in all senses of the word – diverse in terms of art form, experience, size and scale of practice; diverse in relation to ethnicity, disability, age, gender, geography and all the other elements that make up the mix. Diversity in approach too – Unlimited isn’t about supporting one type of work – and so, when it comes to our panels, we need a range of perspectives in the room to help us keep our thinking open. As a panel member, you’d be joining representatives from our funders – ACE, Arts Council of Wales, Spirit of 2012 and British Council – and partners – Southbank Centre and Tramway – who bring real programmers’ perspectives to the process (both venues regularly programme work by disabled artists outside of any dedicated disability festival opportunity).

Interested? Want to know more? You can download information and everything you need to apply from here and the deadline for applications Monday 17th October 2016 12 noon.

There has been a lot of talk about the need for change in all parts of the arts infrastructure and this is an opportunity to be part of that change. I look forward to reading the applications!