Welcome to Unlimited

Front row of seated audience clapping
Welcome Day 2017 at British Council. Photo by Rachel Cherry.

Unlimited’s Isabella Tulloch talks you through last week’s Welcome Day, a day for artists shortlisted or granted funds by Unlimited to get to know more about how we can work best together…

Last week we welcomed our newly awarded artists and our cohort of shortlisted artists to our Unlimited Welcome Day – our first event of this commissioning round. The event was kindly hosted by British Council, one of our key partners.

The morning session was aimed at giving more information to the commissioned artists around what Unlimited actually is, how we work with a rolling Unlimited timeline of activity around sharings and premieres, and to make sure that the commissioned artists had a chance to introduce themselves to each other and understand each other’s projects.

We discussed artists’ development, and how Unlimited is evolving a professional development programme around what artists actually want or need – this information is being gathered by surveying all the artists ever funded by Unlimited, which is quite a hefty task! This development programme is about partnerships with organisations in the sector, creating peer to peer support and communication, and working with our allies to broker opportunities.

Delson Weekes and his producer talking to Clara Giraud at Unlimited's Welcome Day 2017 at British Council.

Over lunch, artists had the opportunity to book short 1-2-1 mentoring sessions with some of the Unlimited team, with Abid Hussain from Arts Council England, Trish Wheatley from Disability Arts Online, Tamsin Ace from Southbank Centre, and Neil Webb from British Council.

After lunch the impressively large crowd was welcomed back by Abid Hussain who due to restrictions under purdah was unable to say much more than welcome! . Abid told us, “One of my frustrations has been that actually some of the work that we funded through Unlimited historically has had a really significant impact internationally, so our artists are in demand all over the world, but they still struggle to get their work seen across England. That is a really big issue for us.”

Abid Hussain addresses the room, standing and talking into the microphone on the right hand side with a seated audience facing him on the left

Neil Webb then gave a little background and context to the work that British Council does as the UK’s cultural relations organisation, talking about working with Japan to prepare for 2020, taking Outburst, a queer festival in Belfast, to challenge transphobia and homophobia in South America, supported Liz Carr to tour her Assisted Suicide: The Musical to coincide with a parliamentary vote on euthanasia in Australia, and establishing the first disability arts festival in Qatar.

Neil Webb standing talking into a microphone in the foreground with an out of focus background of people seated listening.

Neil also discussed his relationship with Unlimited: “What’s amazing about it and why I’m very proud to have a small part in it is the change, the societal change and the attitudinal change and in some ways political… And strategic policy change that it is having in countries where disability arts doesn’t even exist and where the rights of disabled people, where the attitudes, where the access are limited… So it is having a profound change. It’s brilliant to see.”

Tamsin Ace, Southbank Centre, explained more about their Unlimited festival: “A festival at Southbank Centre isn’t made just by the people at Southbank Centre, we work across all kinds of organisations and work very closely with the Unlimited commission’s team… We are open to everything and anything. A festival at the Southbank Centre is not just let’s have a festival but it is about the entire curated experience.”

Tamsin Ace sitting down speaking into a microphone with a BSL interpreter behind her. They are both facing the audience out of shot.

As Jo Verrent said “You can’t have a day like this without a panel session!” So we heard from Manick Govinda, Head of Artists’ Advisory Services at Artsadmin; Jeff Rowlings, Head of Programmes at Shape Arts; Trish Wheatley, Director of Disability Arts Online; and Helen Killingley, Programme Manager at Spirit of 2012.

Panel discussion with Jo Verrent in the foreground out of focus and Manick Govinda in focus, speaking into the microphone smiling

The afternoon continued with more 1-2-1 meetings around topics of marketing, access, festivals, funding and other questions related to the commissioning process including with members of the British Council’s team from visual arts, theatre and literature. The day ended with a celebratory feel with drinks and nibbles and further chance to network.

An artist sitting on a chair facing a member of the Unlimited team, also on a chair, conversing and making eye contact. A busy room of similar pairs in the background.

“Dear Unlimited Stars. Thanks for a brilliant day yesterday. It was great on so many levels – great to really feel we were on way, great to learn more, great to network, great to meet the wider team. THANK YOU!” – Unlimited commissioned artist