What is the Impact of Unlimited Impact?

There is always a danger when you call something ‘impact’ – will the results be enough to justify the name? We are just over a year into Unlimited Impact and the ripples are beginning to show…

Unlimited Impact, funded through Spirit of 2012, works in two ways –stretching us through working with young disabled people and ensuring geographic reach across the UK. We look to try out new ideas, deepen the discussion, push people beyond what they might usually deliver – in order to maximize the long term shift in access and attitudes.

So what have we done in year one?

We’ve supported Diverse City to create Touched for Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival, which also toured to the Inside Out Festival and Lighthouse Arts Centre in Dorset, ran the Your Slogan Here competition creating T-shirts with slogans by young disabled people which have been spotted as far afield as Sydney, Australia. We worked with Farnham Maltings to extend the reach of No Strings Attached to ensure disabled young people felt able and supported to apply – resulting in 3 of the 7 awards being made to young disabled artists and supported Touretteshero to run The Ideas Amplifier at Roundhouse, giving six young creative people with Tourettes syndrome the opportunity to think about the changes they’d like to see in their life and imagine creative ways to make them happen.

“It was a dream to perform at Europe’s largest arts centre. The crowds reacted very well to each performance and this created a positive and vibrant atmosphere. It feels great and mad to have performed in the Unlimited festival with so many people and companies I look up to. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to perform at this venue, I hope to return next time.“  Dave Young, Writer and Performer, Touched

Geographically we’ve gone from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland – working with Luminate Festival to take Vital Xposure’s Let Me Stay on tour – right down to Brighton Dome and Festival – auditing this years festival in relation to programming and marketing and supporting an increase in accessible performances and associated research. We’ve undertaken an access audit at Summerhall, Edinburgh, and chipped in some hard cash so that they can boost their budget and act on more of the recommendations, improving access in time for the Edinburgh Festival. We’ve linked up with both Fierce Festival, Birmingham and DaDaFest, Liverpool so that they could show a number of our live art commissions and showcase the results from some of our live art R&D’s. At Fierce, we were also able to support them to offer some accessible performances for the very first time and with DaDaFest we’ve supported How to be Creative with Words a Creative Writing project enabling young disabled people to express themselves through poetry.

Fierce Festival found that being an Unlimited Ally sharpened their thinking as an organisation and developed their practice as curator-producers. “Wearing this badge on our festival programme felt like a really active, positive, public statement and we are proud to be part of the movement… We had some searching critical discussions on the politics of language and the way that artistic works were positioned and framed in our programme. … we really prioritised thinking about accessibility across all our activity. We have often been careful to consider physical accessibility but we pushed ourselves further to think about things like our website.” Fierce Festival

We’re working at all scales – for example, with Hull Freedom Festival and Hull Capital of Culture 2017, and all 6 festivals that are part of BAC’s Creative Touring Network (Heads Up, Hull, Strike a Light, Gloucester, Jabberwocky Market, Darlington, Doorstep Arts, Torbay, Looping the Loop, Thanet and Unwrapped Great Yarmouth).

And we are working across all art forms. In year one, dance has featured highly – we’ve teamed up with People Dancing and helped them to create the phenomenal photographic exhibition 11 Million Reasons… worked with Janice Parker Projects to enable Craig Simpson to create his first dance for camera piece (launching soon) and with East London Dance and Laura Dajao to create her next piece ‘Low on Fuel’. Live Art is also well represented – we are running an Unlimited specific LADA DIY project with Colchester Arts Centre, and supporting Jo Bannon to extend her touring of Exposure to ‘hard to reach’ areas. We are doing the same for the fantastic piece of children theatre Edmund the Learned Pig by Fittings, and working with Solar Bear to support their Deaf Youth Theatres ‘Birthday of the Infanta’. We’ve not forgotten art in the public realm – we are supporting Insite to extend their access to events and artworks, including an incredible co-commission with Chrisopher Sacre and we’re even going online with Richard Newnham’s online soap opera being created in Wales with the support of Hijinx.

We’ve gone all academic, planning with the University of Northumbria to host a round table in July on critical thinking around the work of disabled artists and yet are also bypassing the academic route by supporting young disabled people to get real, practical on-the-ground support through mentoring with Stopgap, Extant, Candoco, Birds of Paradise and Diverse City.

We’re deep in planning for this year already – with targets to push further into the Midlands and South West, and also to up the ante with more visual arts and music opportunities as well as critically evaluating the work itself to ensure it has legacy.

If you think you could be part of increasing our impact in 2015/16, get in touch with Jo Verrent, Unlimited Senior Producer – joverrent@weareunlimited.org.uk

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