Unlimited Ally - a learning journey

I am an Unlimited Ally.  I didn’t have to pass a test or be invited by an expert, I just had to decide that access to the arts for disabled people was important and I was going to do something about it.

Unlimited is an arts commissioning programme that enables new work by disabled artists to reach UK and international audiences. A few years ago I was at an event chaired by Unlimited’s Senior Producer Jo Verrant, she told us to stop asking for tips on making the arts more inclusive and bemoaned that the number of funded organisations with weak-accessible websites.  The info was out there, “just get on and do something” were her instructions. Music to my ears.

This week we are hosting a Live Stream of Unlimited: The Symposium, a disabled-led, two-day discussion event aimed at a national and international audience across the cultural sectors.  Tickets for the event sold out months ago but you can be part of the debate by coming to one of the live streaming events being hosted by one of the Unlimited Allies – including our event at Vivacity’s City Museum.  More info here.

This is the latest step we have taken as an Unlimited Ally and with Unlimited’s support and inspiration we are working hard to make our Platform8 theatre festivals more accessible and inclusive. For instance we have:

·     Used an Unlimited commission for Kate Marsh and Welly O’Brien to create a film with Red7 Productions, Resilience, about The Green Backyard and Kate's relationship as an artist with her hometown.

·     Teamed up with Andrew Palmer, Managing Director of Cambridgeshire Deaf Association and his brilliant team’s help (big up to Kai) to organise a large contingent of mainly first time theatre-goers saw Theatre Ad Infinitum’s brilliant Bucket List with BSL interpretation (nothing like starting out strong!).  We continue to programme BSL interpretation in all our festivals.  And we are now partners with CDA on a funding bid for an inclusive spoken word programme.

·     And more recently, as a consequence of our residency at the Key Theatre, we are working with Amy Casseldon of the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society to introduce children and their families to theatre – next up this October are two BSL interpreted shows of Rustle by Paddleboat Theatre.

·     We also commissioned, with support from Ruth Campbell at Metal, an exhibition by photographer Jules Corry to accompany the show Reassembled Slightly Askew by Shannon Yee, which documents a journey through brain injury and recovery.

·     We assess venues for Platform8 for their accessibility, and have a page of guidance on our website. (This was one of Jo's tips...)

And next up, inspired by Battersea Arts Centre’s work with Jess Thom, we are working towards making Relaxed Performances the norm for our Platform8 theatre festivals.

I am proud of this list, we are definitely making progress, but there is always more to do.  I hope to be inspired and empowered more by the Unlimited: The Symposium.  It might just me sitting in a room with a big screen.  Or maybe we will see you there as someone who is interested in creating more inclusive arts opportunities.  Drop in and use this opportunity to get together and make a plan to make things happen.  I am also really hoping there will also be some disabled artists there, because their perspective has to be the most important.  

The event is free and you can just drop in, and I can highly recommend the cakes in the museum’s café. See you there (timetable below)

Kate Hall – Creative Producer, Jumped Up Theatre

VENUE: Howe Room, Peterborough Museum

Schedule for Tues 4 Sept Live Screening
Session 1 (ART) will be live on 4 September, 11.00 – 12.00
Session 2 (EQUALITY) will be live on 4 September, 14.20 – 15.20

Schedule for Weds 5 Sept Live Screening
Session 3 (ATTITUDE) will be live on 5 September, 10.45 – 11.45
Session 4 (FUTURE) will be live on 5 September, 14.00 – 1500