Tom Wentworth attended the launch event for the second round of commissions for Unlimited, at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff on 26th March.
I am sure that I don't need to tell you about Unlimited itself, which is guaranteed to continue funding exciting and innovative projects until 2020 and, put simply aims to place disabled artists firmly on the UK, and indeed worldwide, cultural map across all art forms and disciplines.
The event itself was well attended and I was also pleased that it was taking place outside of London, in Cardiff, which is a place where disabled artists can make their work and shows a real commitment from the Unlimited team to engage further and support Wales and Scotland.
This round also saw the continued growth of high quality applications from both Wales and Scotland (where Arts Council Wales and Creative Scotland provide funding alongside Arts Council England and the Spirit of 2012 Trust.) Unlimited's Senior Producer, Jo Verrent, spoke with equal passion and enthusiasm about the success and breadth of the projects that had been funded, from both new and established talent, and stressed that they wished to continue putting 'disabled people in the driving seat.'
This is certainly evident from a raft of new commissions which span from musical theatre to visual art, dance and drama. However, the Unlimited panellists had the unenviable task of whittling 165 applications down to just nine; meaning that only six percent of applications were able to receive funding.
There was a great sense of excitement in the room as the winning commissions were announced. However, atmosphere was positively electric at the announcement of the Wales-based commission: Kaite O' Reilly's theatre piece 'Cosy' which explores 'universal ethical issues of life, death, and our relationship to the medical profession, and its desire to mend and sustain the body, regardless of quality of life.'
Kaite was unable to attend the launch but sent a video message, in which she commented:
'I'm delighted that the panel behind Unlimited have seen the potential in this new play.' In addition, Wales-based, visually impaired, associate artist at Taking Flight Theatre Company, Chloe Clarke was awarded a grant for some research and development time into her project, 'The Importance of Being Described...Earnestly,' which will explore audio description.
Plus, young artist Richard Newman also received funding from Unlimited Impact (Unlimited's extension programme which aims to support the next generation of disabled artists) to begin developing his online sitcom 'Flatmates' with the support of Hijinx Theatre Company.
The event was also a launch of Hynt - 'a new national access scheme that works with theatres and arts centres across Wales to make things clear and consistent.'
It is an Arts Council of Wales initiative managed by Creu Cymru in partnership with Diverse Cymru and aims to provide people with 'an impairment or specific access requirement' with a free ticket (or tickets if required), for a carer or Personal Assistant. This is a card scheme (similar to the Access Card scheme, except Hynt is free to all customers.)
Emma Evans spoke eloquently about how Hynt was open to all, had no age restriction and the customer would dimply be required to complete one central application which would then allow them tickets at any of the participating venues. The website also allows people to registered their individual preferences, for example, if they're interested in audio described or relaxed performances. In addition, the website provides valuable information about access at the various venues and it is very much hoped that this information will quickly expand, alongside the card scheme to the whole of Wales and beyond.
Lastly, in a packed programme, came the launch of Diverse Cymru's Equalities Toolkit, which includes practical ideas about how to increase diversity for those experiencing, but also making in all different art forms.
The guide, which has been produced with the Arts Council of Wales, includes interviews which were carried out from all across Wales, as well as case studies of best practice and is designed to act, not as a tick list, but instead as both a document to inspire those who want to improve diversity within their organisation.
Topics include, Programming for Equality and Diversity to advice for training of Front of House Staff. Again, this was an inspiring talk with many of the audience leaving with packs under their arms. However, the toolkit is also available to be viewed in full online and the Diverse Cymru team are continuing to take their 'roadshow' up and down the country.
Overall the event left me feeling very positive about Wales’ future in disability arts.