Unlimited interview


Spread the Word are all about championing writing from underrepresented audiences and helping more voices get heard. Unlimited is a commissions programme, funding disabled artists across all art forms. They are delivered by Shape Arts and Artsadmin and funded by Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales and Spirit of 2012 Trust. As their application window opens, we catch up with Senior Producer Jo Verrant to find out more.

So, what is Unlimited?

Basically, we fund exceptional work by exceptional artists which we support and develop and seek to embed within the cultural sector both within the UK and internationally through our links with the British Council.

Why do disabled artists need support from Unlimited?

Not all disabled artists want support that is specifically aimed at them because they could identify as disabled – and thats absolutely fine. But the playing field isn’t level yet within the cultural sector, so we exist to support those disabled artists who do experience barriers within the current system. This might be barriers around how best to apply (our application process is really simple and supportive although its also highly competitive), or barriers around making partnerships or getting known within the industry as a whole. We don’t tell artists how to label themselves or their work, or what to make work about.

We hear a lot about diversity in the arts – what is the landscape like?

On the surface it seems to be getting better – certainly many organisations are now talking about diversity more than they ever have before, but if you scratch a little deeper, it doesn’t seem as though much is changing. I’m not sure there can be a real commitment to diversity without systemic change and I’m not seeing that happen yet. But I am seeing the type of artists people engage with slowly shifting, and a wider range of voices and perspectives being shared, so change is coming!

How does having disabled led artwork benefit the artists and audiences?

For me it links to that wider range of voices and perspectives. Personally I find the work of disabled artists often fresh and innovative. I think their work can inform all art forms – including literature – and help discover new forms and approaches. Even within existing forms I think it can widen our sense of what might be considered ‘normal’, and show better the world as it really is – and that’s got to be good for audiences too!

What are you looking for in your new callout?

We’ve three types of award this time – two for established artists who have some kind of track record behind them and one for emerging artists. Established artists can apply to research and develop something – that might be planning the early stages of a work, testing the market and making contacts and links, including to publishers for example. Or they can apply for a full award to actually create and share the work (and this can include an R&D stage too if they wish). Both of these are open to artists living in England and Wales. Our emerging artist awards are for artists who haven’t broken through yet. They can apply to create a piece of work or to run a participatory project of some form.

Deadline is 29th October and don’t forget that you can ask for access support if you meet any access barriers in applying as we might be able to help!