Set and Reset/Reset. A restaging project by Candoco Dance Company.

Creating a new space for disabled artists in the European cultural landscape

The evaluation report for Unlimited Access has recently been published online, and it summarises how this EU-funded project, which created new opportunities for deaf and disabled artists in the field of dance, managed to reach a global audience of 15 million people through face-to-face activities, performances, press, digital and social media.

Unlimited Access was a two-year Cooperation Project funded by the Culture programme between the British Council (UK), the Onassis Cultural Centre (Greece), Associação Vo’Arte (Portugal) and the Croatian Institute for Movement and Dance (Croatia). The organisations aimed to: 

  • celebrate the work of a unique generation of European disabled artists making work at the highest level
  • share this work with large audiences
  • engage a wide group of European arts professionals in discussions and debate about work by European disabled artists
  • develop new opportunities for emerging and aspiring disabled artists in Europe.

“Unlimited Access brought together a range of disabled artists, producers and venue managers and has seen the beginnings of extended engagement across the EU for a part of the cultural sector that has for too long been ignored” Steve Mannix, External Evaluator, Unlimited Access

Through a study visit to Glasgow, introducing arts professionals to different ways of inclusive working, and integrated dance workshops in Croatia, Portugal and Greece, disabled and non-disabled dancers were given the opportunity to work together. This positioned disabled dancers in a new, innovative and artistic context, often for the first time in that country, and helped build a new appreciation of their creativity and skills. 

The work of professional disabled artists was showcased on mainstream stages, alongside and on an equal footing to non-disabled artists and companies: in Lisbon (InShadow Festival), Edinburgh (Edinburgh Fringe and British Council Showcase) Zagreb (Zagreb Dance Week Festival) and finally in Athens at the Onassis Cultural Centre, in a bespoke festival of work by 8 disabled artists and companies from the partner countries and beyond.

Two key principles informed the work from start to finish; access – removing barriers and working towards equality for Deaf and disabled artists, and aesthetics – developing and promoting a narrative around the excellent and unique work created by Deaf and disabled artists. 

“Working with different bodies and different experiences enables you to have a new perspective. Being a part of Unlimited Access has broadened our view on what contemporary dance is and should be” Croatian Institute for Movement and Dance, partner in Unlimited Access

A new website, Disability Arts International, was developed to share learning through case studies and blogs from the artists and partners involved. One of its key resources is the growing directory of artists and companies, offering a window on to work by professional disabled artists working internationally with a repertoire ready to tour. 

Image: Set and Reset/Reset. A restaging project by Candoco Dance Company. Original choreography of 'Set and Reset' by Trisha Brown (1983) Direction of 'Set and Reset/Reset' (2011) by Aigail Yager Photo credit: Hugo Glendenning