Disabled Arts Given Boost for London 2012

Tony Hall with young DJs from The BLT Crew. Credit: LOCOG

There was a buzz of excitement at the Southbank Centre today as Unlimited, the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad project to support disabled-led arts, culture and sport, was launched.

“Bring it on!” was the enthusiastic verdict of Jenny Sealey MBE, Unlimited’s Artistic Advisor and Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre Company. “There are plenty of us waiting in the wings to come and fly.”

We were given a sneak peek of the sort of talent Unlimited will be supporting over the next three years as The BLT Crew – an upbeat trio of DJs with learning disabilities – spun a selection of feel-good party tunes, from My Guy to Baby Love.

There was also a performance by Cando2, the Candoco Dance Company’s Youth Dance Company, which runs weekly classes for disabled and non-disabled youngsters at London’s Siobhan Davies Dance Studios, The Place and Aspire.

£3 million has been earmarked for the project, which will provide funding, training and a platform for disabled and deaf-led organisations and artists.

Other speakers included Tony Hall, chair of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad Board and Chief Exec of the Royal Opera House – who wasted no time in getting on the decks with The BLT Crew and picking up some tips – and Chris Holmes. The nine-time Paralympic gold medal winner and London 2012 Director of Paralympic Integration entertained everyone with some sporting anecdotes before getting us all to shout “Unlimited” – and refusing to accept our feeble first attempt!

Like the project, the event was as inclusive as possible; with a sign-language interpreter on hand and instant subtitles on a large TV screen. Jenny Sealey even created a new way to “sign” Unlimited – an energetic combination of the sign language words for “create” and “explosion”.

After the launch, we spoke to Jenny about the two main obstacles facing many disabled artists:

  • negative attitudes
  • physical obstacles (such as lack of interpreters, lifts etc at venues).

“There’s still a perception that disabled performers can’t do Shakespeare, for example,” she says, with frustration, “but it’s still Shakespeare, there’s just another undercurrent to the performance. We all have our own unique selling point.”

To apply for funding or find out more about Unlimited, visit www.london2012.com/unlimited.

If you’re interested in exploring the disabled arts scene in London, why not check out Crossings, a new play by Julie McNamara at The Cochrane Theatre in London this November – it comes highly recommended by Jenny. And who knows what new talent Unlimited will uncover… watch this space!

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