New work by disabled and deaf artists presented alongside the London 2012 Paralympic Games

New work by disabled and deaf artists presented alongside the London 2012 Paralympic Games  


Photograph Sven A Hagolani

Last year Ballet News broke new ground :

Ballet News presents a British Sign Language Interpretation for the first time

I’d like to introduce you to Kelly Johnson, a Junior Trainee Sign Language Interpreter.  Kelly has, for the first time, interpreted my review of the National Youth Ballet’s Ballet Chocolat.

Kelly has always had a personal interest in ballet and after attending many performances with me, we decided to try a BSL interpretation of Ballet Chocolat.

Kelly and I hope that you will find this interpretation interesting. If, like Kelly and I, you have an interest in ballet but want to be able to access my reviews – this video is for you ! The story is told through BSL interpretation and the spoken word, and is suitable for all.

Kelly introduces and closes the film with BSL interpretation alone, and in between I tell the story.

You can watch the video via YouTube :

And via vimeo. If you’re on an iPhone and need the mobile version, please download the vimeo app.

If you’re keen to learn more about the inspiration behind Ballet Chocolat, here are two versions of Joanne Harris’ novel and the Miramax DVD.

Chocolat /DVD (DVD)

New From: $4.96 USD In Stock
Used from: $4.06 USD In Stock

Chocolat (Hardcover)

New From: $58.81 USD In Stock
Used from: $0.96 USD In Stock

And now, with the London 2012 Paralympic Games just a few days away, there are a myriad more ways to break new ground.


21 August 2012 – With just eight days to go until the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, London 2012 Festival presents a ground-breaking series of commissions by disabled and deaf artists in the Unlimited programme. Originally initiated as part of the Cultural Olympiad, the programme represents the largest ever series of commissions to disabled and deaf artists and celebrates their work on an unprecedented scale across the UK. 

Claire Cunningham '12' for Candoco Dance Compnay. Image credit Rachel Cherry

Claire Cunningham ’12’ for Candoco Dance Compnay. Image credit Rachel Cherry

The Paralympic Games has grown from its inception as a wheelchair archery competition at a hospital for British World War II veterans in 1948 to become one of the largest international sporting events held today. In the same vein, The Unlimited season is the UK’s largest programme of its kind, with 29 diverse commissions presented across the UK ranging in art form, including dance, visual arts, music, comedy, circus and theatre. To coincide with the London 2012 Paralympic Games, all 29 commissions will be brought together in London at Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival (30 August – 9 September).

'Fusional Fragments' by Marc Brew with Dame Evelyn Glennie. Photographer Irven Lewis

‘Fusional Fragments’ by Marc Brew with Dame Evelyn Glennie. Photographer Irven Lewis

The Unlimited programme has encouraged collaborations and partnerships between disability arts organisations, disabled and deaf artists, producers, and mainstream organisations to celebrate the inspiration of the Paralympic Games, and to produce original and exciting work that breaks down barriers.

Graeae & Strange Fruit  'The Garden'  Image credit Alison Baskerville

Graeae & Strange Fruit ‘The Garden’ Image credit Alison Baskerville

The programme features 200 artists, including Claire Cunningham, Sue Austin, Garry Robson, Mat Fraser, Marc Brew, Bobby Baker, Candoco Dance Company, David Toole, Caroline Bowditch, Laurence Clark, Simon Allen, Sinéad O’Donnell, Simon McKeown, Janice Parker, Jez Colbourne, Mish Weaver, Paul Cummins, Rachel Gadsden, Kaite O’Reilly Maurice Orr, The Graeae Theatre Company, DASH Arts, Chris Tally Evans, Joel Simon, Helen Petts, Ramesh Meyyapan, and featuring international collaborations with artists from Brazil, China, Australia, South Africa, Japan, Germany and Croatia.

Artist Sue Austin has created an underwater wheelchair which she will use in a choreographed series of acrobatic underwater performances as part of the Cultural Olympiad. "Creating the Spectacle!" is an Arts Council England commission as part of its Unlimited programme delivered in partnership between London 2012 to support deaf and disabled artists.

Artist Sue Austin has created an underwater wheelchair which she will use in a choreographed series of acrobatic underwater performances as part of the Cultural Olympiad. “Creating the Spectacle!” is an Arts Council England commission as part of its Unlimited programme delivered in partnership between London 2012 to support deaf and disabled artists.

Ruth Mackenzie, Director of London 2012 Festival and the Cultural Olympiad said: “The Unlimited programme is unprecedented, offering more commissioning for disabled and deaf artists than any Cultural Olympiad or festival to date. We are delighted tohave had the opportunity to work with world-class artists who have created brilliant work that will inspire and change perceptions when we welcome theworld to London during the London 2012 Paralympic Games. I hope this will beone of our most important legacies for future Games and for disabled and deaf artists both in the UK and internationally.”


Jude Kelly, Artistic Director, Southbank Centre, said: “The Paralympics changed sport forever in terms of people’s understanding of the talent of disabled people. Unlimited provides the same platform for Deaf and disabledartists to show the extraordinary talent, range and perseverance necessary to make great work. This is a milestone event for culture not just in the UK but across the world.”


Jenny Sealey, Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre Company said: “Having being an artistic advisor for the Unlimited programme since 2009, I am thrilled that it forms such a large part of the London 2012 Festival. For me, it has beenwonderful to be part of this globally recognised platform for Deaf and disabled performers. Unlimited provides the opportunity for artists to profile theirskills, innovation and pioneer creative accessibility with a commitment to create work which is excellent but also informs and challenges. This is something I am passionate about and I embrace our uniqueness. Unlimited inspires a new generation of Deaf and disabled artists, transforms perceptions, and provides a stunning finale to the Cultural Olympiad”.


Unlimited is principally funded by the National Lottery through the Olympic Lottery Distributor, and is delivered in partnership between London 2012, Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council.


Highlights from the Unlimited programme include:




Laurence Clark: Inspired – The internationally acclaimed comedian, presents his new stand-upcomedy show, which questions why ordinary, everyday activities are suddenlyconsidered inspirational when it’s a disabled person doing them (The Underbelly, Wee Coo, Edinburgh Fringe, 14 – 27 August 2012; Unity Theatre, Liverpool, 31 August; FREE, Southbank Centre, London 1 September (as part of Liberty Festival’s cabaret evening); Bloomsbury Theatre, London, 7 September)


CAUTION brings together six artists from around the world to work on a series of solo and collaborative performances, video works, still images and installations that allow the artists to explore their limits, break throughboundaries and work with the extremes of their abilities to communicate andmake things happen. Led by Belfast-based artist and curator Sinéad O’Donnell, CAUTION artists Sylvette Babin (Canada), Mariel Carranza (Peru), Paul Couillard (Canada) Poshya Kakl (Kurdistan-Iraq) and Shiro Masuyama (Japan) interrogate what it means to have an ‘invisible’ disability. (Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, 24 August – 29 September 2012; FREE, Southbank Centre, London, 1 – 2 September). The artists are also showing a series of CAUTION video works at the Southbank Centre from 31 August to 9 September.


Claire Cunningham: Ménage à Trois explores award-winning performer Claire Cunningham’s 20-year relationship with her crutches in a study of love, obsession, loneliness and manipulation. The stunning piece of dance theatre is a collaboration with choreographer and video artist Gail Sneddon, set within an extraordinary, animated environment, enveloping the performers in a surreal, imaginary world. (Tramway 1, Glasgow, 24 – 25 August 2012; The MAC, Belfast, 31 August; Southbank Centre, London, 8 September)


Creating the Spectacle by artist Sue Austin is a ground-breaking and original piece of work in which the artist ‘dances’ underwater in a specially adapted, self-propelled wheelchair, allowing her the freedom and joy to move gracefully and un-hindered. This is a unique and challenging experience where the audience can choose to view the performance underwater in a swimming pool, equipped with masks and breathing equipment. (Osprey Leisure Centre, Portland, 29 August & 1 September 2012).  A film documenting the performances will also be shown. (FREE, Southbank Centre, London, 31 August – 9 September; ICCI 360 Dome, Weymouth, 1 – 9 September)


Marc Brew Company’s ‘Fusional Fragments’ is a blend of classical ballet and contemporary dance, featuring Grammy Award-winning percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie performing the score she composed for the work with Philip Sheppard.(Southbank Centre, London, 31 August 2012)


The National Theatre Wales production of In Water I’m Weightless by writer Kaite O’Reilly, winner of the Ted Hughes Award for Poetry 2010, presents six of the top deaf and disabled performers in the UK, including David Toole and Mat Fraser, who use physicality and dance to recount vivid stories based on interviews the writer carried out with disabled people across the UK (Southbank Centre, London, 31 August – 1 September 2012)


Bee Detective is presented by Tin Bath Theatre – a humorous and fast-paced children’s show that draws the audience into the inner sanctum of a bee hive to help solve a honey bee murder mystery. Bee Detective is an immersive adventure for deaf and hearing children, using cartoons, colourful captions, speaking and signing actors, ‘buzzing’ seats and ‘waggle’ dancing. (Southbank Centre, London, 31 August – 2 September 2012)


Box of Frogs by Stumble danceCircus is an exhilarating, high-energy performance showcasing a myriad of circus skills, directed by Mish Weaver. The show includes trick-cycling, tumbling, rope work and acrobalance using film and live music.  Under the banner ‘Bipolar Circus’, Box of Frogs is a jawdropping night of entertainment. (Southbank Centre, London, 2 – 3 September 2012)


Mad Gyms & Kitchens by Bobby Baker is a show developed out of her battle with illness and her subsequent recovery. The gently humorous production deals with the trials and tribulations of trying to get better, with the help of a fantastical ‘recovery’ apparatus, designed in collaboration with the sculptor Charlie Whittuck (Southbank Centre, London, 31 August – 2 September 2012 and 4, 7, 9 September 2012). Bobby Baker’s Diary Drawings – Mental Illness and Me exhibition is also on show. (FREE, Southbank Centre, London, 31 August – 9 September 2012)


Candoco UnlimitedMarc Brew and Claire Cunningham, two celebrated disabled choreographers, haveeach made a large dance piece for Candoco Dance Company’s international company of 12 disabled and non-disabled dancers. Guest dancers from Beijing and Rio de Janeiro join Candoco’s own dancers, reflecting the inclusive values of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, while linking previous, current and future Host Cities and celebrating the diversity of London as host in 2012. (Southbank Centre, London, 6 September 2012)


Skewered Snails, created by Ramesh Meyyapan with Iron-Oxide, is the story of a dysfunctional family and of a boy who flees to the treetops to escape the brutality of his father. Award-winning Billy Mack plays the abusive father, with Adura Onashile as the ineffectualmother and Sita Pieraccini as the sibling rival to Ramesh Meyyappan, who vows never to come down from the trees again. (Southbank Centre, London, 6 September 2012)


David Toole and Lucy Hind: The Impending Storm – Acclaimed dancer David Toole, in collaboration with non-disabled and disabled UK and South African artists, pushes the boundaries of integrated dance in an explosive and emotional look at the stories we tell, and how we tell them. The performances will feature dance from South Africa’s Remix and music from Dom Coyote and Sandile Gontsana (Southbank Centre, London, 7 – 8 September 2012)


Private DancerJanice Parker’s award-winning performance piece, featuring a life-sized luminous house, 18 eclectic performers and unique choreography. This original event aims to offer each audience member a different and profoundly personal experience of the show.(Southbank Centre, London, 7 – 9 September 2012)


The Ugly Spirit – Fittings Multimedia Art’s new show, directed by Garry Robson is a mix of music, text and improvisation that fuses the extraordinary talents of avant-garde performance artist David Hoyle with the vocal skills of acclaimed soprano Denise Leigh. The audience is invited in small groups to wander and explore the undiscovered places that lurk behind the scenes in theatres and travelling shows before being taken to a private audience with the famous Siamese Twins, Jessie andBessie (Bluecoat Liverpool, 21- 22 August 2012; Southbank Centre, London, 2- 3 September).





Lawnmowers Theatre: Boomba Down the Tyne brings together the spirit of the English Blaydon Races with the Brazilian Boi Bumba in a large-scale performance celebrating both cultures. Music and dance from Brazil will be woven into a free theatrical show performed by artists from the North East of Brazil and the North East of England (Millenium Bridge and SAGE Gateshead, 24 August 2012; Discovery Museum, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 25 August 2012; Metro Centre Precinct, Newcastle, 27 August 2012). An extract of the show called Samba Ceilidh, a specially created Samba inspired by Brazilian and British dance moves, will be showcased in London in September. (Southbank Centre, London, 2 September 2012)


Diverse City: Breathe is a documentary charting the unique collaboration with disabled and non-disabled performers from Dorset and Brazil, to create a spectacular outdoor circus, dance and theatrical event to open the 2012 Olympic Sailing events in Weymouth. Produced by Diverse City and created by leading disabled artists – Jamie Beddard, Alex Bulmer and Dave Toole – the film documents rehearsals in Dorset with The Remix and Double Act, and with APAE and Estacao Dancar from Florianopolis, Brazil as they not only prepare for the performance of a lifetime but plan to reshape the of disability arts in Britain (FREE, Southbank Centre, London, 31 August – 9 September 2012)


The Garden presented by Graeae & Strange Fruit is an aerial, outdoor performance where the artists, a group of nomadic story-keepers, climb four-metre sway poles to tell magical stories up in the air above the heads of the audience. (FREE, Southbank Centre, London, 6 – 9 September 2012)





The Dean Rodney Singers – an interactive audio-visual installation masterminded by Dean Rodney, a 22 year-old artist, rapper and musician who brings a fantasy world to life with the help of 72 band members, made up of musicians, singers and dancers from seven countries across the world.  The global band has created new music, dance and video using cutting-edge web technology, including 23 songs in collaboration with both disabled and non-disabled band members. (FREE, Southbank Centre, London, 31 August – 9 September 2012)


Simon Allen: Resonance at the Still Point of Change – Composer Simon Allen presents the premiere performance of his new work, comprising live music, multi-screen film imagery, speech, song and onscreen text. Allen’s colourful score combines instrumental melodies and electronic sounds with a libretto by Alasdair Middleton and images filmed by artists Joe King and Rosie Pedlow (Southbank Centre, London, 4 September 2012)


Irresistible – Call of the Sirens – Driven by a life-long fascination with warning sirens, composer and musician Jez Colborne presents his new choral work. The piece combines alarm calls with other non-traditional instruments and singing voices to create a symphony of sirens. (FREE, National Theatre, London, 5-6 September 2012; FREE, Southbank Centre, London, 8 September)





The English Flower GardenPaul Cummins, renowned for his distinctive landscape installations, presents a series of individually hand-thrown ceramic flowers in celebration of the quintessentially British garden (FREE: Castle Howard, York, 1 June – 31 August 2012; Cromwell Green, Houses of Parliament, London, 4 June – 26 August; Blenheim Palace, Oxford, 1 June – 17 September; The Secret Gardens of Sandwhich, Sandwhich and Althorp Estate, Northampton, 11 May – 1 September; Southbank Centre, London, 31 August – 9 September)


Maurice Orr – The Screaming Silence of the Wind comprises five multi-sensory installations of paintings inspired by the barren, raw landscapes of Northern Ireland and Iceland (FREE: Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart, 6 – 23 August 2012; Southbank Centre, London, 31 August – 9 September).


Unlimited Global Alchemy led by artist Rachel Gadsden presents a medley of visual arts, live performance and film which explore the politics and myths surrounding coping with chronic disease, particularly HIV and AIDS, and the fight for survival. The exhibition was born out of Gadsden’s work with the Bambani artist-activist group in the Khayelitsha township, on the outskirts of Cape Town in South Africa. (Special film screening, FREE,The Bluecoat, Liverpool, 30 August 2012; Exhibition, FREE, Southbank Centre, London, 31 August – 9 September). In addition to the filmscreening and exhibition, there will also be an evening of performance, co-directed by Gadsden and choreographer Athina Vahla (Southbank Centre, London 5 September).


DASH Arts: M21 – Documenting a live art project that took place in Much Wenlock, Shropshire in May 2012 M21 – The Medieval to the 21st Century documents how disabled artists explore what it means to be alive and working in the 21st century. (FREE, Southbank Centre, London, 31 August – 9 September, 2012)


Caroline Bowditch: Leaving Limbo Landing – a major multi-artform performance piece in air, in water and on land featuring the stories of 12 East Londoners, and brought to life by an all female cast of dancers and aerialists (FREE, Southbank Centre, London, 31 August – 9 September 2012)





MACROPOLIS is an animated film created by Joel Simon, which centres on two misshapen toy figurines who attempt to escape from their factory when they realise they are destined for the waste bin. The film is an unusual combination of stop motion, CGI and time-lapse photography, with real-life locations shot on the streets of Belfast. (FREE: W5 at Odyssey, Belfast, Northern Ireland, 12 July – 24 August 2012; Southbank Centre, London, 31 August – 9 September)


Simon McKeown: Motion Disabled Unlimited is a chance to watch and study the physicality and movement of the modern day disabled athlete, the Paralympian. Simon Mckeown uses 3D software to create a large inflatable sculpture of a disabled athlete, motion captured animations for presentation on public screens and art-led smartphone applications for presenting extra exhibition material (FREE: Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art, Middlesborough, 20 July – 9 September 2012; Southbank Centre, London, 3 – 4 September).


Chris Tally Evans’ Turning Points is a ten-minute film that celebrates life-changing moments when a meeting, an event, or something unexpected leads us in a new and better direction. Hollywood legend Sir Roger Moore, Olympian Jamie Baulch and visually impaired dancer Lyn Street, are among those to tell their tales. Also as part of the two-year project, over a hundred stories were collected online from people around the UK. (FREE, Southbank Centre, London, 31 August – 9 September 2012; online at


Throw Them Up and Let Them Sing is a film by artist film-maker Helen Petts exploring the life and works of German artist Kurt Schwitters through landscape, collage, sound and walking. Petts charts the German artist’s journey from a remote island in Norway, where he escaped Nazi persecution over whatthey called his ‘degenerate’ art and his epilepsy. (FREE, Southbank Centre, London, 31 August – 9 September 2012)


The Unlimited programme is complemented by a range of other works and performances from disabled and deaf artists, including Niet Normaal, a stimulating exhibition of works by artists both disabled and non-disabled (The Bluecoat, Liverpool, 13 June – 2 September 2012); in Stoke Mandeville, performers with disabilities – using assistive technology facilitated by Drake Music – will take part in the celebrations marking the end of the Paralympic Torch Relay (Stoke Mandeville Hospital, 28 August 2012); and Mark Rylance’s What You Will: Pop-Up Shakespeare sees 50 actors aged 17 to 70, who have been cast by Shakespeare’s Globe and including deaf and disabled artists, perform brief, intimate interactions with the public on the streets of London (28 August – 2 September 2012).


Access: The London 2012 Festival Unlimited programme welcomes disabled and deaf audience members, with audio-described, captioned and British sign language interpreted performances and touch tour events. Please contact venues direct for more information.

The London 2012 Festival is the finale of the Cultural Olympiad. Since the Cultural Olympiad started in 2008 over 18 million people all over the UK have already participated in or attended over 9,000 performances and more than 8,000 workshops as part of Cultural Olympiad programmes inspired by London 2012 and funded by our principal funders and sponsors.

Principal Funders of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival are Arts Council England, Legacy Trust UK and the Olympic Lottery Distributor. BP and BT are Premier Partners of the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival.


Supporters of the London 2012 Festival are BMW, Eurostar, Freshfields, King’s College London, Panasonic, Samsung, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council Wales, BBC, British Council, Creative Scotland, DCAL, DCMS, Festivals Edinburgh, Mayor Of London, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Visit Britain and Visit Scotland.


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