Arts and disability in Scotland

Today, Thursday 3 December, is the United Nations Day of Disabled People - a day that aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate the achievements and contributions of disabled people.

On this day Maggie Maxwell Head of Equalities & Diversity at Creative Scotland highlights some of the energy, innovation, and drive of disabled artists and the wider inclusive arts sector in Scotland:

“Scotland is renowned for its professional disabled artists and performers. Caroline Bowditch, Marc Brew, Claire Cunningham, Ramesh Meyyappan, and Robert Softley Gale are all in demand internationally, with invitations to perform in Europe, Brazil, India, Australia, Singapore and Korea on the cards.”

Caroline Bowditch_Falling In Love With Frida. Photo: Anthony Hopwood 

“There is a thriving arts and disability ‘sector’ in Scotland.  Scotland is leading the way with Deaf theatre.  Regularly funded organisation (RFO) Solar Bear works with emerging Deaf performers and has played an advisory role in the development of the new BA in Performance in BSL and English, the UK’s first theatre course aimed at deaf performers, at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.”

“Another RFO, Project Ability continues to develop disabled visual artists – Cameron Morgan, an artist with learning disabilities who specialises in murals, is to be featured in Glasgow International in 2016.  Other funded organisations working with disabled people include Lung Ha, Paragon and Birds of Paradise.  The latter company specialises in inclusive aesthetics, and their recent touring production of Wendy Hoose, in collaboration with Johnny McKnight and Random Accomplice was a tour de force – a sex comedy which continues to surprise and delight audiences at home and abroad.”

Birds of Paradise - Wendy Hoose by Johnny McKnight. Photo: Eammon McGoldrick 

Artlink Edinburgh & Lothians has an innovative approach to working with people with complex disabilities – a unique socially-engaged artistic practice.   Their Ideas Team involves all those connected to disabled residents (health and care professionals, family members, all staff) in a creative approach to environments and processes.”

“Other RFOs are leading the way in adopting inclusive approaches to their programmes.  Earlier in 2015, Dundee Rep collaborated with Graeae and Derby Playhouse on a fully inclusive production of Blood Wedding.  This ground-breaking production featured deaf actor EJ Raymond, and other disabled performers.  It offered traineeships to disabled people to allow them to experience the challenges and opportunities of working in a professional theatre setting. These trainees were involved in the practical aspects of rehearsing, opening, and touring the production, as well as being involved in the R&D and delivery of educational workshops, activities and training.”

Blood Wedding Dundee Rep Theatre. Photo: Viktoria Begg 

“So, throughout Scotland, disabled artists – professional, emerging professionals and participants are a vital part of the arts.”

About Unlimited

There is growing national and international interest in the high quality work of Scotland’s leading disabled artists, and the Unlimited Programme continues to foster and promote this diversity of talent, at home and abroad. Creative Scotland invested £400,000 in the Unlimited Programme 2013-15 to support and develop disabled artists in Scotland.

The Unlimited programme supports disabled artists to develop ambitious and high quality work, which will help them to develop their practice. It will also help to develop new relationships and collaborations with producers, venues and promoters, increase distribution of the work (through touring, including international touring, and digital means), and afford greater opportunities for audiences to see the work. For more information visit or follow @weareunltd on Twitter.

The following Scottish based artists were supported through this programme.  Many have gone on to tour across the country, and internationally.

Round One

Main commissions

Research and Development 

Funding was also awarded to a number of artists to enable artists them to develop new and ambitious works:

Marc Brew Company ‘For now, I am…’: Image credit – Susan Hay 

Round Two

Main Commissions

Unlimited Impact 

Unlimited Impact works with partners to deepen Unlimited’s impact across the UK and internationally, creating new projects, developing new resources to make programmes and marketing more accessible.

Funded projects in Scotland so far have included working with Summerhall to do an access audit of their site. Unlimited used the venue to host an exhibition featuring works from 13 Unlimited artists during the Edinburgh Festival season. Solar Bear were also awarded funding to support the touring of the restaging of ‘Birthday of the Infanta’ and Edinburgh based dancer Craig Simpson was awarded funding towards the film ‘Its like…’.

This article was published on 03 Dec 2015