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BBC Arts Culture in Quarantine

Published: 06 Nov 2020

BBC Arts Culture In Quarantine - New Commissioning Strand To Support Disabled Artists In Anniversary Year Of Disability Discrimination Act

Photo of a building at night with two women projected onto it, doing sign language

As different restrictions are put in place across the United Kingdom, BBC Arts continues its Culture in Quarantine initiative, which aims to keep the arts in the homes of the public during lockdown and support artists at a difficult time with the launch of a new commissioning opportunity to celebrate the work of disabled artists. The strand has been established in partnership between BBC Arts, Arts Council England, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales and Creative Scotland and forms part of the wider disability season across the BBC, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act, supporting disabled artists across England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland to produce new works that will be hosted across BBC platforms.

D/deaf, neurodivergent and disabled professional artists will be invited to apply to produce new video or audio works. The fund aims to commission ten new works, with support from digital production specialists.

The new commissioning programme marks the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act into law on 8th November 1995. The strand of programming is designed to help artists produce work at such a challenging time for the arts, and when some may be self-isolating, recognising that some disabled people are regarded by health professionals as being ‘vulnerable’ to the medical conditions associated with Covid-19. Artists can - but do not have to - create work that responds to the disabled experience of living through the pandemic. The commissioning strand will also work with the UK Disability Arts Alliance which amplifies the voices of D/deaf, neurodivergent and disabled creative practitioners and disability arts organisations.

This new commissioning opportunity builds on the success of BBC Arts Culture in Quarantine artists’ commissioning strand, launched in April 2020 by BBC Arts and Arts Council England, which invited artists to give a creative response to the challenges of lockdown. A total of 25 commissions were produced, which achieved audiences in the millions across BBC and social platforms.

Jonty Claypole, Director BBC Arts commented: “The Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 is one of the most important civil rights landmarks in British history. To mark this important anniversary, the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine initiative is joining with Arts Council England, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales and Creative Scotland to commission a range of film and audio projects that celebrate the talent of D/deaf, neurodivergent and disabled professional artists today.  This is more important than ever in the age of Covid-19 when the need for extreme shielding threatens to silence many disabled artists who would otherwise be producing work for galleries, stages and other platforms around the UK.”

Artist, curator and producer, Cathy Mager, whose film ‘Sign Night’ was previously commissioned for Culture in Quarantine said: "Being commissioned by BBC Arts and Arts Council England to produce work for the BBC Arts Culture in Quarantine initiative was incredible. I was supported to create a film that explored British Sign Language culture in an authentic and powerful way and I'm delighted that this funding scheme is being expanded. It is vital to continue to invest in deaf and disabled artists, so that the stories of their diverse lived experience can come to the fore."

Information concerning the commissioning opportunity will be available from Monday 9th November, with the application process opening on that day. https://www.thespace.org/commissioning

Commissions will be selected by a panel including representatives from BBC Arts, Arts Council England, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales, Creative Scotland and the UK Disability Arts Alliance. It is expected that the works will be produced between March 2021 and June 2021, airing on BBC platforms later in 2021.

The programme will be managed by digital support agency The Space in partnership with Unlimited, an arts commissioning programme that enables new work by disabled artists to reach UK and international audiences.


About BBC Arts

The BBC is the biggest creator of Arts content and is Britain's creative partner – a stage for the nation to experience the very best arts - when they want, how they want.

  • The nation’s stage: access to arts and culture programming for all through the licence fee – we create and showcase more arts and culture than any other broadcaster
  • An Innovator: constantly finding new ways to bring the best quality culture to audiences - working with the Arts sector as partner and acting as a hot-house for new talent
  • Britain’s creative partner - a bold force in the UK creative sector as creator and commissioner, also a platform for new talent
  • An investor in quality - we only present the highest quality Arts and culture programming, crafted by skilled production teams and shared with all audiences
  • Bringing the nation together - like no other we create and amplify moments in Arts and culture, cutting through with a broad audience

About Culture In Quarantine

BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative is an essential arts and culture service across BBC platforms that will keep the arts alive in people’s homes, focused most intensely across BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC Two, BBC Four, BBC Sounds, BBC iPlayer and www.bbc.co.uk/bbcarts. We are doing this in close consultation and collaboration with organisations like Arts Council England and other national funding and producing bodies.

This arts and culture service includes:

  • Guides and access to shuttered exhibitions, performances or permanent collections in museums, galleries and performance spaces;
  • Ways to experience books with privileged access to authors including a collaboration with the Big Book Weekend amongst other initiatives.
  • Jewels from the archive as well as brand new content ensuring that brand new theatre and dance performances will join with modern classics to create a repertory theatre of broadcast.
  • Participatory offers including masterclasses and ways to enable audiences to create at home through Get Creative
  • Topical arts through Front Row, Front Row Late, Free Thinking and more
  • A fund with Arts Council England to support around 25 artists to create new work
  • A place for arts organisations to share innovations from quarantine and for audiences to discover new things through www.bbc.co.uk/arts

About Sign Night

Cathy Mager is an artist, curator and producer. Collaborating with deaf performers living in self-isolation, Cathy illuminated the streets of Bristol with mysterious film projections revealing deaf culture in lockdown, allowing hands to express what couldn’t be spoken by words alone.

About Arts Council England

Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. We have set out our strategic vision in Let’s Create that by 2030 we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where everyone of us has access to a remarkable range of high quality cultural experiences. We invest public money from Government and The National Lottery to help support the sector and to deliver this vision. www.artscouncil.org.uk

Following the Covid-19 crisis, the Arts Council developed a £160 million Emergency Response Package, with nearly 90% coming from the National Lottery, for organisations and individuals needing support. We are also one of several bodies administering the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund and unprecedented support package of £1.57 billion for the culture and heritage sector. Find out more at www.artscouncil.org.uk/covid19

Dr Darren Henley OBE, Arts Council England said:
“Culture in Quarantine has supported a diverse range of artists across the United Kingdom to create new work, which we’ve all been able to enjoy from the comfort of our homes. I’m proud that we are continuing our partnership with BBC Arts, Arts Council Wales, Creative Scotland and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to invest in ten commissions from D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent practitioners – who have been disproportionately affected by the current pandemic – showcasing and celebrating their unique perspectives.”

About Arts Council of Northern Ireland

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is the development and funding agency for the Arts in Northern Ireland. We distribute public money and National Lottery funds to develop and deliver a wide variety of arts projects, events and initiatives across Northern Ireland.
Our funding helps artists and arts organisations to deliver great art that is within everyone’s reach; arts which inspire, which bring communities closer together, tackle prejudice, racism and isolation, while improving mental health and emotional wellbeing. www.artscouncil-ni.org 
Twitter: @ArtsCouncilNI Facebook: ArtsCouncilNI

Noirín McKinney, Director, Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said: “We are delighted to be part of the BBC Arts Culture in Quarantine initiative on this important anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act. It is a timely partnership managed by the expertise of the digital support agency The Space, and provides valuable commissioning and production support for the artists involved. They will have the chance to increase their digital knowledge and skills, essential to creating and distributing new arts content in these times. The Arts Council is looking forward to seeing two significant and digitally accessible works from disabled artists in NI emerge from this commission next year, we are delighted to have received funding from the Department for Communities to enable this partnership and provide opportunities to this vital sector.”

About Arts Council of Wales

Arts Council of Wales is the official public body charged with funding and supporting the arts in Wales. Every day, people across Wales are enjoying and taking part in the arts. We help to support and grow this activity by using the public funds that are made available to us by the Welsh Government and by distributing the money we receive as a good cause from the National Lottery. By managing and investing these funds in creative activity, the Arts Council contributes to people’s quality of life and to the cultural, social and economic well-being of Wales. https://arts.wales/

Diane Hebb, Director of Arts Engagement, Arts Council of Wales said:

“These commissions are the kind of positive actions we need to take to address the inequality of opportunity disabled people face when engaging with the arts as artists or members of the audience. Our support, alongside that of partners, will enable artists in Wales create work that reflects and celebrates their lived experience and reaches and inspires audiences far and wide.”

About Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here. We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and The National Lottery.

Chief Executive Iain Munro said: "Diversity of thought feeds innovation and creativity, and audiences are engaged by a wide range of stories, perspectives and experiences and this is one of the many reasons why the creation of tangible commissioning and programming opportunities such as this is so crucial.

“Thanks to National Lottery players, Creative Scotland is extremely pleased to be directing funds to this initiative and to be partnering with The Space and Unlimited Arts to bring the work of talented D/deaf, neurodivergent and disabled artists onto our screens."

Media Contact

For further information and images contact BBC Arts Publicity:

Victoria Bevan - Victoria.bevan@bbc.co.uk / 07395 252929
Anna Mason - anna.mason02@bbc.co.uk / 07736 640899
Joanna Hawkins - jo.hawkins@bbc.co.uk / 07834 620679