Scottish artists supported through Unlimited arts commissioning programme

Published: 30 Mar 2021

Laura Fisher in FORGED. Laura is laying on her side curled around an upright copper tube

Laura Fisher in FORGED

Eight exceptional Scottish disabled artists and companies are among 34 across the UK receiving over £715,000 in funding from Unlimited to develop their work.

Funded by Creative Scotland, and Arts Council England and Arts Council of Wales, the Unlimited arts commissioning programme supports disabled artists to create and present their work across all art forms. Artists who will receive funding this year work in the artforms of music, theatre, combined arts, dance visual and live art, with this round, also supporting opera, literature, zines, technology and work for young audiences and in rural locations.

Delivered by Shape Arts and Artsadmin the main aim of the programme is to commission disabled artists and companies to make exceptional work.  The selection criteria requires that projects are disability-led and show quality, innovation and ambition to develop new artistic work. Partners working with Unlimited for this commissions round include the David Toole OBE Bursary - an inaugural initiative to support a project by an emerging dancer, which is received by Scottish artist Laura Fisher.

The 2021 awardees from Scotland are:

Research & Development Awards:

  • Aby Watson, Scotland, Dance “BRUT” working title
  • Clara Weale, Scotland, Combined arts/creative industries “The Scent of Insulin”
  • Ellen Renton, Scotland, Literature “Who’s she when she’s at home anyway”

Emerging Artists Commissions:

  • Clare and Lesley BSL Theatre/Dance Artists, Scotland, Combined arts/children’s performance
  • Emily Beaney, Scotland, Combined arts “Deviant”
  • Laura Fisher, Scotland, Dance “Forged” and recipient of the inaugural Dave Toole Memorial Bursary
  • Lilith Cooper, Scotland, Combined arts/literature zines “Take it Back”

Explore all the supported commissions on Unlimited’s website.

Aby Watson in Buzzcut Double Thrills......ish. Abby dances with lots of colourful baloons

Aby Watson, Photo by Julia-Bauer

Joan Parr, Interim Director, Arts and Engagement at Creative Scotland said: “Creative Scotland is excited by the incredible range of talented artists and projects we’re able to support as part of our partnership on the Unlimited commissioning programme. The artists will benefit from the opportunity to develop their practice, and strengthen their professional networks across Scotland and the UK through this highly successful programme. The commissions explore artforms and ideas that challenge perceptions of disability and interrogate representation in our public spaces.”

Jo Verrent Senior Producer at Unlimited said: “It feels important at this time, when many artists and companies have been stopped from touring and sharing work, to keep commissioning artists, even if we are unsure of what shape the cultural sector might be in when these works will be due to bloom. We’ve done our bit. Now it’s up to the cultural sector of the world to help support, develop and share these artists and their ideas. And not just those we have awarded, but all those we have shortlisted too – there is a lot of great work here ready to be picked up, funded and experienced.”

David Hevey, Chief Executive, Shape Arts said: “It is with enormous pride that we announce this outstanding selection of commissions which in myriad ways push boundaries, challenge expectations and continue Unlimited’s legacy of innovative, exceptional work. Having worked alongside Artsadmin for the past eight years to deliver Unlimited, I am extremely excited that our final collaboration platforms projects of such a high calibre.”

Róise Goan, Artistic Director, Artsadmin said: “This year’s selection of Unlimited commissions represent a breadth of talent and ambition that gives us many reasons to celebrate. Of particular pride is our partnership with Unlimited to co-commission Mish Weaver’s Parade of Horribles, a daring, collaborative-performance work for the street. After eight years of successfully co-delivering Unlimited with Shape Arts, we are thrilled to see this vitally important commissioning programme transition to its own organisation over the next year, and excited for future collaborations with the independent Unlimited.”


The awards in statistics:

  • 34 awards with 17 of these awards in collaboration with partners.
  • 11 Emerging awards, 13 Research and Development awards, 8 Main Commission awards and two strategic commissions have been awarded.
  • £717,490 awarded
  • 67% of artists have never been funded by Unlimited before
  • 32% of awards are going to artists of colour
  • 24% of funds awarded are going to Midlands-based artists, 21% to those based in London, 18% South West England, 12% North of England, 10% Wales, 9% Scotland and 6% South East England.
  • 46% of funds are going to combined arts, 15% theatre, 11% visual arts, 7% literature, 5% music, 3% dance, 13% other (including music theatre, environmental sound art)

Unlimited is an arts commissioning programme that aims to embed work by disabled artists within the UK and international cultural sectors, reach new audiences and shift perceptions of disabled people. Unlimited has been delivered by the disability-led arts organisation Shape Arts and arts-producing organisation Artsadmin since 2013, and is currently funded by Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, Creative Scotland and the British Council. Unlimited is transitioning into being an independent organisation from 2022.

Since 2013, Unlimited has awarded more than £4.7 million to over 400 ambitious disabled artists and companies, through commissions, awards and support, which have been seen by or engaged with more than 3.8 million people globally and online, making it the largest supporter of disabled artists worldwide. Unlimited Twitter | Unlimited Facebook | #UnlimitedCommissions

Artsadmin is a company of creative people working with artists to develop and make performance projects for local, national and international audiences in a variety of places and contexts. We offer a range of support for artists and rehearsal studios, workspaces and a programme of public events at Toynbee Studios, our home in London’s East End. We also collaborate on national partnership projects engaging with disability-led arts and climate justice. @artsadm

Shape Arts is a disability-led organisation breaking barriers to creative excellence. We deliver a range of projects supporting marginalised artists, as well as training cultural venues to be more inclusive and accessible for disabled people as employees, artists and audiences. Running alongside this portfolio is the HLF funded National Disability Movement Archive and Collection (NDMAC), a radical telling of the story of the golden era of the Disability Rights Movement; and Unlimited, which, largely supported by Arts Council and British Council funding, provides a platform for disabled artists to develop, produce and show ambitious and high-quality work, and which aims to transform perceptions of how the work of disabled artists is received in the mainstream art world.
Shape Twitter | Shape Facebook | Shape Instagram

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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. Further information at Follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.