In 2013, the British Council launched its Unlimited: Making the Right Moves programme with the objective of developing accessibility and inclusivity in the arts in Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. The effort has produced a series of professional workshops, educational forums and live performances. Between 2013 and 2021 the programme attracted the involvement of 6,550 participants.
The programme provided its most visible benefit to artists with disabilities and without. These took part in both a series of dance laboratories and interactive theatrical master classes. Over the seven years that the programme ran, 794 amateur artists were involved.
In Armenia, artists with disabilities began to be hired at theatres which had previously been closed to them. In Azerbaijan, an innovative theatrical approach employed for inclusive performances have had a measurable impact bringing about a public shift in attitude toward people with disabilities. And in Georgia work has begun on a local platform for the development of the arts for people with disabilities.
In 2019, Ukraine saw Candoco Dance Company and the Lost Dog choreography troupe run three residencies in Kyiv over the course of 20 days resulting in the creation of an original performance entitled Argonauts. The show had its public premier in Tbilisi, Georgia during the UK/Georgia 2019: New Horizons cultural season — a series of events that advocated for inclusive practice in the arts. With the successful production of Argonauts — a performance featuring 10 professional and 10 amateur dancers from different countries, both those with disabilities and those without— the Unlimited: Making the Right Moves programme demonstrated the kind of quality collaboration possible between committed artists regardless of their personal circumstances.
The programme’s final instalment came as 2020 drew to its close with the Arts Access international online forum/festival focusing on art by artists with disabilities. For three consecutive days, social media and the forum’s dedicated platform brought performances from Ukrainian, British and German artists and public discussions on issues of accessibility and inclusivity in the arts to remote audiences. All told, 334 people took part over the three days of the forum.
For those who made the Unlimited programme happen, they’re now equipped with the necessary skills and experience to further the development of inclusivity in the arts in the public sphere. They’re also convinced of the reality that the development of an arts community dedicated to principles of openness and inclusivity is possible in their home countries.
Independent consultant Juliet Shofield had the following to say about the impact of the Unlimited programme on both the regional arts and theatre scene and the lives of people with disabilities. She writes:
“The project is truly pushing the boundaries of ‘what is art’ in the region among practitioners and audiences alike. The artistic product of companies like Candoco and the inclusive performances developed through the Unlimited: Making the Right Moves programme are proof that disabled-led art can be of the highest quality and can draw audiences. Inclusivity, in this respect, becomes a vehicle for innovation and herein lies the ‘creative case’ for developing disabled-led and inclusive arts – in terms of the development of the creative industries.”