R&D funding for Mayor of London’s Liberty Festival

Before Christmas we announced the latest round of R&D funding for the Mayor of London’s Liberty Festival. We’re delighted to confirm that the two successful projects for this funding are Planted Symphony by Drake Music and Arts and Gardens and Admiral Pullen’s Party by Vital Xposure in collaboration with Access All Areas.

Planted Symphony is an interactive performance where music technology meets nature, and which aims to make Assistive music technology playful, accessible and magical to all.

The Liberty R&D is a wonderful opportunity for Drake Music and Arts and Gardens to collaborate and explore the use of music technology as a tool to engage new audiences within green spaces. It’s a great way to develop new music-led outdoor performances that move beyond a band on a stage. Daryl Beeton, Drake Music

Drake Music is the leading national organisation working in music, disability and technology. www.drakemusic.org www.artsandgardens.org


photo © Christian Sinibaldi

Admiral Pullen’s Party is a promenade theatre piece featuring a giant puppet created from authentic designs by artist, carpenter and Victorian asylum resident John Henry Pullen.

We are absolutely delighted to have received this R&D grant. At last we get to work with Access All Areas and hopefully get to play at Liberty Festival on a much bigger scale, bringing Pullen’s giant puppet to life. Pullen was an extraordinary man, discarded as an ‘idiot’, who was clearly a wonderfully talented artist with a unique imagination. Julie McNamara, Vital Xposure

Vital Xposure is a touring theatre company based in Hackney, East London, operating under the creative leadership of disabled artist Julie McNamara. The company promotes hidden voices with extraordinary stories to tell. www.vitalxposure.co.uk  www.accessallareastheatre.org

More info will follow soon, including exclusive blog posts on these new works as they’re developed. In the meantime, we recommend you follow the companies via social media for the latest news:

@Drake_Music and @artsandgardens

  • explore #PlantedSymphony for the latest photos and videos

@VitalXposure and @AAATheatre

For updates on Liberty Festival 2017 follow @LDN_Gov and @GDIFestival

Building my ship – making Sailing Through The Dark by Amelia Cavallo

Two years ago, Liberty Festival commissioned me to make a one woman show under the direction of Paul Evans, a fantastic choreographer, director and performer for NoFit State Circus and his own company, Flying Diplodocus. We called it I Breathe and put everything I love into it. I sang and played music I had written, talked about some of the odder things in my life, made people laugh and got to swing around on a trapeze while singing. Two years on, I was approached by Liberty to make a new show that could be similar to or completely different from I Breathe. I was basically given free reign to create whatever I wanted, a situation that is like gold dust in the arts community. This being my first time fully in the driver’s seat, I decided quickly that I did not want to do this show alone. I also quickly realized why people hire their friends. Being in the driver’s seat is scary! I am not a general manager and I am normally TERRIBLE at admin, yet here I am managing budgets and tech specs and employers insurance and risk assessments and access requirements… And this is before I get into the rehearsal room.

Amelia Cavallo 3 credit Oliver Cross

I brought in Tina Carter from the get go, because we know each other very well. She was one of the first to teach me how to do aerial, and is to whom I attribute a lot of my skill and my love for the art form. She also choreographed the first aerial show I was in as well as multiple pieces afterwards, AND she is a brilliant performer. I brought in Ben Goffe because he is one of those people that can literally do everything. He sings, he acts, he dances, he plays multiple instruments, he’s an acrobat, he’s a great MC…. And he makes us Oreo brownies. Always a win.

Our first weeks of rehearsals were about working out the aerial and acrobatic sections of the show and figuring out what we wanted to talk about. Liberty is a disability led festival, so how do we address disability if we address it at all? Do I talk about being blind? How does Tina position herself as a non-disabled but also not conventional (older) aerialist?

I started with the music. This is usually my process. I was very inspired by traditional sounding circus music, and old Hollywood musicals which is a bit of a leap from the type of stuff I normally write. It was extremely fun to translate this music onto the instruments Ben and I play and to see where it took the choreography and the story. We ended with an up beat, sassy opening number, a nostalgic ballad akin to something Julie Andrews might sing for my act, a light jazzy dance number for Ben, a clowny circusy number for Tina, and a mash up of everything for the finale.

Amelia Cavallo credit Oliver Cross

Now, at the end of our process, we have made what I would call modern theatrical circus performance. We have an overarching concept/metaphor for the piece that shifts into individual acts for each performer. We decided we are all “sailing on the ship of life” which sounds a bit cheesy, but given that the show is loosely based on old musicals, that didn’t bother any of us. It also gave us tons of imagery to play with physically and lyrically.

One of Tina’s strengths as director/choreographer has been to use the aerial silks as pieces of set or costume. We use the fabric to turn our space into a big top style tent, or to give us comfortable looking seats in the air and on the ground. Tina uses the fabric to accentuate various parts of her body, and I build images of sailing and sea. Tina also has included a lot of what I might call “aerial nerd” choreography. Those who are new to the skill may miss this, but so many of the transitions and moves are not done conventionally. I hope those who know silks go away with at least one moment of, “ohhhh! I didn’t know you could do that move in that way!”

Being a blindy, I was also very keen to make sure audio description was included. This is particularly difficult when working in a physical medium like aerial. You kind of need to know what you are doing in order to know how to describe it! Luckily, Ben and Tina are pros at this meaning the AD came fairly quickly. Some of the AD is included in the lyrics, some of it as asides. All is out loud, proud and integrated without headsets.

As for the dilemma about how to discuss our identify in relation to this particular festival, we just decided to talk about ourselves and things that we go through. Disability does come up in multiple ways, but it’s really about people. It’s a piece that I could see in future having more performers making it even more diverse and exciting. (This may happen in future) Over all, it is a piece that hopefully will bring everyone a bit of joy and laughter, maybe a few tears, and hopefully some good old fashioned entertainment.

Don’t miss the premiere performances of Sailing Through The Dark by Amelia Cavallo
Saturday 3 September
South Lawn, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
2.25pm & 4.55pm
More info here

GDIF2016 – Deaf Men Dancing

We’re highlighting some of the companies and performances scheduled for this summer’s festival. First up is an introduction to Deaf Men Dancing and their show TEN, written by Deaf Men Dancing’s Choreographer and Director Mark Smith

Deaf Men Dancing is an all-male deaf dance company with a fusion of different styles of dance incorporating British Sign-Language into movement. The essence of my work is to use sign language as an inherent part of the creative process and integrate it into the movement vocabulary, rather than use it as a commentary to the performance.

Deaf Men Dancing - TEN 6

The ideas I developed for TEN, were inspired by double acts like Laurel & Hardy, Flanagan & Allen, Morecambe & Wise, Abbott & Costello and Gilbert & George. I was also inspired by vaudeville & music hall acts.

When I was a kid, Charlie Chaplin was my idol. I grew up watching Chaplin’s films. The silent film format was accessible for me to watch because it was very visual and even had “subtitles” or just “titles” for me to read. That’s where I got the idea of getting the dancers to hold printed cards with text to the audience during the performance. While I was researching for TEN, I discovered that Chaplin was good friends with a deaf actor Granville “Red” Redmond, who appeared in Chaplin’s films. Chaplin admired the natural expressiveness of a deaf person using American Sign Language. Chaplin’s interest in Deaf Culture gave me the idea to incorporate a deaf awareness course into TEN but in the form of Ten Commandments.


In the 60s, Gilbert & George famously created a live-art performance called Singing Sculpture where they stood on a table for eight hours. Gilbert held leather gloves & George held a walking stick. Their faces were painted in silver. They mimed to an old music hall song called Underneath The Arches – a song in which two tramps describe the pleasures of sleeping rough. It was a telling choice, harking back to prewar England and traditions of vaudeville, while also identifying with the fringes of society. Singing Sculpture gave me the idea for TEN. I’ve collaborated with designer Ryan Dawson Laight, who designed DMD’s previous outside performance, Alive!, and he’s designed a table for two dancers to perform on and deliver “speeches” to the audience in a form of Speaker’s Corner or Soapbox such as those that used to to be located on the corner of Park Lane and Cumberland Gate. The table is also a kind of Pandora’s Box, containing surprise props for the dancers to use for the performance.

I collaborated with deaf musician and composer Sean Chandler to develop ten different tracks and I was lucky to have sound designer Syd Funnell onboard to provide the soundscape for TEN.

Deaf Men Dancing will perform TEN at Greenwich Fair on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 June. Times & location tbc.

Deaf Men Dancing - TEN 8

Follow Mark Smith on Twitter @DeafMenDancing1
Deaf Men Dancing on YouTube
Deaf Men Dancing website

Mayor of London’s Liberty Festival R&D Opportunities

Mayor of London’s Liberty Festival

Research & Development opportunities

With support from Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts programme, we are delighted to announce a Research and Development opportunity for Deaf and disabled artists wishing to develop new ideas for outdoor work. We are seeking to offer three Research and Development awards for new outdoor projects led by Deaf and disabled artists with the intention of work moving towards presentation at the Liberty Festival in the summer of 2016. Submissions may focus on any art forms that can be presented outdoors. We encourage artists collaborating with other arts organisations, in particular those based in East London, across art forms, culturally diverse artists and new and emerging artists. NB Initial applications should be submitted by 30 October.

Information Pack
Application Form

More information from London.gov.uk

‘ComBUStion’ by Extant with Bureau of Silly Ideas (Photo: Tom Simpson, Liberty Festival 2015)

‘ComBUStion’ by Extant with Bureau of Silly
Ideas (Photo: Tom Simpson, Liberty Festival 2015)

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 8.08.05 AM

‘Shamal’ by Rachel Gadsden with Architects of Air (Photo: Tom Simpson, Liberty Festival 2015)

Mayor of London’s Liberty Festival R&D opportunities

Mayor of London’s Liberty Festival

Research & Development opportunities

With support from Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts programme in 2014, we are delighted to announce a Research and Development opportunity for Deaf and disabled artists wishing to develop new ideas for outdoor work. We are seeking to offer three Research and Development awards for new outdoor projects led by Deaf and disabled artists, and subject to available resources, with the intention of work moving towards presentation at the Liberty Festival in the summer of 2015 or 2016. Submissions may focus on any art forms that can be presented outdoors. We encourage artists collaborating with other arts organisations, in particular those based in East London, across art forms, culturally diverse artists and new and emerging artists. NB Initial applications should be submitted by 30 November.

Information Pack (PDF version)
Information Pack (DOC version)
Application Form

More information from London.gov.uk

Stop Gap Dance Company’s ‘The Awakening’ choreographed by Chris Pavia at Liberty 2014.
This work was developed following a Liberty R+D commission in 2013.



GDIF’s Spectacular Summer Continues!

Following June’s record-breaking Festival, GDIF has been hard at work preparing for three more extraordinary events to bring the summer of 2014 to a festive climax.

Moxie Brawl_National Paralympic Day 2014

Moxie Brawl_National Paralympic Day 2014

On Saturday 30 August between 12 – 8pm, we’re producing National Paralympic Day, featuring the Mayor of London’s Liberty festival at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. This free, fun, family festival brings together the very best of disability arts and sports.



Then GDIF’s Artistic Director, Bradley Hemmings will be heading north on 4 September to direct the The Great North Run Million Opening Ceremony, featuring live performances by Dire Straits legend Mark Knopfler, drum’n’bass superstars Chase & Status, Mercury Prize nominees The Unthanks, and electrifying performers Lords of Lightning, as well as fireworks and pyrotechnics, mass choreography, a giant floating sculpture, and video mapping onto the Sage Gateshead!




Finally, on Friday 5 September at 8.30pm, as part of Royal Greenwich’s Tall Ships Festival GDIF will present the Catalan street theatre company Sarruga’s production of Peixos (Fish). As the sun sets, the event will transform the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College into an underwater Mediterranean world of brightly coloured fish and sea creatures.  Giant illuminated fish puppets will swim amongst and over the heads of audiences, to captivating effect.



GDIF at Stoke Mandeville

Photo by Doug Southall

Photo by Doug Southall

On Saturday 1 March the eyes of the world were on Stoke Mandeville, as a spectacular ceremony (created and produced by GDIF) lit the first-ever Paralympic Heritage Flame.

Broadcast live on Channel 4, the Ceremony saw the Paralympic Heritage Flame lit by gold medal winning wheelchair racing athlete Hannah Cockcroft from the centre of an extraordinarily beautiful 6m diameter, Armillary Sphere (a model of stars and planets in the sky). Created by internationally acclaimed theatre designer Jon Bausor the illumination of the flame was accompanied by specially commissioned music by Dan Jones and pyrotechnics from Alchemy.

Photo by Doug Southall

Photo by Doug Southall


As part of the Ceremony two new films were shown:

Mike Christie’s “I am the Flame” telling the inspiring story of Stoke Mandeville, whilst Rachel Gadsden and Abigail Norris looked to Greek myth in an animation recounting the legend of the god Hephaestus.

GDIF is enormously grateful to Sir Ian McKellen who took time out from a busy schedule to narrate both of these films.

Photo by Doug Southall

Photo by Doug Southall

A day later on Saturday 2 March, GDIF created a second event “Spirit in Motion” at the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury, telling the story of Stoke Mandeville and bringing together artists and Paralympians in a celebration of sport and the arts. Hosted by actor Ben Owen-Jones, audiences were treated to a unique aerial performance by circus artists from the London 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony, whilst Rachel Gadsden brought the Paralympic motto of “spirit in motion” to life on canvas. There were also performances from Denise Leigh and Andrea Begley whilst guest speakers included Chris Holmes, Jenny Sealey, Naomi Riches and Sally Haynes.

Photo by Doug Southall

Photo by Doug Southall

Paralympic Heritage Flame at Stoke Mandeville

GDIF has been busy working with a stunning creative team on a programme of events at Stoke Mandeville and Aylesbury in early March. Commissioned by Aylesbury Vale District Council and supported by Arts Council England, this ambitious project will inauguarate an exciting new biennial Heritage Flame Ceremony at Stoke Mandeville supported by the International Paralympic Committee and the British Paralympic Association.

Paralympic Opening Ceremony - Ziya Azazi © Getty Images

Paralympic Opening Ceremony – Ziya Azazi © Getty Images

Why Stoke Mandeville?

1948 saw the commencement of the first ever organised athletic day for disabled athletes alongside the Olympic Games. The Stoke Mandeville Games, founded by neurosurgeon Sir Ludwig Guttmann on the lawns of Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, transformed into the global phenomenon that is now the Paralympic Games.

Stoke Mandeville Games © buckslegacy.org

Stoke Mandeville Games © buckslegacy.org

The London 2012 Games and the Legacy

Building on the momentum of the London 2012 Games, including the Paralympic Games, and in recognition of Stoke Mandeville as the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement, the UK has been awarded the honour of involvement in all future Paralympic Games Torch Relays.

This March, ahead of the Sochi Winter Paralympic Games, Stoke Mandeville will host the first ever international leg of the Paralympic Torch Relay, and will become the first place in history to be involved in the Relay outside of the Games’ hosting country.

Paralympic Flame © buckslegacy.org

Paralympic Flame © buckslegacy.org

Heritage Flame Celebration ‘Spirit in Motion’ – Sun 2 March, 2014
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre 7:30pm, Free tickets via ballot

Enter the public ballot now (Deadline: Sun 16 February – click image below) for a chance to win free tickets to this celebratory occasion bringing together Paralympic athletes and live music, art and performance, including disabled aerial artists from the 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony, visual artist Rachel Gadsden, and performances by soprano Denise Leigh and by Andrea Begley, winner of BBC One’s “The Voice”.


Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony Broadcast – Fri 7 March, 2014
Tune in to the global broadcast of the Winter Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony in Sochi to watch the Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony. Follow the Paralympic Torch Relay from the Flame Lighting Ceremony at Stoke Mandeville Stadium to its joining with torches from 46 cities throughout Russia. This unified flame will be used in a final relay before the Opening Ceremony.

For more information on these events, please visit http://www.buckslegacy.org/ or the Paralympics’ site at http://www.paralympics.uk.

Paralympic Opening Ceremony © Deck Accessory Flickr

Paralympic Opening Ceremony © Deck Accessory Flickr

To share the Paralympic magic with you in Aylesbury and Stoke Mandeville, we invite you to continue connecting with us via our blog, Facebook and Twitter for updates on this exciting international artistic endeavour.

New round of “Unlimited…” launched!

Following the successful Unlimited project which was at the heart of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and celebrated the work of disabled artists on an unprecedented scale, Shape and Artsadmin have been awarded £1.5 million by Arts Council England to deliver a new three year programme of Unlimited commissions with Jo Verrent as Senior Producer and key partners including Creative Scotland, British Council, Southbank Centre and DaDaFest.

Performers in David Toole's The Impending Storm

David Toole, The Impending Storm. Commissioned for Unlimited 2012. Photo by Tim Cross.

Although not on the same scale of the first programme, this exciting development will offer a number of commissions and to develop, produce and show ambitious and high quality work, with mentoring support.

The programme will include festivals at Southbank Centre in 2014 and 2016 and showcases of new work across the country through partnerships with venues and organisations.

Claire Cunningham performs Ménage à Trois

Ménage à Trois by Claire Cunningham. Commissioned for Unlimited 2012.

On 9th of December Unlimited was launched at Tate Modern in London followed by another launch event up North, hosted by DaDaFest at the Bluecoat in Liverpool on 11th of December.

Manick Govinda and Tony Heaton speaking at the London launch event.Dean Rodney and Mark Williams from Heart ‘n Soul speaking at London launchTony Heaton, Joyce Wilson, Jo Verrent and Manick Govinda at London launch

Jo Verrent, Senior Producer for Unlimited, has written a lovely blog following the launches introducing Unlimited. Read Jo’s blog here.

There will be two open calls for applications across the three years of the programme. All applications will be through Artsadmin’s online commissions portal, unless for access reasons you wish to submit your application in another format.

Applications can now be accepted for the first open call. To apply or for more information please click here.

The Unlimited team will be holding two surgery days (in London and Liverpool) in January for anyone interested in applying to Unlimited who would like to talk to us about the scheme and its criteria. You can book a 30 minute session with one of the team. Read more…


Liberty Festival receives Gold Award


This gallery contains 2 photos.

At National Paralympic Day the Mayor of London’s Liberty Festival was awarded the Gold Standard of Best Practice by Attitude is Everything for showing continuing commitment to venue access to their customers and performers. Liberty Festival is the first festival in the UK to receive … Continue reading