Where did it start
In 2013, we brought Candoco, a London-based dance company for disabled and non-disabled performers to Baku, Azerbaijan. Candoco gave a performance that provided a serious challenge to some commonly-held ideas of what it means to be ‘disabled’. They have now demonstrated the potential for inclusion of disabled people in the arts and creative sectors with performances throughout our part of the world. This has led to the formation of a core programme of our work in the region. It has taken a name that clearly describes its mission: Unlimited: Making the Right Moves. Because there must be no limits for those who want to dream and live and even to dance.
In Azerbaijan, the British Council joined the regional Unlimited: Making the Right Moves programme with a clear objective: to support disability arts by creating a sustainable network of practitioners, venues, producers and decision makers, and developing their skills to create and present inclusive work. We want the arts and culture to play a leading role in showing how a more open and inclusive social model leads to the well-being of everyone in a society. We see no reason why the disabled cannot be key contributors to social planning and policy-making processes, providing a challenge to fixed social attitudes by exposing audiences to integrated arts practice, leading to the logical conclusion: this, too, is part of our society and deserving of our attention.
To that end, Barbara Lisicki, a trainer from Shape Arts, a disabled-led arts organisation, conducted an access audit of the Azerbaijan Theatre of Young Spectators and Russian Drama theatres. She followed this up with a workshop for theatre professionals in Azerbaijan on venue accessibility. In December, Caryne Chapman, forum theatre expert conducted a workshop on interactive theatre techniques in cooperation with SABAH group for abled and disabled students from the University of Culture and Arts.