Northern Festivals Network join with Unlimited for a new joint Commission

As part of the brilliant work currently undertaken by the Northern Festivals Network to widen access both to see and be involved in the arts, the NFN have joined with Unlimited for an exciting new commission. 

Unlimited is at its heart a commission programme – providing a unique commission opportunity for artists and companies interested in creating or adapting a work in any artistic discipline for families in outdoor settings. This piece will be funded by Unlimited Impact and the Northern Festivals Network – complete with guaranteed bookings at 4 of the network’s festivals.

Jo Verrent, Senior Producer for Unlimited talks with Cathryn Peach, Creative Producer for Wild Rumpus to find out more…

JV: Many organisations want to showcase the work of disabled artists -– why now for the Northern Festivals Network?

CP: As a Network we are going into our third year of working together, which has made for a strong consortium, both in realising the kind of work that we admire but also in the way in which we can support a piece of work and ensure that it has the best possible impact at each festival, each of which are quite different to the others.

This commission is taking a different format to our previous commission – applicants apply with a short expression of interest form and those shortlisted will be enabled to visit some of the festivals in the network and then invited to submit a final application. This is because we hope to attract applications from artists and companies who might not have created work for these kind of spaces before.

We’re hoping that there will be two-way learning from the process of the commission.


JV: Why pair up with Unlimited Impact?

Unlimited’s reputation speaks for itself, the work they have supported is high quality, diverse and shifts perspectives of deaf and disabled artist’s without simply focusing on disability. Unlimited Impact has the same high quality – stretching work into new areas.

We wanted to book and support work that was beautiful, clever and for families, whilst representing a diverse audience, we felt that Unlimited were already doing just that but mainly for an adult audience.


JV: That’s right, we have funded some commissions for work for children and young people, like Fittings’ Edmund the Learned Pig but we’ve never supported any work for families for outdoors before. Could you tell us a little about the festivals, to give people considering applying a sense of what you do and where you do it? 

CP: There are 6 festivals within the consortium: Kendal CallingCloudspottingUnderneath The StarsJust So FestivalFestival No6 and Ramsbottom Festival. To get a real feel for the festivals it is probably best to look on their websites and look through their galleries and read their ethos.

All offer arts and music programmes for families, with Just So entirely dedicated to families. That’s the one we run and as the lead festival in the consortium with the greatest amount of family arts, its programme is a great example of the work that is also showcased by the rest of the consortium. You can see their past programmes on their website here.

The most important things to consider when making work for these festivals are the following four things:

  • Family
  • Choice
  • Outdoors
  • Timings

Family – We programme and produce work for families – it should be able to be engaged with, enjoyed by and if relevant, interacted with by a whole family, grandparents, carers and children of a range of ages.

Some of the festivals have very large family audience numbers and so a piece which can engage lots of the families on site is our preference.

Engagement – We like work that is less prescriptive and offers a variety of levels at which families can engage, so those apprehensive families can enjoy as much as the more confident ones.

Outdoors – Each of the festivals have a variety of terrains, as well as restricted site space so the piece should be flexible enough to travel to a range of greenfield spaces. Some of the terrain is very uneven, with large stretches on fields (occasionally incredibly muddy fields).

Vehicle access is also restricted during festival times so if bringing something in via vehicle, artists should expect to bring it onsite at least a day before the site opens to the public.

As greenfield festivals, the outdoors are really close to our hearts, we’re always excited by pieces that really embrace being outside, both logistically and in their practice, using the outdoor landscape to their advantage, or getting audiences to look at their outside environment differently.

Timings – In order to allow the greatest amount of family audiences to see the piece we would ideally programme it multiple times a day over three days, or have it open to be interacted with for long periods of the day.

The nature of our events mean that families are on site from dawn until dusk, so we would like artists to think about what time of day/night their piece is best suited to.

In order to think about the style or type of artists we programme below are a number of companies we have programmed recently.

Les Enfants TerriblePif PafSole Rebel TapMufti GamesThe FabulariumCopperdollarHighly Sprungand Acrojou.


JV: At Unlimited, we know we are looking for high quality arts – across all art forms. What is it you are looking for specifically with this commission? What do you want this commission to achieve?

CP: We want this piece to be as imaginative and playful as possible, so we’re keen not to put too many parameters on it. We don’t have a specific discipline in mind though if a cast is present it should be diverse.

There should be specific care and attention to the aesthetics of the piece, whether costume, set etc.

It should suit a family audience, with a diverse range of needs and ages, focusing between 0-12, although it can focus on a narrower band than this although remember the nature of festivals means you often have a range of siblings all together – and of course, in this case young adult themes wouldn’t be appropriate.

It should cater for a large number of families across the weekend.


JV: A brilliant, exciting and ground breaking opportunity for sure.

So if artists and companies are interested in finding out more, they can email us directly at .

 The full brief can found here. The brief contains information on how you should submit your application, access information and all the rest.

The deadline for initial expressions of interest is 12noon on Thursday the 23rd of June – so better get thinking!