The Final Chapter

Every good story has to come to an end. Unlimited Theatre announces final chapter of work before closing late 2023.

By Rabbey – Core Artist.

I first met Unlimited in 2013 as a community participant working on their UnEditions Community Research Lab. I’d just finished Uni and it seemed like a weird and exciting project, which is absolutely my bag. I met J, Chris and Clare, learnt about their work, got involved in beta testing UNeditions and even went to London with them to talk about the process at a convention. I got on the train after that event and didn’t think I’d see any of them again, if I’m honest. 10 years later, I’m a Core Artist with Unlimited, and we’re now winding the company down. What a wild ride it’s been. 

The current Core Artists all met in November 2021 for the first time together. I really vividly remember turning up to the meeting point, which was round the corner from Unlimited’s first home on Aire Street, to find J sat on a bench with a man I’d never met before, who was wearing an incredible jumper (It was Ali. I still maintain it is an incredible jumper). As we all appeared one by one, we were all stood down this little alley, a group of strangers full of excitement and nerves for what our new roles meant, and what we’d get up to together.

14 months later, and I’m not sure what things were like before I met this incredible bunch of humans. These people excite and inspire me every time I spend time with them. They are my friends. My mentors. My muses. And they’re a damn good laugh. I’ve worked with them on big projects, small projects, hypothetical ones which haven’t even left the page. We’ve had big, late night chats about the state of the world and Art, and plenty of check-ins over a brew. This is a company of people who enjoy each other’s art, friendship and talent. The respect is real.

As some of you will know, in November 2022 we learnt that Unlimited was unsuccessful in its application to remain in Art’s Council England’s National Portfolio from 2023 onwards.

Were we surprised? Yes.

Were we sad? Yes, for a little while.

Are we seeing it as an opportunity? Of course.

It feels weird to be closing the company just as the new Core Artists are finding their feet, but now we all have something we’re working towards together. Custodians of telling a story which started a long time before most of us were making theatre, and we’re going to make it a really satisfying ending.

Black and white photo of the 6 founding members of Unlimited sat in Theatre auditorium seats.

Unlimited’s original founder members in 1997 (l-r): Paul Warwick, Louisa Ashley, J Spooner, Chris Thorpe, Liz Margree, Clare Duffy (Photo Credit: Ed Collier)

Unlimited’s story started in 1997. Six artists and friends came together to start on something that they had no idea how it was going to unfold. Along the way they met hundreds of people, worked with them, made art with them, many thousands saw their shows. People came into the story, people left the story to continue on their own stuff, but Unlimited carried on.

This story has been going on for 25 years, which is a lot longer than most stories get. As an Artist led company, we’re fully aware that there aren’t many of us around that have lasted this long and now we’re into the final chapter, and we’re going to make it a great one. We are ending this story together, in a very Unlimited way. With reckless optimism.

For our last few months together, we want to celebrate the story that has been told over the last 25 years, and celebrate the stories yet to come. Core Artist Rabbey (hi, that’s me!) will be taking a lead on telling this story through all your digital communication needs and desires. We’ve still got a lot more to give, and we’d love you to join us as we head towards our finale.

We’ve got a BIG new outdoor show which is touring this summer and working with some incredible partners to make something spectacular. J has been working on this for years ( it really is a big project…), and honestly, what a final show to present! We’ll be announcing the touring dates soon, so make sure we see you there! We’re also supporting Jamie with her Gender-Euphoric Musical R&D which is taking place in Sheffield next month with a writers room full of next-level talent attached to it. Lauren is currently in R&D with Anansi, running workshops for women of colour in Derby and making work around the Anansi Spider Story

We’ve got an archive full of gold that we’d love to share, and we’ll be hosting watch along events so we can enjoy them together. You’ll get to hear more about the process behind the shows and hear from the creatives involved talking candidly about their experiences. We’re probably not as candid as we should be in theatre, so let’s have those conversations, let’s get into it. The messy, joyous road we take to make a show.

As part of our celebrations, there will be a brand new podcast hosted by Core Artist, CEO and co-founder J Spooner, talking about the journey Unlimited have had over the past quarter of a century with the people who made it happen – artists, producers, general managers, everyone who we’ve had the privilege of working with.

In the spirit of Unlimited, we want to help the next generation of theatre makers, and so as a parting gift, we’ll be making all of our business resources open source, so if you’re looking for an environmental policy or anti-racist policy for your company, you can take ours and make it your own. We’ll include as much as we can, like our onboarding form for new employees which centres support and wellbeing. As someone who filled that in less than 18 months ago, it’s amazing to feel so heard and supported when you’re starting a new role. So if you’re a group of artists with an ambition to set up a company, we can at least help you with a bit of the admin to give you a head start.

We will no doubt have more announcements to come, but these are the things we’re committed to doing right now. It’s going to be fun celebrating everything that Unlimited have achieved, and sharing as much as possible with you along the way.

Unlimited always has and always will be the people involved. This is a celebration of the people, the art and the heart of Unlimited. 

Welcome to the final shows. We hope you can join us.

Ten smiling people having a lovely time - all members of the arts company Unlimited Theatre