Sue Austin

Multimedia, performance & installation artist


Sue Austin shows her installation at the ICCI 360 Conference:Time around Space

Fabric strips hanging from a rig with a ;large projection of the underwater wheelchair flying through the waters of the Red Sea

Sue's new 360 degree rig was shown as part of the ICCI 360 conference at Plymouth University. Sue & the Freewheeling team had produced 360 degree videos which where shown in the large ICCI Dome on Weymouth Beach as part of the Cultural Olympaid in 2012. Her current rig was developed in response to the challenge of making a more portable method of screening her 360 degree videos, which were shot by Trish Wheatley in Egypt.

Posted by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 21 June 2013

Last modified by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 11 February 2014

Freewheeling launches new fundraising campaign

Today Sue Austin and Freewheeling offers you the chance to become a key part of 'Creating the Spectacle!' with the launch of a new fundraising campaign to support the release of a further online film, and development of the Underwater Wheelchair.

The new chair will give other people the unique opportunity to fly the new model and feel the profound sense of joy and freedom that Sue experiences when she is underwater. Following a filming trip earlier in the year we are also looking to fund the editing and promotion of a new film which will show Sue performing the ultimate freedom and acrobatic nature which the chair affords her. 

A patent has been published for Sue's orginal design and we have had interest from hundreds of disabled and non-disabled people who would like to experience the underwater wheelchair.

We have had so many messages of support from people all over the world over the last year and now is your opportunity to show that support for this wonderful project and help it to go even further than we ever imagined. 

Our target is £25,000 with no donation too big or too small. Please give what you can to further our cause and help change preconceptions on a global scale.


If you wish to give money through an alternative method please contact 

Posted by Trish Wheatley, 21 June 2013

Last modified by Trish Wheatley, 21 June 2013

Sue is featured on ABC News after her TEDMED talk

Sue Austin is pictured on the left, with her interviewer sitting on the right behind a bright spotlight

Sue was invited to the ABC Studio in Washington to be interviewed for ABC World News. The programme took a while to be broadcast as various events in the US took center stage, but was finally aired last night.

Read about it on their Blog,

Posted by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 13 June 2013

Last modified by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 11 February 2014

'Finding Freedom' is shown as part of the ‘Tauchen, Faszination & Wagnis’ Exhibition at the Fire Museum in Austria

A view of The Fire-Brigade Museum from outside. A large glass wall reminiscant of the front of a fire station stands behind a large red 'M' shaped sculpture with a flame supporting a metal dish

Sue has been invited to exhibit her 'Finding Freedom' Video as part of the ‘Tauchen, Faszination & Wagnis’ Exhibition at the Fire-Brigade Museum, Groß St. Florian, Austria. The exhibition runs from June 11 - October 27 2013

Posted by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 11 June 2013

Last modified by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 14 February 2014

Sue Austin MA Show at Plymouth University

Fabric strips hang vertically from an octagonal rig. Video of the underwater wheelchair is projected onto the fabric and occasionally shards of light escape between the strips. These beams hit a projection screen and images of the Underwater wheelchair ap

Artist Sue Austin is previewing the latest development of her 360 degree installation at her MA Exhibition at Plymouth Universitys Studio Space from 11th to 18th July. This new rig now has fabric, rather than paper strips suspended from the frame, giving a different feel to the projected images. Shards of light escape between the panels and shoot across the floor, hitting the screen to projecting fleeting glances of the Underwater Wheelchair. It's an immersive and emotional experience!

Posted by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 11 June 2013

Last modified by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 12 February 2014

'Creating the Spectacle!' Video 'Finding Freedom' screened in Canada

A amn in a blue shirt is dancing in front of 3 silver bowls filled with water. As he dances he throws handfulls of water into the air which look like a small waves and bubbles.bubbles

Sue's video has been screened in Ottowa, Canada in conjunction with Propeller Dance at the Centrepoint Studio Theatre as part of their 'Aqueous' production from 31st May to 1st June 2013. The film was screened as members of the Propeller Dance Company created their Contemporary Dance interpretation on stage.

Posted by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 31 May 2013

Last modified by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 13 February 2014

'People Like You' exhibition moves to Poole Lighthouse

Two Soft white sculptures of tentacled beings by Gini sit each side of the 'People Like You' sign created for the exhibition. Two of Gini's artworks are displayed to the right of the sign

Sue's 360 degree installation and her 'Finding Freedom' & 'Finding the Flame' videos are featured alongside the work of Liz Crowe & Gini as the 'People Like You' Exhibition moves from Salisbury Arts Centre to Poole Lighthouse Gallery

Posted by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 4 May 2013

Last modified by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 13 February 2014


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British artist Sue Austin has been invited to give a presentation at TEDMED in Washington DC about her experiences of creating and flying the World’s first underwater wheelchair. The artwork received global attention when she used the underwater wheelchair in a series of choreographed acrobatic underwater events for ‘Creating the Spectacle!’, as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad Festival. During the talk Sue will be revealing how her practice has drawn on the commonalities between artistic process and scientific methodologies and how this can create ‘bridges’ to facilitate new understandings about diversity.

Initially commissioned by the Unlimited programme through Arts Council England, ‘Creating the Spectacle!’ is an ongoing series of live art, filmed and web based events. These present the self-propelled underwater wheelchair as it flies along mid-water in a “dramatic demonstration of the joy and freedom it brings”.

Through ‘Creating the Spectacle!’ Sue aims to use the surprising juxtaposition of an NHS wheelchair in an underwater environment to transform preconceptions, create positive empowering images and inspire people on a Global scale. Her You Tube videos have been viewed by over half a million internet users and her work has been seen by millions, after being featured by international media, who have been inspired by her unique vision and spirit, reporting repeatedly on the ongoing story.

After an intense period of activity for 2012 Sue and her team are working towards an exciting multifaceted future vision for ‘Creating the Spectacle!’ through her not-for-profit organisation Freewheeling. This aims to create new ‘portals’ into the work, including:
- a national and international tour of live art events in large tank aquaria
- a national and international tour of live art events in swimming pools with part of the audience underwater
- a film for planetariums
- a commercially available model of the underwater wheelchair
- a touring exhibition of films and documentation showing project evolution, and
- a project in partnership with Plymouth University to develop an academic frame for the value of art created from diverse perspectives as well as researching innovative ways to open up access to creative education and employment.

Sue said:
“I’m thrilled that lots of people have been inspired by the project, many of them telling me how seeing the wheelchair underwater has made them want to try it too. They’re realising that it’s actually extending the boundaries for all of us. We’ve created something new and exciting and it’s really getting people talking. As a result, they’re realising that viewing the world from a different perspective inspires them to be free to explore new experiences.”

Debate about the underwater wheelchair is part of the project. It is Sue’s intention that all those who join the conversation become part of the artwork too. As more underwater footage is released, the worldwide conversations are continuing to grow. Sue’s use of ground breaking new technology continues, as she has just returned from a filming trip to the Camel Dive Centre in Egypt where she was experimenting with 3D and 360 degree footage to extend the project further. Patents for the underwater wheelchair have been published and Freewheeling is currently seeking sponsorship in order to develop a production model. With appropriate training this become a unique activity that will enable others to experience the sense of joy and freedom that she feels when flying through the ocean.

Volunteers and partners all supported Sue in creating an unforgettable experience for the viewers and participants, and the project continues to constantly evolve beyond its original remit. Guy Brasher started working on the project after catching a glimpse of the video on Sue’s laptop in Plymouth University café where she is a Masters student. Guy said:
“After some time I realised that when I saw someone in a wheelchair, I didn’t think about what they were unable to do. I didn’t even wonder what they were able to do. I was wondering what they were able to do that I couldn’t.

“Sometimes art is challenging. The problem with challenging is that lots of people don’t want to be challenged, thank you very much, and are perfectly happy with their preconceptions and prejudices, oblivious of any persuasion. More people, however, like to be befriended, charmed, beguiled and seduced. This is what happened to me after seeing Sue’s achievement. She makes wheelchairs aspirational for the able bodied.”

Posted by Trish Wheatley, 16 April 2013

Last modified by Trish Wheatley, 16 April 2013

Sue Austin speaks at TEDMED

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Sue has been invited to speak in Washington DC at the TEDMED conference on Thursday 18 April 2013. We will be making updates as news arises. Keep in touch and up to date through Facebook and on Twitter @Freewheeling4 

For now, check out the profile page on here

Posted by Trish Wheatley, 13 April 2013

Last modified by Trish Wheatley, 15 April 2013

People Like You

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In March and April 2013 Sue Austin's 'Creating the Spectacle!' was featured alongside the work of two other female disabled artists, Gini and Liz Crow at an exhibition called People Like You at Salsibury Arts Centre in Wiltshire, UK. 

Read about what happened here:

Posted by Trish Wheatley, 13 April 2013

Last modified by Trish Wheatley, 15 April 2013

KRO Dutch TV, follow Sue on her filming trip to Camel Diving in Sharm El Sheik

Sue sit in her motorised wheelchair in tha atrium of Vamel Diving, She is talking to KRO Host Sander on the left and being filmed by a cameraman on the left

Dutch TV KRO were so eager for their host Sander to interview Sue and swim with the Underwater Wheelchair that they dropped everything and sped out to meet the Freewheeling Team at Camel Diving in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. they spent a day filming and here are the results. The first section is in Dutch, and then it moves into English

Posted by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 13 April 2013

Last modified by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 14 February 2014

New blogs from Egypt 4

In March a reduced number of the Freewheeling team took a fourth trip out to Camel Dive Club and Hotel in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt for an experimental filming trip with underwater videograper Dan Burton. We started to try out filming the underwater wheelchair in 3D as well as seeking new locations and refining the 360 footage. 

It was fantastic to be back with our international team members and get back into the flow of creating new work. As part of the trip Co-producer Trish Wheatley blogged about the experience on Disabiilty Arts Online. 

Posted by Trish Wheatley, 12 April 2013

Last modified by Trish Wheatley, 15 April 2013

Freewheeling: Traces from a Wheelchair 'White Lines' Performance & Installation in Salisbury City Centre

In the distance Sue Austin is using her paint adapted wheelchair to create white lines which can been seen weaving across the pavement. there are assistants laying plastic in order to stop the paint from marking the road

Sue Austin used her adapted 'Paint Wheelchair' to create a performance & installation in Salisbury City Centre as part of the 'People Like You' exhibition at Salisbury Arts Centre. The white lines that where created, as representations of the joy and freedom of using the wheelchair caused a bit of a stir, and were reported in the local media and on BBC South. The lines however where only temporary as the paint was water based, and started to dissolve in the rain!

Posted by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 10 April 2013

Last modified by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 14 February 2014

Underwater wheelchair UK Patent application published

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We are very pleased to announce that the UK Patent application for the underwater wheelchair and it's various adaptations has now been published. Dr. Brian Wybrow of Patently Creative led the application process on our behalf and we are very grateful for his dilligent and meticulous work to make this possible.

Freewheeling is looking to develop a commercial model that would be available for purchase or hire from dive centres for disabled and non-disabled divers. Many people have expressed a real and definite interest in this and, as another extension of Sue's very succesful 'Creating the Spectacle!', the commercial model of the underwater wheelchair will be an additional 'portal' through which people also become part of the artwork.

Without funds to work on a new model it will be impossible to make it available for recreational use. If you are interested in supporting this enterprise please contact us via email 

Click here to view the full application.

Posted by Trish Wheatley, 15 March 2013

Last modified by Trish Wheatley, 15 April 2013

'Finding Freedom & 'Finding the Flame' screened in Qatar

Sue is in the Underwater Wheelchair flying through the Red Sea. Her arms are stretched out to each side, her back is arched and her hair is flowing in the water. She is wearing a floral dress

Underwater Wheelchair videos 'Finding Freedom' & 'Finding the Flame' are screened in Doha, Qatar in conjunction with the British Council.

Posted by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 14 March 2013

Last modified by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 12 February 2014

Interest grows after Sue speaks at TEDxWomen

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Since Sue gave a talk about 'Creating the Spectacle!' at TEDxWomen in Washington DC last month the Freewheeling team has received many messages of support, interest and additional invitations from all over the world. 

Posted by Trish Wheatley, 15 January 2013

Last modified by Ben Crossman, 16 April 2013

Sue Austins new 360 degree Installation at 'People Like You' Salisbury Arts Centre

The 360 degree installation is an octagonal framework with strips of fabtic hanging vertically to the floor. Images of Sue flying the Underwater wheelchair are projected onto the strips and can be viewed from both inside and outside the installation

Sue's groundbreaking new 360 degree installation is previewed at Salisbury Art Centre as part of the collaborative exhibition 'People Like You'.

Posted by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 10 January 2013

Last modified by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 11 February 2014

Sue is featured on BBC's The Culture Show 'Review of the Best Art of the Year 2012'

Sue is flying the underwater wheelchair in the Red Sea, her arms are outstretched and she is passing a large coral outcrop on the right

We were thrilled that the underwater wheelchair was featured as part of the BBC Culture Shows’ ‘Review of the Best Art of the Year 2012’ with Andrew Graham-Dixon. Although the link to the programme has now expired, you can watch from 23.34 to 20.11 of the Total Permission film to see how Sue was featured:  Total Permission was the final film in the Push Me Collection that documented 12 of the 29 Unlimited Commissions in Summer 2012.

Posted by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 7 December 2012

Last modified by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 13 February 2014

'Creating the Spectacle!' Online - Part 2 - Finding the Flame

Woman in wheelchair underwater carrying Paralympic torch

Our second video has just been released for the online series of films as part of 'Creating the Spectacle!' and is not available on any video sharing sites. Watch it here now!

Posted by Trish Wheatley, 8 September 2012

Last modified by Trish Wheatley, 8 September 2012

Deutsche Welle German TV cover the Osprey Pool performances

Sue is on the surface of the pool creating a graceful balletic style of movement. Her hair is flowing and behind her there is a little girl wearing swimming goggles, who participated with Sue in the performance


Deutsche Welle TV also created a short documentary piece as part of their Olympic coverage. Great underwater footage & interviews with the audience including those who participated as the underwater audience after learning to dive.

Posted by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 6 September 2012

Last modified by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 14 February 2014

Keeping the show on the road

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Phil Stewart of Hands On Clinic in Braunton, Devon provides an insight into the essential treatments that enable Freewheeling's Artistic Director Sue Austin to deal with the physical demands of her artistic practice. 

The most important bit of equipment behind this amazing project is Sue, she is the driving force, its’ life-blood and the chair’s pilot.

My goal is simple “to create a space that allows Sue’s body to fix itself ” this we try to achieve by the use of the floatation room and by me doing treatments on her.

First of all the “Floatation Room”, the ultimate environment for healing, these places are designed to hold the body in the most relaxed state possible allowing the bodies own innate healing to take over. The body floats in 10” of water that is maintained at 35.5 degrees C. This is body temperature without muscular activity. Giving an illusion to your nervous system, it can’t tell where the water starts and your body stops. The nervous system also takes a break from the sensations of pressure that a bath, bed or wheelchair will put on it when sitting or lying. In the float room there is no pressure on your back, head or buttocks you are just floating as if un-affected by gravity.
This allows all the bodies systems to turn off creating a space for restorative processes to take place, in other words allowing the body to heal itself on all levels, mental, physical and emotional issues are released, you always get what you need in the float room!

The next step for Sue is the wobbly walk to my treatment couch. The way I work for me is simple, the theory is simple: to help the body fix itself. I see the body as one unit that works together, muscles, bones, nerves, fascia and the subtle energy can’t be divided and all need to be worked on to create balance and healing. So I use a mixture of techniques, based around massage using manipulations and mobilizations on the bones, subtle release on the fascia healing on the energy systems. I also channel healing into the energetic blocks in the body that cause muscular knots, spinal subluxations, and other soft tissue damage. I am there with Sue to encourage her body to heal itself to keep her energy levels up, to increase her energy levels whilst she is working all hours on this project, she is a wonderful woman and inspiration to know, and I am just glad that we at the clinic can help her in some small way!

Phil Stewart

Posted by Trish Wheatley, 2 September 2012

Last modified by Trish Wheatley, 16 April 2013

Freewheeling goes global!

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We've had a fantastic response from press all over the world about 'Creating the Spectacle!' and the pool performances. Our final performance tonight at Osprey Leisure Centre, Portland Dorset is now sold out to poolside tickets. We still have some Underwater Gold tickets and we are now opening it up to people who wish to snorkel for £15 per ticket. Please call 07580 170223 (phone or text) to book.

We will be releasing more films online and there will be a special projection at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the Southbank Centre's Unlimited Festival which opens today until 10th September.

Check out our Facebook page for links to some of the coverage we've had over the last couple of days. 


Posted by Trish Wheatley, 31 August 2012

Last modified by Trish Wheatley, 16 April 2013

BBC Technology previews the Underwater Wheelchair ahead of the Paralympics

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BBC Technology reporter Zoe Kleinman writes about the Underwater Wheelchair & its development ahead of its first performances to a poolside and underwater audience at Osprey Leisure Centre, Portland as part of the Cultural Olympiad

Posted by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 27 August 2012

Last modified by Andrea Frankham-Hughes, 13 February 2014