Looking Back: Facing Forward, learning from history to help us in the future

Photo: Looking Back: Facing Forward, learning from history to help us in the future

Looking Back: Facing Forward

During Spring 2022 DIY’s core company has been dividing its time between The Angel Centre and Peel Park as we worked on our Heritage Lottery Funded Looking Back: Facing Forward project.

We wanted to explore what we could learn from history to help us in the future: We have been looking at the importance of public green spaces in the past and in the present, especially in the light of the climate emergency.

The project is part of new Environmental Strategy for the company. DIY is committed to minimising our negative, and increasing our positive, impacts on environmental sustainability. Through projects like Looking Back: Facing Forward and our recent “Magic Tree” project with DIY BUDS, we are keen to encourage members, stakeholders and all those involved in DIY to engage with environmental issues. We want to raise environmental awareness and inspire action for positive environmental change through performances, workshops, training and digital resources.

Doing projects that connect people with nature are important because when people feel connected to nature and spend time looking at and experiencing it, they are more likely to care about nature and to want to protect the environment more.

Background and Inspiration for Looking Back: Facing Forward

Looking Back: Facing Forward builds on two previous projects connected with Peel Park. Our Inside: Outside Project and the work we did for the Peel Park Sculpture Trail both took place during 2021 as we began to emerge from Covid-19 lockdowns.

Making the Soundscape for Peel Park Sculpture Trail

photos of the sculptures in Peel Park

During Spring 2021, whilst still unable to meet face to face, DIY members were invited by Peel Park Ranger Jessica Britch to become involved in creating a soundscape using the sculptures in Peel Park as inspiration. DIY worked with Salford Rangers Team and sound artist Dan Steele. Using sculptures in Peel Park as inspiration, members researched, created and recorded a series of poems which now make up the Peel Park Sculpture Trail: https://www.salford.gov.uk/sculpturetrail.

As Covid 19 restrictions meant participants were not able to visit the park, we worked from photographs that became the main stimulus for our storytelling. We developed skills to help us continue to create including how to best record voices using iPads and learning how to send recordings via email.

Safely connecting again – Inside: Outside

Our Inside: Outside project - working with Global Grooves in Peel Park, Salford

During Summer 2021 we developed our Outside: Inside project

The sculpture trail project acted as the perfect “transition” to in person activities. Not only did it help us to look forward to being outside together, but it also provided a familiar space when we could start to re-connect safely once again. In June 2021, when we hesitantly started introducing some face-to-face activities, we met in Peel Park as a safe space to come together after a long period of separation. We held four workshops with outdoor arts specialists as a way of re-introducing in-person activity; reconnecting and re-engaging in a fun way whilst still learning new skills and approaches. As one member said:

I’ve enjoyed working at Peel Park. I like working at Peel Park because you can work outdoors – meeting up with your friends again and not being on Zoom.”

2022 – New Year, New Project

People with learning disabilities have a voice and can take action – how can we use our voices and actions to make a difference?

Inspired by the work we did in 2021, our members wanted to learn more about Peel Park and its history and to further develop our outdoor performance skills. This combined with our concerns about the climate and future of the planet.

It’s really good to learn about different history subjects because it opens up your mind”

I want to learn all the facts about the park and pass them on to a younger generation”

Looking Back: Facing Forward is an exploratory performance piece based on our research into the social history of Salford and of Peel Park and utilising our expanding outdoor performance skills. It is a promenade theatre piece which incorporates live music, puppets and installations to share what we have learned and our concerns.

Looking Back:

photo of Martin exploring documents at the Working Class History Museum

We explored historical documents at the Working Class History Museum

Looking Back: members have been learning more about Salford’s industrial past. We have been finding out about Salford’s Social History including a research trip to the wonderful Working Class Movement Library.

What was it like to live and work in Salford factories and why was the Peoples’ Park so important to Salford residents?

What happened to the people who didn’t fit the “norm” of the “productive” individual and couldn’t work in the factories?

Facing Forward:

Photo of our time with the Environmental Sustainability Team at University of Salford - DIY members are standing infront of a green wall full of plants

Visiting the Environmental Sustainability Team at University of Salford

How are our connections with Peel Park and other green spaces important for the future of people, place and planet?

Facing Forward: Members wanted to explore what we could learn from history to help us in the future – especially in the light of the climate emergency – and the importance of public green spaces in the past and in the present.

For example, in March, we spent a really interesting morning finding out about how Salford is tackling the climate emergency. Many thanks to Marta from the Environmental Sustainability Team at University of Salford who took us on a fascinating tour of the campus. We saw the living walls and found out about the underground watering system and what the university is doing to offer habitats to hedgehogs. Thanks also to Jess at Salford Rangers who explained how Peel Park has been introducing more sustainable planting and took us to see the rain gardens just over the road from our base at the Angel Centre.

Looking Back: practicing doing drama in Peel Park

DIY actors will be sharing some of the work we have created as part of our Looking Back: Facing Forward project at a “Rediscovering Salford” event. This is taking place in and around Peel Park on Thursday 16th June. Rediscovering Salford has been a major initiative led by Salford’s Culture and Place Initiative, to celebrate Salford’s green spaces, parks and gardens through exhibitions, public art and events across the city.


Click to view our Environmental Sustainability Policy  (Easy Read version) to find out more about our Environmental Strategy.


Our thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England and Salford City Council for their support for this work.

Funders logos for our Looking Back: Facing Forward project this spring are The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England and Salford City Council.