Lighting up young peoples’ faces

Photo: Lighting up young peoples’ faces

DIY goes into schools and lights up peoples’ faces”

This year’s UK Disability History Month (UKDHM) runs from 16th November to 16th December and the focus is ‘Disability Childhood and Youth’. This offers a great opportunity for DIY to highlight the cultural education work we have been doing this term and to spotlight some of the fantastic work being created by the children and young people we’ve been working with.

When we go into schools we put a smile on the children’s faces because they express their feelings through drama. If we didn’t have the education work we do, like going into schools, then they wouldn’t have the experience and it wouldn’t put the smiles on the children’s’ faces”
DIY Gamechanger Amy

DIY’s cultural education work opens up new opportunities to children and young people and enables them to express themselves in a variety of creative ways. Our work makes a positive difference in many ways, including:

  • Increasing access to creative opportunities.
  • Improving health and well-being.
  • Developing leadership skills.
  • Developing creative and essential skills.
  • Supporting young people towards the workplace.


photo: two people are sitting on the other side of a table. One is playing a flute and has a visitors badge on. The other is a young man. He is a bit hunched up but seems to be happy. There is an assortment of coloured paper on the table and he has picked up a piece of green tissue paper and is looking at it.

During the Autumn term 2023, DIY has been running weekly sessions with students at Piper Hill, Chatsworth Futures and Manchester Hospital School.

At Piper Hill Post 16 College, Gamechangers Charlotte and Adam have been working with Mary and Jen to deliver the project.

I’m looking forward to them passing the Arts Award and actually telling them that they’ve passed. Just to see what their faces and reactions are.”
Gamechanger Charlotte

The DIY team worked with 11 learners towards their Bronze Arts Award. Students learnt new games and making puppets. These were created after exploring the theme of environment inspired by DIY’s current show ‘Hanging by a Thread.’ We also worked with percussion instruments to animate short scenes with their bird puppets.

The group created reviews of DIY’s ‘Circus Tricks’ animation films and have been leading their own activities. Some led drama games and others chose to lead songs – it has been really great watching them develop their leadership skills.

It has been really good working with this group. They are lovely and I am getting lots of experience to put on my CV. They really liked watching ‘Circus Tricks’ and I think the tiger was their favourite character.”
Gamechanger Adam

I think going into schools is important because you can learn different skills and different experiences with different schools we work with. Most drama companies don’t work with people with PMLD so they won’t have the experiences we do. We’re a learning disability team. It doesn’t matter what disability you have – whether you have a learning disability or you’re in a wheelchair or you have Autism. You’re still a person with a voice.”
Gamechanger Charlotte

At Chatsworth Futures DIY has been running weekly workshops on Thursday mornings with two groups of post-19 learners with learning disabilities. DIY Leader Chloe, who is also a student at Chatsworth Futures, has been working with Jen and Jade. Together they led sessions which explored the themes of all about me, health and wellbeing, with students. In one group there was a focus on using drama to explore daily routine and keeping safe. In another group students explored the themes through sensory drama.

I would give me a 10 out of 10. I think I was amazing”
Gamechanger Chloe

photo: 2 middle aged women are sitting facing the camera. One is sitting on a chair the other in a wheelchair. They look like they are happy and talking to the person behind the camera. In the forefront there is something made up of paper or plastic floweres in pinks and purples with a string of orange lights accross it.

At Manchester Hospital School DIY worked with groups of young people at the Leo Kelly Centre and Galaxy House. The project team included Sophie, Elizabeth, and Sue, together with Gamechangers Cathy and Anna.

The aims of the project at Manchester Hospital School were to input to their ‘Preparation for Adult Life’ Curriculum. We aimed to do this through the following strands:

  • Developing a project that brought together pupils from Leo Kelly and Galaxy House.
  • Introducing DIY’s sensory theatre work as an example of an area of professional creative practice.
  • Introducing different practitioners and roles within the creative industries – including a visit to The Lowry.
  • Developing essential skills such as communicating with & working with new people.

I’ve been filming with Cathy Cam. I had Cathy Cam on my chair and I was filming the students. And then I went in next door and filmed the singing. I got it all on my Cathy Cam. It went well. I hope I go back there again and do something different”

The process started with DIY sharing how we work in sensory theatre. Pupils at Leo Kelly & Galaxy House were then invited to create their own planets in whatever way they chose – using making, drama, music and creative writing. Pupils at Leo Kelly introduced their planets to DIY performers Anna & Cathy and during the final two weeks of the project, students in both settings worked with film maker Hilary Easter Jones to create a film that brings together making, drama, music and creative writing. Some pupils filmed, whilst others directed the filming.

photo: there is a black piece of paper with colourful stars and silver and gold spirals across it. There are also 2 round pieces of white paper. One has a picture of a bright pink building with lots of windows and a big door. The other has a pink spiral from the middle to the edge with lots of words going above this. The words are difficult to read in the picture as they go round and round and half are upside down "my planet is pink. there is a pink palace. it smells like roses. it is peachy and peaceful. It sounds quiet. if feels nice. on my planet there are pink miniature pigs. They wear tutus and tiaras. There are pink flowers. Everything on my planet is pink."

We asked Ruth from Manchester Hospital School if it was important that leaders with learning disabilities were involved in the project. She replied:

It is important we give our young people experiences that they would not get in their personal life which include celebrating diversity and tolerance.”
Ruth Sheard-Pearson, Assistant Headteacher, Manchester Hospital School


Developing the DIY Leading Edge Team

Alongside our Cultural Education programme, DIY has been running a Leading Edge Mentoring programme. The aim of this has been to develop DIY’s education and outreach programme by supporting some of our existing staff team, Georgia, Jade, Elizabeth, and Mary to become more confident in their schools work. It has been led by Associate Artist and Mentor Jenny Harris, DIY’s Creative Director, Sue and DIY’s Gamechangers Coordinator, Molly.

The programme was launched at an online session in September 2023, when the stages of the programme were outlined and we discussed the features of a DIY Cultural Education project. Teams of mentors and mentees were established and these teams agreed when they would plan and feed back.

Next, initial sessions were held with school partners. These focussed on trying things out and getting to know learners and staff members. Mentor and mentees worked together to plan and deliver these initial sessions.

Alongside these developments, at Gamechangers sessions, DIY Leaders were introduced to the projects at a kind of ‘job fair’. DIY Leaders decided which settings they wanted to work in – based on their interests and availability.

DIY Leaders started to meet with DIY mentees to find out more about the projects and to plan sessions. These meetings took place at Gamechangers sessions or at Core Company.

Projects continued, with mentees & DIY Leaders working in partnership. The mentor stepped back from delivery but continued in a supportive role.

In November the education team met again on Zoom to discuss how the Mentoring Programme was progressing.

The focus was a set of questions:

  • Work in schools – what has worked best? what has been challenging? what have we learnt?
  • Mentoring – what has worked best? what has been challenging? what have we learnt?
    • What would make the mentoring relationship stronger?
    • What would you like in place once the mentoring programme comes to an end?

Some of the things artists said were:

“Knowing that someone’s there in the session first and foremost. I think having time to chat about how the sessions have gone and I feel like I’ve learnt a lot of things but it feels like it’s been a collaborative dynamic as well which has been really nice.”

“I think that’s been very well paced because I’ve not had a point when I’ve felt out of my depth or “I can’t handle this”. I’ve learnt not always talking but mostly by watching how to solve problems. I think the main thing I learnt was how to not go to the most complicated version of an exercise – to start simple and then build.”

“it has been great building the relationship with Jen and her bringing her expertise but also Jen’s been really honest that she’s always learning – we’re both learning new things. It feels very much like we’re on a journey together”



We are very grateful for the support of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for DIY’s Gamechangers programme and to The National Lottery Community Fund for their support for our ambitious Leading Edge Programme.


logos of the funders who are supporting this work; the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and The National Lottery Community Fund