Did you see us?

Photo: Did you see us?

There were plenty of opportunities to see DIY during Learning Disability Week – we were even on the TV!

The theme for the 2024 UK Learning Disability Week was “Do You See Me?” It aimed to highlight the importance that people with a learning disability are “seen, heard and valued.”

DIY chose to celebrate our 30th Birthday with 2 public events during the week. Both our events asked “Do You See Us?” But first we warmed up with 2 other events:

Did you see us at… We Invented the Weekend festival?

On Sunday June 16th we were at Salford’s We Invented the Weekend festival. Here we gave two performances of our multi-sensory performance Hanging by a Thread. It was great to try out our show in a festival setting and to see how well young audiences and families engaged with the piece.

photo: Two women are standing in a room. They are both white and are wearing bright red DIY t-shirts. They have big smiles and are holding up flowers made from different coloured paper. Behind them we can see a large room with tables and some other people.

Did you see us at… the Big Health Day?

Monday found us at the Big Health Day at Buile Hill Park. This was a day for people with learning disabilities, all about looking after our health.

Here DIY artists Nerissa and Libby worked with participants to make magazine flowers as a creative way of exploring the importance of connecting with nature to our health and well-being.

Did you see us at… our first 30th Birthday Celebration Event “Exploring Our Past, Shaping Our Futures” ?

On Tuesday 18th June DIY hosted our “Exploring Our Past, Shaping Our Futures” event at the New Adelphi, University of Salford. After a welcome song by company members, the event was opened by our inspiring patron Jenny Sealey OBE, Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre Company.

Jenny provided a really important perspective on the history and development of DIY as an organisation and on Disability Arts more generally when she described how it takes 30 years to establish a theatre company:

photo: Looking into a large room with black curtains covering the walls. A woman stands alone in front of a seated audience. She is an older white woman wearing a brightly coloured geometric patterened dress. Her arms are half raised gesturing, palms up.

“The first decade is to decide what needs to be done, who the audience are, what the challenges are, what’s the attitude of the world out there? what do we care about? but most importantly who are the people that need to be involved? So in that first ten years every single one of you needs to be part of this adventure and venture that is DIY…

The second decade that’s a bit more messy. That’s when you start thinking about what are the stories you want to tell? how are you going to tell them? who are they for? why is it important? You make something it doesn’t quite work it doesn’t matter – you try another way. Experiment, start collaborating but never ever, ever lose sight of the reason why you are here. Because you have a right. In that second decade it’s about building confidence. Acting’s not easy, so it’s about building that confidence and that resilience….

Now the third decade you know exactly who you are don’t you? You’re confident, you take risks. You don’t mind stuff being messy, you just crack on and work through that mess- find out the end result. And in our world of disabled people, people sometimes think we have to apologise for who we are. No, that’s what that third decade’s about. We’re really having that confidence to never, ever apologise for who we are.” 


The event included the launch of our brand new film “Exploring our Past, Shaping our Futures” which we created with Hilary Easter Jones. The film shows lots of the different elements of DIY’s work including performances, leadership, cultural education and advocacy.

You can watch our new film right now by clicking the image above:


The rest of the afternoon was packed. We shared some of our other films, some songs and performances from our shows. We even had audience members engaging with sensory activities from our multi-sensory performances.

photo: we are looking over a womans shoulder. She is brightly dressed with blond hair pinned up. She is holding what looks like silver tinsel above her head, In front of that is a silver sparkling net which is higher at the sides than in the middle. Looking on is a woman wearing a strange white helmet - she is smiling and holding her hands up towards the woman with the tinsel.

photo: we are looking over the shoulders of people sitting in a darkened room They are looking at a stage where people in red t-shirts are standing and signing with their hands

The audience were great and feedback to the event was very positive:

It was well rounded and gave a very detailed overview of DIY and the work they do”

The pace was very engaging and everyone was so welcoming. It’s been a pleasure to see all of the fantastic work that DIY does and I can’t wait to see more!”

The performances were really encouraging! You’ve involved the audience and we could feel the meaning of each performance”

The whole show was fantastic. A truly memorable performance linking past, present and the future”

Loved the films. The lockdown film made me cry – in a good way”

All of this and we were on the telly too!

photo: people in red t-shirts are sitting along the edge of a room. In the foreground a young person is kneeling down and holding a big camera on their shoulder. They are filming. A young woman with long blond hair is holding a mike towards an older man in glasses.

Did you see us… on the telly?

The week before Learning Disability week we were visited by the BBC. Reporter Molly Brewer came to see us rehearsing for our birthday events. She came with lots of questions and a camera person to chat with core company members about their experiences of DIY and what’s important to us. They filmed some of the rehearsal and Molly even joined in when we were singing our astronaut song.

On 18th June, the day of our first birthday event, DIY appeared three times on the BBC news – on North West Today at 1.30pm, North West Tonight at 7pm and then again on the Late News in the evening. The recording was also available as an online piece on the BBC North West website.


Did you see us at… our second 30th Birthday Celebration Event “Close Knit” ?

On Friday 21st June DIY hosted  our Close Knit event at our base, The Angel Centre. Upstairs in the Ballroom, we invited audience members into an exhibition which showed images from our past looking across to images of our present.

We unveiled two very special exhibitions that had been created for our 30th Birthday; Close Knit – a textiles piece that DIY members have created with visual artist Claire Hignett and 30 Portraits – a photography exhibition created with photographer Audrey Albert.

DIY's logo and "Celebrating 30 years 1994-2024" and "Close Knit" large and red. Underneath it says "A Celebration of DIY's 30th Birthday in textiles and photographs.

Click the image to see the Programme for this event.


The Close Knit Textile

The different parts of the Close Knit piece were carried into the space by DIY leaders. Audience members were invited to touch and play with the pieces before they were placed on the floor. The centre of the textile piece is split into five sections that reflect four DIY shows – Following the Thread, Give me Space, Following Patient 36 and Hanging by a Thread – and DIY’s activities during Lockdown. A border of triangles created by DIY’s Thursday Visual Arts Group forms a series of directional arrows around the piece. A series of stuffed textile shapes standing on the mat represent members of the company. They are part of the “game” which is to be invented by DIY members.

photo: we are looking at a lot of people who are mainly sitting in rows facing left. In front of them we can see an older white woman with short dark hair. She is holding the edge of what looks like a blue quilt. Some of the people in the front row are holding the other edge. We can also see that other people are holding and passing textile cubes and larger coloured textile shapes.

photo: we are looking at a group of people in blue and red t-shirts standing around a colourful fabric quilt. Ontop of this are soft shaps made from different coloured fabric.

30 Portraits

‘30 Portraits’ is a photography exhibition created by photographer Audrey Albert working with DIY Artists and Leaders. Audrey held a photo shoot with each member to create their individual portrait which represents their unique personality and passions. The photographs were covered in long silks as the event started. Long term member Cathy dramatically orchestrated DIY leaders to “Reveal” the portraits by pulling away the silks.

photo: of an older white haired woman holding up a large photo of herself. In the image she seems to be holding up white discs and there is blurring to indicate fast movement.

Throughout the afternoon artist Beka Haigh created a Live illustration of the event. Beka captured discussions and ideas using drawings rather than words. She created a fantastic visual representation of the day.

photo: on the right is a woman dressed in black with long dark curly hair. She holds a pen and is drawing on a large sheet of paper. It looks like she has nearly finished the picture - it is a cartoon style image which includes figures with red and blue t-shirts with 'DIY' on, a huge multi-layered cake, bunting and the words 'Celebrating 30 years'

Another great audience and another really enthusiastic response:

Loved the films. Loved the feeling in the room – the enthusiasm”

I loved the exhibition of pictures from past DIY shows and learning more about how DIY was formed. I also enjoyed the Q & A and hearing more from the members about what DIY means to them!”

I loved the film from the past, the textiles and the making activity”

Hope its functions and lifestyle will go on many years into the future with such grace and dignity to its lovely participants”

Looking to the Future

During our birthday celebrations DIY has been reflecting on the past 30 years, thinking about the people and projects that have been part of that past. But we have also been very much thinking about the future of the company. At both events, we invited audience members to think about the future of DIY and what they would like to see happen. At the first event, Cartwheel Arts invited audience members to decorate arrows and hang them on our evaluation tree. Some ideas for the future included:

lots more of the same – great drama for more people!!!”

Greater recognition as the incredible sector leading organisation that you are”

I hope new horizons where everyone could be included and we could hear voices of: HERE I AM!”

More, more, more!”


At the Close Knit event, Nerissa Cargill Thompson invited our visitors to explore what DIY needs to grow by creating flowers using recycled materials. Some of the ideas that were  offered included:

More people showing if you have a disability you can do drama”

Telling people about DIY”

Share more case studies DIY”

Focus on the wellbeing of members regardless of practicalities”

The sky’s the limit THINK BIG DIY!

close up photo of what look like flowers made out of pieces of red paper. The centre of each flower has hand written words: "The skies the limit. Think Big DIY!!!" and "more people showing is you have a disability you can do Drama"

As we pack away the birthday celebrations and look ahead to the coming months and the coming years, the words of our patron Jenny Sealey are a reminder of what is important:

Whoever gets in at the next election, we have a huge responsibility to make sure the arts are not swept under the carpet. We have a huge responsibility to use the art that we make as a campaign for the arts. This is your 4th decade. This is the decade of noise, of becoming more gobby…. Graeae, DIY we are grassroots companies. We’re proud of that. We go from the bottom up. We talk very openly about our lived experiences we make art from different perspectives. So please DIY remember you are vital, you’re an important company taking different stories different risks knocking on those doors.  We need to keep finding more centre stages to be on, finding and exploring lots of different platforms. You do film, you do all of this, but you might have to do more. Because I have this horrible fear that if we’re not making a loud noise people forget about us. Some of it we can do quietly, but some of it loud!”


DIY have been creating accessible and thought-provoking theatre and educational projects since 1994. In 2024 we celebrate 30 years of DIY Theatre Company!

Our vision is for a world where performers and arts leaders with learning disabilities are valued as part of the rich diversity of our cultural sector and our society.


Thanks to our funders

Thanks to welcome birthday presents of funding we were able to work on three major projects: Close Knit our textiles project and Exploring our Past; Shaping our Futures our film and photography projects.

Exploring our Past; Shaping our Futures projects are being funded through the ‘Whose Art, Whose Culture Fund’ – Managed by Salford CVS on behalf of Salford City Council; monies from the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund via Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

logo strip; 'Greater Manchester, Doing Things Differently', 'Powered by Levelling Up', 'Salford City Council', 'Funded by UK Government', Salford CVS, Making a difference in Salford'.

The Close Knit sculpture project is being funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

logo of National Lottery Heritage Fund

We are very grateful for the support of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, The National Lottery Community Fund and Arts Council England for their support

Paul Hamlyn Foundation logo

The National Lottery Community Fund logo