Following Patient 36

Photo: Following Patient 36

The story so far:

Following Patient 36 looks at Learning Disability History. We have found this a very challenging process and some of the things we have been exploring have been difficult to talk about and to make work about.

It is important that this is a creative project – a story in words and images, based on what we’ve been finding out. Our show will be a work of fiction, based on our research,  not a documentary and is not directly related to the personal experiences of any individual.


In 2018 DIY members took part in performances of Madhouse Re: Exit with Access all Areas Theatre Company, as part of The Lowry’s Week 53 event. DIY actors played a character called Patient 36 who guided audiences around the fictional Paradise Fields institution in a show which took a critical and challenging look at Learning Disability History. See more about DIY and MADHOUSE re:exit here

DIY members wanted to learn more about Learning Disability History. First we started to find out a lot more about what it was like in the institutions. Then we started to wonder what happened here in Salford. What happened when people came out of the institutions, as part of Care in the Community? That was how the idea for our Following Patient 36 Project was born.


We have been looking at websites and finding pictures and personal stories. 

DIY held interviews with local people who have stories to tell about Care in the Community in Salford. Company members agreed the questions beforehand and then took turns to ask people questions about their experiences. 

So far, we have found it difficult to speak with people who actually lived in an institution. They find it very hard to talk about distressing past experiences. We soon realised that it is sometimes what is not said, when there is silence, that is as important as what is said.

These interviews were recorded and we intend to include some in the show.

photo from sharing event - scene showing how we interviewed people who had lived in an institution

Freedom & Control 

Earlier this year we did some movement sessions with Susan Guest, which helped us think about ‘freedom’ and ‘control’. This has helped us to use physical theatre to explore these ideas further. So far, we’ve been concentrating on inside the institution. We think it’s important to explore some of what it feels like to be in an institution, in order to start to understand what it feels like to come out of an institution. 

photo of DIY using dance to think about what it was like to live in an institution

Choice & Identity

We have been working with designer Nerissa Cargill Thompson to design our costumes for the show. We drew images of the colours and fabrics people might wear inside and outside the institution, based on our research. This brought us to thinking a lot about choice and identity.

We found out that inside the institution people had no clothes of their own. Everyone had to share everything, including clothes. Nowadays we have the choice to choose our own clothes – we all like different styles and colours and we all like doing different things. 

Photo from Following Patient 36 - showing patients costumes

When the characters in the performance leave the institution they are able to decide what they want to wear. We have chosen our own logos for the T-shirts they will wear when they leave the institution. This will demonstrate how people with learning disabilities did, and do,  make choices and create their own identities.

Creative Writing

DIY has been writing about what we have found out and how this has made us feel. One of our members in particular, Sharron, has been inspired to do a lot of writing about Learning Disabled History. We have recorded some of our writing so that it can form part of the soundtrack to the performance.

Film Making

We have been working with film-maker Hilary Easter-Jones to create film sections for the show. Although we’ve worked with Hilary for many years, we have never worked with her on a performance piece, so one of the creative opportunities and also challenges of this project has been finding ways of integrating film and live drama. 

Because some of the Learning Disability History is so difficult to think about or show, we have been experimenting with using shadows as a way of dealing with some of the most distressing aspects of institutional life.

Hilary has also worked with us to make a film about the process of the project to date and a trailer to promote the sharing performance in Eccles in November 2019. Scroll down to the video section on this page to watch these, we think they give a good flavour of what we’ve been doing so far.

Following Patient 36 Sharing Events

New Adelphi Theatre.

During July 2019, DIY held a residency at the New Adelphi Theatre at Salford University. The residency culminated in a sharing of where we were up to with research and development towards our performance piece “Following Patient 36”. Over 20 friends and supporters came to see the work so far and joined in an after show discussion with the cast and others involved with the development of the show.

photo of after show talk - Following Patient 36

Eccles Town Hall.

In November 2019, we performed at Eccles Town Hall. This was another sharing event, part of our research and development for Following Patient 36, giving us a chance to test out our ideas on a live audience. We were delighted that nearly 100 people came and even more delighted when the performance received a standing ovation!

To make the show even stronger in the future we asked for feedback using symbol supported forms and our T-shirt washing line – see photo below.

Photo of feedback written on paper t-shirts


During this project DIY have been working with:

  • Sue Caudle (Artistic Director)
  • Mary O’Neill (DIY Supporter)
  • Hilary Easter-Jones (film-maker)
  • Richard Easter (soundtrack)
  • Nerissa Cargill Thompson (designer)
  • Ian Dean (technical support)
  • Susan Guest (movement)
  • Sarah Atter (live music)

Thanks to: 

  • Niki Woods and New Adelphi Theatre – for venue & technical support for our Sharing Event held there in July 2019.
  • ECHO – Eccles Community Hall Organisation, for use of venue.
  • Nigel Ingham and Pathways Associates CIC – for support with research & use of images
  • Proud & Loud – for the loan of labcoats.
  • Jeanette and Lorraine at Lindley Travel.
  • Chethams School of Music (music workshops).

logo of National Lottery Heritage Fund - click to visit their website

Arts Council England logo - click to visit their site.

Photograph Acknowledgements:

  • Images of Brockhall and Calderstones Institutions courtesy:
  • Brenda Kay
  • Duncan Mitchell
  • David Whalley
  • Gill Cott
  • Lancashire County Council Museums Service
  • Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust
  • Pathways Associates CIC
  • Image of Prestwich Mental Hospital
  • Martin Parr © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos Click to find out more about Martin Parr
  • All other photographs, DIY’s own.


Trailer for Following Patient 36 from Hilary Easter-Jones on Vimeo.

The Process Film is a look behind the scenes at some aspects of the process of developing this show, please be aware some of the scenes are disturbing. A film by Hilary Easter-Jones

Film 'The Mental Deficiency Act 1913', produced as part of the research and development work for Following Patient 36. Please be aware some of the ideas shown are disturbing. A film by Hilary Easter-Jones


  • Work in Progress Sharing Event at New Adelphi Theatre

    5 July 2019
  • Cheetham's School of Music

    20 October 2019
  • Eccles Town Hall

    19 November 2019
If you'd like DIY Theatre to perform at your centre, please get in touch