Happy Birthday! Celebrating 30 years of DIY Theatre

photo: there are a group of people in costumes. Most have blue tunics but one is wearing a red and blue workwear shirt. They are all facing the camera, many have their hands raised and are shouting or singing. At front it says 'Celebrating 30 years 1994-2024' in colourful letters with balloons

2024 marked DIY’s 30th birthday and we celebrated in STYLE!

We’ve come a long way from the small group of people meeting for a couple of hours each week in St George’s Day Centre!

Some of our founding members have been involved in DIY since the very beginning and are still very much involved! Why not take a a few minutes to have a look at the DIY shows over the years?

From the start of 2024, DIY members worked on three different projects which celebrated our history as a company. The 30th birthday activities culminated in the creation of a film, a textile piece, a photography exhibition, a series of education workshops and two celebratory events during Learning Disability Week 2024.

Find out more

All throughout this year, we’re looking back and celebrating our history as a company and the difference we’ve made over the past 30 years.

For 30 weeks from January to June, we explored the impact of DIY since 1994 through to 2024 and we collected a fantastic range of stories and quotes. Have a read of some of them here:

Although I have only been working with DIY for a short period of time, I have felt the benefits of working with this brilliant company. I was welcomed and encouraged to ask questions about accessible theatre and how to plan inclusive sessions.  I have always been nervous to ask questions about accessibility, but DIY have supported me with new practices, terminology and even a little bit of BSL!”
Olivia, DIY Freelance Artist

I did Arts Award Gold in lockdown. It was hard at first but I got used to doing it on Zoom. Now I’m an Arts Award Adviser. I feel proud of myself because I know I could pass my Gold Arts Award. I’ve learnt to throw myself in at the deep end and give different things a try. You’ll either sink or you’ll swim!”
Amy, DIY Actor and Leader

DIY theatre has had a positive effect on our learners in Discovery this academic year; 5 young people who each have complex and additional needs. Through sensory stories this has given the learners a chance to practice engaging in social interactions with others and also provided sensory stimulation, increasing their self-esteem and confidence as it enables them to communicate when they do not have a voice.”
Feedback from staff at Chatsworth Futures

All the people are nice and we all join in. I’m learning how to do acting and it helps me to get my confidence back talking to people.”
Jaclyn, Drama Course Participant

The workshop was very inclusive. I enjoyed the full sensory experience. I learnt how to keep it slow and simple.”
Drama student, University of Salford  (Sensory theatre session, co-led by DIY performers)

DIY has evolved to the point where they’re making that profound and thought-provoking work to change things that are still happening in society and really challenge the audience to think about things in a different way. Not just think about people with learning disabilities as actors but actually think about society and the world in a different way”
Di Critchley, Development & Engagement Officer NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care, and DIY Board Member

We are helping young people to come out of their comfort zone and make them feel PROUD that they achieved their goals or achieved their dreams”
Charlotte, DIY Actor and Leader

This is the kind of thing that opens our eyes to the kind of creative world that we can belong to is really special and really important. So thank you for giving us the opportunity to be involved in your work.”
Ruth Sheard-Pearson, Assistant Headteacher, Manchester Hospital School

DIY invest in people which aligns with my values as an arts worker.
I have learnt a lot around inclusive practice, which is embedded across the organisation.
I like how we work as a team comes from a place of sharing knowledge/learning from experiences and that everyone has a voice.
I have felt supported and encouraged personally and professionally in my both my roles as Leading Edge Coordinator and Creative Support.
I feel that my skills are and have been recognised and nurtured which has increased my confidence in my abilities.”
Mary, DIY Freelance Artist

I do like learning new games. I like learning what to put in the suitcase and when we go round with the prop we have to find out what it is. You get a break and you choose what you want to learn.”
Lewis, Drama Course Participant

Our staff team, volunteers and freelancers had the opportunity to pause, connect & reflect – which happens rarely but is so important! The session was really engaging – it was great to move away from screens and to physically get involved in exploring an idea. It’s really important for our staff and volunteers to see diverse leadership, and to understand the strengths that adults with learning disabilities have.”
Hebe Reilly, Director, Cartwheel Arts

It is brilliant to lead – I help people – when a group are playing I game I have led I feel happy”
Cathy, DIY Actor and Leader

The space DIY creates is extremely special and completely unique. Nothing I’ve ever experienced before but something everyone should experience to create a less divided society.”
Medical Student, University of Manchester

As part of the delivery, DIY were highly valued by the schools practitioners and added capacity to the programme. As a supportive partner, DIY offered important advice and feedback on our careers event and more.”
Steph Green, Stage Directions Manager, The Lowry

My main thought when I think about working with DIY is how proud I am to be associated with such an uplifting and perception changing organisation.”
Andrea, DIY Freelance Artist

It gets me out of the house and meeting new people. It stops me getting bored – there’s not much to do around my area.
It’s nice being able to go into schools and pass my knowledge on to the young children. It makes me feel good to come out of a session and feel like it’s gone well.”
Scott, DIY Leader

I learnt about sensory theatre – I had not heard or experienced this before.”
Drama Student, University of Salford, (Sensory theatre session, co-led by DIY performers)

I find it hard to put into words the difference DIY has made to me and my practice, but I will try my best. DIY has supported me from the beginning of my career and given me so many opportunities that I am so thankful for. DIY members have taught me what it means to be truly inclusive (which is ever changing, and I am still learning!) and this has shaped so much of my art practice with other groups. DIY has taught me that people with learning disabilities have so much to offer the creative space, and we should never stop pushing for people with learning disabilities to have space and time to lead. Thankyou DIY!
All the best

Molly, DIY Freelance Artist

Coming to drama has made me more confident and I’m not shy any more. I’m living on my own now and I’m more independent. I didn’t think I could live on my own, but now I do. Drama has helped me living on my own because it’s made me more independent.
Angela, DIY Actor and Leader

The involvement of disabled co-facilitators enabled us to gain a deeper understanding of disability led work and how this works in practise. I would recommend DIY Theatre to any organisation – artistic or not – as a way to better understand the needs of people with disabilities but also on how to make your space more inclusive to everyone’s needs.
Rachael Bamber, Engagement Manager, Burnley Youth Theatre

I really enjoyed how interactive the whole session was and getting to work with new people. I learnt how to create an interactive and interesting piece of theatre.”
Drama Student, University of Salford

Me leading with a disability shows that people with disabilities can achieve, a lot of people with disabilities don’t have the chance to do things – I tell people they can do stretches in their own way so that they feel comfortable – everyone helps each other to learn new skills.
Becky, DIY Leader

The project has supported pupils’ confidence, use of imagination, ability to work independently and ability to work with peers they may not have previously worked with… We have all really enjoyed working with the DIY theatre, our pupils look forward to the sessions each week and enjoy discussing with their peers what they have done in the sessions.”
Nuala Ruane-Durkin, Piper Hill Post 16 Department

DIY makes me more confident. I meet new friends. I love coming.
Adam, DIY Leader

Thanks to everyone at DIY for welcoming us in, this has been one of my favourite experiences during medical school…The people have all been fantastic and had a huge impact on me. Keep on being the amazing, inspiring people you are!
Medical Student, University of Manchester

You have visited us many times and it is always a wonderful experience for our students… As you can see from the reaction of our students, it has transformed their ideas of working with individuals with an intellectual disability while also teaching them vital new skills in theatre making and facilitation.
Dr Sheila McCormick, Senior Lecturer, University of Salford

I like how DIY doesn’t judge me and doesn’t judge other people. I like how DIY helps me fill out big forms and how we work with different organisations. I like how we get different kinds of training to fulfil our potential.”
Charlotte, DIY Actor and Leader

I learned so much both from the DIY workshop leaders and the DIY members. Each session was a journey of fun, discovery and learning how lived experiences are valid and important when it comes to representing ourselves as digital leaders.
Audrey, DIY Freelance Artist

I think the sessions were great and really useful in helping the students think about barriers to communication and feel what it is like to be led in an activity that is challenging and hopefully inspiring.”
Rowan Morris, University of Salford

When I first started I had no confidence. I never thought that I’d be able to fit anywhere. That’s how I was at the beginning. Then through the years I’ve gone from not having any confidence to having lots of confidence now and being myself and not being judged. I think DIY over the years has changed me a lot. It’s given me confidence to actually be myself – able to speak about myself and to be able to show who I am inside and who I am now. I never knew what friendship was like – having the honesty and trust. Through DIY it’s made me feel part of an amazing group and be accepted for who I am.

I’m lucky to be part of something that changes people and I’m always learning new things. What I’m doing now is I’m actually teaching things that I’ve learnt at DIY at the church – everyone’s having fun and I’m paying it forward, sharing it at the church and getting everyone involved.
Becky, DIY Leader

I think everyone can learn something from DIY’s sessions. The world would be a much nicer space if everyone had the opportunity to come.”
Medical Student, University of Manchester

DIY taught me that no-one is limited and anyone can be creative.”
Drama student, University of Salford

DIY introduced the work in a sympathetic and clear way, showed the range of work and explained the needs of participants. In the short time we had the session was very full and interactive! Students’ understanding that disability is not a barrier to enjoying or delivering music and engagement projects is very important to us.”
Vicki Ciaputa, Chethams School of Music

DIY has made a difference to my practice by encouraging (and forcing!) me to work with new and varied art forms, with different learning styles, using different methods of communication and thinking of everything as a sensory opportunity….it’s all about total communication!”
Sarah, DIY Freelance Artist

It gets me out of the house. I meet people and it makes me feel happy. .”
Paul, DIY Actor

I’m a better actor. It’s been fantastic acting – we put a lot of effort into our work. I enjoy being an actor – especially when I’m on stage. It makes me feel happy when I’m on stage. We put in a lot of effort and it brings out the quality and the standard.”
David, DIY Actor

DIY Theatre has had a huge impact on my work.
It – and more importantly – the people who are ‘it’ – have made me think about how different people access different theatre games and exercises.
it has made me slow things down
it has made me try to say less when doing might be better or easier
it has made me consider different ways to connect with people of all ages and abilities
it has made me excited about sensory theatre
it has made me realise the impact that layering ideas on to simple exercises can have
it has made me see that leadership can take many forms
it has made me proud of what I see when DIY are in the space
it has made me feel part of a big theatre family
Thanks DIY”
Jenny, DIY Freelance Artist

DIY has made me think differently about how I work. I used to focus on the end result and now I enjoy all the bits in between, trying games and acting in different ways. Wherever I work, I think more about how to make my workshops accessible for everyone. I’ve loved learning new skills, I’m even staring BSL level 3 in 2024! The best thing is each artist at DIY is individual and they all teach me different ways to be creative.”
Georgia, DIY Freelance Artist

I’m better at working with the children in the schools. When someone gets annoyed or upset I calm them down.”
Cathy, DIY Actor and Leader

I was first introduced to DIY via, doing interviews for my MA, leading me to developing further as an emerging artist, building up my practice to lead finally develop my own project with DIY called The Backstage Project. Being with DIY has enabled me to also gain new contacts and work outside DIY. The whole organisation feels like a warm, welcoming family.”
Philip, DIY Freelance Artist

I’ve become more independent since I started at DIY. At the beginning I used to have to have staff with me but I don’t any more. I’m used to travelling on my own to drama now. I’m more independent knowing what bus to get. I’m getting better at acting. It makes me feel happy and excited.”
Robert, DIY Actor


Our thanks to the funders who are supporting the projects which will help us celebrate DIY’s 30th Birthday.

Exploring our Past; Shaping our Futures is 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'.

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

logo of National Lottery Heritage Fund