Today marks the International Day of People with Disabilities and to celebrate this, along with UK Disability History Month, Salford’s DIY Theatre Company have adapted their performance piece Following Patient 36 into a digital resource in hope to show the resilience of people with disabilities in Salford.

Participating in The Lowry’s Week 53 project with the London based Access All Areas Theatre Company in 2018, DIY actors took part in a story based in an institution and played a character called ‘Patient 36′, this character fuelled their interest to learn more about the history of people with learning disabilities in Salford.

Artistic director Sue Caudle described the piece as interesting, emotive and atmospheric.

She said: “It was a really impactful piece and it really impacted on our actors.”

In 2019, the group successfully held their own pilot shows, including one at the University of Salford after researching and developing the mixed media performance.

However with the national lockdown being enforced, the group had to pause their face to face sessions at the Angle Centre in Salford, but stayed motivated and turned to the idea of creating a digital story.

Sue said: “We had to look at how we could get that piece out there without actually being able to perform it face to face, we had a lot of material, we created more material and that’s how we put together the resource that is the digital story now.”

Explaining the message behind Patient 36, Sue continued:

“You start thinking about institutionalisation and you realise that’s what’s happening to all of us at the moment. We can really reflect as a whole society on what institutionalisation does to people.”

Copyright: DIY Theatre Company

After moving sessions to Zoom, Sue emphasised that difficulties were presented to the group: “It’s been awful, like it has for many other cultural organisations because we’re used to meeting face to face, lots of people in DIY had never accessed online so it’s been a really long journey.

“It’s not the same, it’s very lacking but what they [Zoom] does do is they allow people to stay creative and stay connected.”

But the group continued to display their own resilience and Sue shared news that the company has received a grant to purchase iPads, cases and Wi-Fi to help the members who don’t have access to online gear.

She said: “Digital poverty is a big issue in Salford, that’s exacerbated for people with learning disabilities, many of whom have never accessed online before.

“People are nervous, people have never done this before, so there’s lots of things that we are doing to support members in order for them to be able to go into this world.

“Everybody is kind of meeting everyone online, well there’s lots of people that aren’t, and they are very excluded as everyone is getting hyper Zoomified.”

Today marks the International Day of People with Disabilities and Sue commented on the importance of this day: “This day focuses on raising awareness around disability but it’s actually awareness on the fact that we’re all connected and we all need to support each other, it’s more about let’s look at our society and see how we can all connect.”

DIY actors have also shared their own thoughts on social media.

Patient 36 resource packs have started to be piloted into UK schools and Sue describes how the company has expanded their relationships as a result of this.

Sue said: “The interesting thing is that we’re piloting in mainstream schools, very often the work that we create has an audience, an accessible audience, very often with special needs schools and this is about developing relationships with mainstream academies.”

Sharing her final reflection on Following Patient 36 with confidence and satisfaction, Sue said: “It was a real learning journey and actually we are quite pleased with it because it is what we set it out to be, it’s kind of its own creative product.”

You can read more about and access the Following Patient 36 resource pack here:

Let’s Celebrate UK Disability History Month 2020

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