The DIY Theatre Company launched the Re:Connect project in order to help people with learning disabilities from Salford to reconnect with each other and get creative.

The DIY Theatre Company is a Learning Disability Theatre Company that has been creating accessible and thought-provoking theatre, education, and community projects since 1994. They are based in The Angel Centre in Salford.

Re:Connect is the company’s most recent project. It launched in January 2022, however, has just begin its second term.

Credit: DIYTheatreCo

Sue Caudle, Artistic Director at DIY Theatre Co explains:

“DIY BUDS members wanted to start re-connecting with each-other in person following numerous lockdowns and periods when many people with learning disabilities had been forced to self-isolate. Many DIY members expressed struggling with their mental health during the pandemic including feelings of anxiety, isolation, and loneliness. This is why we set up a new project called ‘Re: Connect’, funded by the National Lottery Awards for All Programme.

“We aim to challenge perceptions and barriers, celebrate diversity and creativity and promote achievements of artists and leaders with learning disabilities.”

The sessions run weekly on a Thursday afternoon at Langworthy Cornerstone. They are free and open to anyone with a learning disability in Salford who wants to meet new people and get creative in a fun, supportive space.

“This term we are exploring the theme of “post”. What will we send in the post? A letter, a card, a Parcel. What are we looking forward to receiving in the post? A postcard or a present. We have already made a giant post-box and are looking forward to creating stories that explore the themes of communication and friendship.”

Credit: DIYTheatreCo

The project involves artists who will work with the group and add their creative touch. This term Re:Connect will host two DIY freelance artists Georgia Affonso as the lead artist and Philip Harland as the Emerging artist.

Georgia is a scriptwriter, theatre maker and facilitator. She said “I love working with DIY BUDS. I like it because they come up with loads of fantastic ideas. They always take it in interesting directions that I don’t predict. They are great at playing games and everyone has a go”.

Philip is a Theatre Technician, Facilitator, and Stage Manager. He said “I absolutely love working with DIY BUDS. What I enjoy is the variety of things BUDS do. It’s person-centred and person-focused so we might come in with an initial idea of what we want to do but then it very much develops through the participants’ ideas. So, from what we might have initially thought at the beginning, to what comes out at the end it’s completely what they’ve come up with and what they’ve done. That’s what I love most about it.”

Sue Claudle explains why the project is so important to Salford and its community:

“This project adopts a Recovery model that supports resilience. It uses theatre and other art forms to build confidence, self-esteem, social interaction and enable people with learning disabilities to achieve their potential and contribute positively to their community and wider society once again.

“It creates a space where people with learning disabilities can connect and play, following their experiences of isolation and exclusion during the pandemic.”

One of the members from DIY BUDS explained their feelings about the project:

“Communication is important. You need to be able to communicate with new people. Communicate with your friends as well. It’s important because we need communication to make sure that everybody is involved. We’ll always make sure that everybody is heard. You need communication to know nobody is feeling left out. If there’s any problems or anything like that communication is key. We’ll always find a way for everybody to communicate, and we’ll always have patience and understanding.”

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