The Way Ahead - a disability art protest in Barnsley

Theo & Bobby – members of Barnsley SEND Youth Forum and Barnsley Youth Council – standing in from of The Way Ahead.
The Way Ahead, Barnsley Civic

Jason White, the lead for community engagement at The Civic, Barnsley, introduces The Way Ahead: a brand-new piece of public art in The Civic Barnsley’s Mandela Garden.

Made up of fifteen unique road signs, the art protest piece is a collaboration between artist Caroline Cardus and four support groups for local disabled and/or neurodiverse people – ArtWorks South Yorkshire, Barnsley SEND Youth Forum, My Barnsley Too and Wednesday’s Voice, part of Cloverfleaf Advocacy.


The Way Ahead originally started life back in 2004 and was originally intended to be a 6-month community art project marking the then new Disability Discrimination Act legislation. 17 years later, The Way Ahead is still in demand as a disability art protest piece. The Way Ahead uses the subversion of familiar road sign symbols to explore and platform the voices and experiences of disabled people and the barriers they face at home, work and out in the community. “That tells me something about my own future as an artist and my experience as a disabled person. There is much more to be done, and much more to say”, says Cardus.

Funded by Future Art Centres’ nationwide Here & Now project and part of The Civic Barnsley’s No Boundaries season, the new community engagement project was originally planned to take place in Barnsley during Spring 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic pushed the project back to Spring 2021.

The lead artist and the four participating groups spent the majority or the whole of the last 15 months locked down at home, shielding, which meant the original idea of Caroline Cardus holding hands-on workshops on site at The Civic was shelved.

Due to individual barriers that different group members faced – economic, technical, residential and sensory issues – this meant that the use of conferencing apps was not an option. We had two solutions.

Caroline designed an amazing worksheet that folded out into a poster depicting many of her previous road signs and workshop prompts. This was delivered to group to either complete in their own time, or with their support-group facilitators.

To support the groups in completing the worksheets, Caroline and I filmed a walk-through guide, in which she talked me through the history of the project and gave example how to complete the worksheet. View the video here.

Across a month, just over 70 people engaged with the worksheets and video. From that, 35 road sign ideas were submitted. In April, Caroline shortlisted the fifteen submissions that would re-made and redesigned into what is now dubbed ‘The Barnsley 15’.

The continuously changing social restrictions have meant that although the artwork was installed at the end of June, we are yet to have an official launch, and both Caroline and some of the groups have yet to see it in the flesh.

Caroline is currently working with filmmaker Wayne Sables to create an audio and visual commentary which enable people who can’t get to The Civic the chance to experience the artwork. We hope this will be available in September.

If you would like an extra insight into The Way Ahead, we interviewed Caroline via Instagram Live last month. You can see that here, or on youtube with captions here.

Road Sign- Have your voice heard in Barnsley

Join The Civic's Focus Group 

The Civic are excited to announce the formation of a focus group for local disabled, long-term sick and neurodiverse people, which will help support the venue’s continued learning, development and evaluation of the relationships it has with its audience and community.

As we work to restore and open up the rest of The Civic building over the coming years, we want to ensure that The Civic is not only a safe and inclusive space for Barnsley’s disabled and neurodiverse communities, but that is also has a programme of performance, visual art and workshops that represent them. We can only do that with your help.

We are looking for around ten individuals to form the group, that will be present throughout the whole of our No Boundaries programme, which runs until March 2022. In return for the commitment of one meeting a month, which could be in person or online, you will be invited to our exclusive preview events, and receive a free ticket to a performance and/or a discount on a selection of events. We also have other exciting volunteering opportunities and the chance to take part in our forthcoming Historic England project ‘Teenage Wildlife’, which explores the teenage experience of Barnsley residents over the last 70 years.

This group is open to anybody aged 18+ and living in Barnsley. If you are interested in joining our focus group and would like to find out more, please email our Community Engagement Officer at


The Civic, Barnsley

Twitter @BarnsleyCivic | Instagram @CivicBarnsley | Facebook @TheCivicBarnsley

Caroline Cardus

Twitter @carolinecardus | Instagram @caroline_cardus