Gig Buddies in Sussex

gig

Concert befriending scheme for adults with learning disabilities and autism

For music fans seeing your favourite band or musician perform live has to be one of life’s joys. Imagine, though, the frustration if, just as the band got into its stride, you had to leave because your companion called time. Or, if you couldn’t be there in the first place because you weren’t able to travel and enjoy the gig unaccompanied. This is the situation that many music fans with learning difficulties or autism face.

However, there is a solution in Sussex thanks to local charity, Gig Buddies – a volunteer befriending scheme for adults with learning disabilities and autism, matching them with a volunteer sharing the same interests.

Music Gigs aren’t the only option …

Gig Buddies is not only about music. Malcolm Hill, the project coordinator for the charity in West Sussex, says that “It doesn’t have to be about music. We encourage people to define what the ’gig’ is for them. It could be playing or watching sport, going to the theatre, walking or going to museums.”

Gig Buddies is a project run under the umbrella of the charity Stay Up Late, which was formed in 2006 out of the experience of the punk band Heavy Load. Three of the members of Heavy Load had learning disabilities and they were tired of seeing fans leaving their gigs early due to their support staff working inflexible rotas. The band split after fifteen years but decided to set up Stay Up Late to continue their campaign. Gig Buddies was started by the charity in 2013 with the aim of supporting people with learning disabilities and/or autism to be less socially isolated and to give them control of their own lives, which would become healthier and more fulfilled as a result.

Apart from the occasional fundraising gig the charity does not organise gigs, as the intention is for people with learning disabilities to become involved in mainstream community life.

Finding your own Gig Buddy …

Anyone interested in finding a Gig Buddy can “self-refer” by visiting the charity’s website or they can get help by asking a carer, support worker or family member to get in touch. The scheme is open to anyone with a learning disability and/or autism aged eighteen or over.

Gig Buddies

“We’re always happy to have a chat with people in the first instance to make sure that Gig Buddies is right for them.” says Malcolm Hill. “People tend to want a gig buddy to support them to get out to music events but not exclusively. Part of our role is to empower people to try new things so many of our gig buddy pairs go to the cinema, clubbing, theatre or even just an evening out to the pub. It’s entirely up to them what they want to do.”

Currently, there is a waiting list for buddies, partially due to funding constraints and also because the organisation prides itself upon the quality of its service and the care taken in matching individuals.

“Before I had a Gig Buddy I felt lost at the weekends. I had never been to a gig but having a Gig Buddy has meant that I’ve discovered new music. It means that I can travel to places I couldn’t before. Once you start going out you are more able to do other things. It improves your confidence.” A Gig Buddy participant.

As project coordinator Malcolm Hill’s role is to recruit, train and match volunteers with their Gig Buddy. “I then provide ongoing support and supervision to ensure the match is going well and iron out any issues that might arise.” The project is short of volunteers across West Sussex, and Malcolm is particularly keen to find volunteers in Chichester, Worthing and Crawley.

What does it take to be a Gig Buddies volunteer?

Volunteers can come from any background and, Malcolm explains, no previous experience is required. “Ideally they will have an interest in music and/or the arts and be willing to give up around six to eight hours a month to meet up with their buddy.”

“Friendly and positive attitude with the ability to build up a rapport with their buddy are the main attributes we look for.”

Additionally, all volunteers are DBS checked and fully trained before being matched with a participant. Training is given at Gig Buddies’ offices in Portslade, with training sessions taking place each month, on a Saturday between 10am – 3pm. The training covers an introduction to learning disabilities, communication, safeguarding and “what to do if” scenarios. For Malcolm, the beauty of the volunteering opportunity is that it can be fitted around a person’s existing commitments.

Clearly the process of matching buddies is key to the scheme’s success, and Malcolm says that, “Where possible we match people based on where they live and what they are interested in doing. Ideally people will be attending events that they would have been likely to go to anyway – although a willingness to try new things is never a bad thing!” As Gig Buddies is all about developing friendship and expanding an individual’s social circle and informal support networks, the project does not provide volunteers on a one-off gig basis.

Funding Gig Buddies …

As with the majority of charities, Gig Buddies relies upon funding to keep them afloat. Gig Buddies is a free service but does expect a participant to pay for their own event tickets and travel costs. Volunteers are reimbursed for their expenses, and their gig tickets can also be reimbursed up to £10. Malcolm runs the project in West Sussex and is paid on a three day a week basis. In terms of funding, West Sussex County Council funds the charity to provide the Gig Buddies scheme across West Sussex. Additional funding has come from the Big Lottery and donations from private individuals. Although, there are no fundraising events in the pipeline at the moment, Gig Buddies would appreciate any offers of support. Past fundraising events include – organising fundraising gigs at the Komedia in Brighton and Resident Records in Brighton donating the monies raised by sales of their carrier bags – which totalled £1,154 last year. The charity also has supporters who regularly run an ‘open garden’ throughout the summer to help raise funds.

For music fans seeing your favourite band or musician perform live has to be one of life’s joys. Imagine, though, the frustration if, just as the band got into its stride, you had to leave because your companion called time. Or, if you couldn’t be there in the first place because you weren’t able to travel and enjoy the gig unaccompanied. This is the situation that many music fans with learning difficulties or autism face.

However, there is a solution in Sussex thanks to local charity, Gig Buddies – a volunteer befriending scheme for adults with learning disabilities and autism, matching them with a volunteer sharing the same interests.

Music Gigs aren’t the only option …

Gig Buddies is not only about music. Malcolm Hill, the project coordinator for the charity in West Sussex, says that “It doesn’t have to be about music. We encourage people to define what the ’gig’ is for them. It could be playing or watching sport, going to the theatre, walking or going to museums.”

Gig Buddies is a project run under the umbrella of the charity Stay Up Late, which was formed in 2006 out of the experience of the punk band Heavy Load. Three of the members of Heavy Load had learning disabilities and they were tired of seeing fans leaving their gigs early due to their support staff working inflexible rotas. The band split after fifteen years but decided to set up Stay Up Late to continue their campaign. Gig Buddies was started by the charity in 2013 with the aim of supporting people with learning disabilities and/or autism to be less socially isolated and to give them control of their own lives, which would become healthier and more fulfilled as a result.

Apart from the occasional fundraising gig the charity does not organise gigs, as the intention is for people with learning disabilities to become involved in mainstream community life.

Finding your own Gig Buddy …

Anyone interested in finding a Gig Buddy can “self-refer” by visiting the charity’s website or they can get help by asking a carer, support worker or family member to get in touch. The scheme is open to anyone with a learning disability and/or autism aged eighteen or over.

“We’re always happy to have a chat with people in the first instance to make sure that Gig Buddies is right for them.” says Malcolm Hill. “People tend to want a gig buddy to support them to get out to music events but not exclusively. Part of our role is to empower people to try new things so many of our gig buddy pairs go to the cinema, clubbing, theatre or even just an evening out to the pub. It’s entirely up to them what they want to do.”

Currently, there is a waiting list for buddies, partially due to funding constraints and also because the organisation prides itself upon the quality of its service and the care taken in matching individuals.

“Before I had a Gig Buddy I felt lost at the weekends. I had never been to a gig but having a Gig Buddy has meant that I’ve discovered new music. It means that I can travel to places I couldn’t before. Once you start going out you are more able to do other things. It improves your confidence.” A Gig Buddy participant.

As project coordinator Malcolm Hill’s role is to recruit, train and match volunteers with their Gig Buddy. “I then provide ongoing support and supervision to ensure the match is going well and iron out any issues that might arise.” The project is short of volunteers across West Sussex, and Malcolm is particularly keen to find volunteers in Chichester, Worthing and Crawley.

What does it take to be a Gig Buddies volunteer?

Volunteers can come from any background and, Malcolm explains, no previous experience is required. “Ideally they will have an interest in music and/or the arts and be willing to give up around six to eight hours a month to meet up with their buddy.”

“Friendly and positive attitude with the ability to build up a rapport with their buddy are the main attributes we look for.”

Additionally, all volunteers are DBS checked and fully trained before being matched with a participant. Training is given at Gig Buddies’ offices in Portslade, with training sessions taking place each month, on a Saturday between 10am – 3pm. The training covers an introduction to learning disabilities, communication, safeguarding and “what to do if” scenarios. For Malcolm, the beauty of the volunteering opportunity is that it can be fitted around a person’s existing commitments.

Clearly the process of matching buddies is key to the scheme’s success, and Malcolm says that, “Where possible we match people based on where they live and what they are interested in doing. Ideally people will be attending events that they would have been likely to go to anyway – although a willingness to try new things is never a bad thing!” As Gig Buddies is all about developing friendship and expanding an individual’s social circle and informal support networks, the project does not provide volunteers on a one-off gig basis.

Funding Gig Buddies …

As with the majority of charities, Gig Buddies relies upon funding to keep them afloat. Gig Buddies is a free service but does expect a participant to pay for their own event tickets and travel costs. Volunteers are reimbursed for their expenses, and their gig tickets can also be reimbursed up to £10. Malcolm runs the project in West Sussex and is paid on a three day a week basis. In terms of funding, West Sussex County Council funds the charity to provide the Gig Buddies scheme across West Sussex. Additional funding has come from the Big Lottery and donations from private individuals. Although, there are no fundraising events in the pipeline at the moment, Gig Buddies would appreciate any offers of support. Past fundraising events include – organising fundraising gigs at the Komedia in Brighton and Resident Records in Brighton donating the monies raised by sales of their carrier bags – which totalled £1,154 last year. The charity also has supporters who regularly run an ‘open garden’ throughout the summer to help raise funds.

How Gig Buddies can transform lives …

Malcolm Hill tells me of Gig Buddies David and Mark. David was matched with his Gig Buddy volunteer Mark in June 2019. “When David applied to have a Gig Buddy he was isolated and had very little in the way of a social life. He told me that he had never seen a live band and never went out with friends.” In just three months following his match with Mark he had been to three live gigs, attended a social where he met and befriended others in the gig buddy ‘community’ and signed up for an art class and the gym. “David is an example of how with a little bit of encouragement and support lives can be transformed in ways which may have seemed unlikely after years of isolation and demotivation.”

gig buddies

For more information visit: www.gigbuddies.org.uk

Stay Up Late; email: info@stayuplate.org or you can telephone: 01273 418102

by Lynn Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

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