Gig Buddies: Combating social isolation for learning disabled

A group of Gig Buddies at Glastonbury earlier this year
A group of Gig Buddies at Glastonbury earlier this year

Gig Buddies is a project that partners people with and without learning disabilities to enjoy live music and other social activities together.

We aim to ensure that people with learning disabilities don’t miss out on evening social activities, such as gigs, clubbing or theatre.

Harri Oliver, Project Assistant at Gig Buddies

Harri Oliver, Project Assistant at Gig Buddies

The project grew out of local Sussex charity Stay Up Late. Stay Up Late started as a national campaign to ensure that people with learning disabilities received support that doesn’t stop at 9pm.

Some care homes have inflexible staff rotas, which means that many adults with learning disabilities can’t access practical support to go out in the evenings, leaving them socially isolated.

At Christmas, the impact of inflexible care rotas and support systems on people with learning disabilities offers a stark contrast to the otherwise festive feeling that most people have.

Christmas is often a joyful and social time of year for many people. Weekends are filled with Christmas parties and seeing as many of your family and friends as you can. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for many people with learning disabilities and especially those who live in support living.

We match adults with learning disabilities with volunteers based on similar music taste and social interests. They see each other once or twice a month and enjoy a sociable activity that suits them both, whether it’s going to a gig, playing a couple of games of bowling, or simply catching up over coffee.

The project already has some brilliant people involved, such as the world’s only qualified ping-pong coach, with Down’s syndrome, as well as full time radio DJs.

However, the Gig Buddies project is always looking for more people with and without learning disabilities to join the project, especially at Christmas time when there is so much fun to be had!

Volunteers are provided with training, ongoing support and are reimbursed for expenses.

If you think you could buddy once or twice a month with a person with a learning disability to do things you both enjoy, then please look at our website.

If you’re not able to give your time, think about making a donation this Christmas to help Gig Buddies bring people together all year round. It makes the world of difference to our participants, enabling them to enjoy and feel part of their community.

To find out more about Gig Buddies, and to get involved, visit: www.gigbuddies.org.uk

Harri Oliver is project assistant at Gig Buddies.

This article is the part of a series of Christmas features by Fugu PR showcasing the work of local charities.