It started as a group of middle aged men playing chaotic punk music for fun.

But when they noticed their loyal fans disappearing at 9pm to make sure their carers could clock off on time, they decided something should be done.

So band Heavy Load, formed by support worker Paul Richards and three friends with learning disabilities, started the Stay Up Late campaign.

A self-titled film about the band and their strive for everyone to enjoy music in 2008 proved more popular than they expected.

The band parted last year – playing their final gig in Trafalgar Square as part of the Paralympics.

Paul, 44, from Hove, said: “We developed Stay Up Late into a charity. Our concern was we had done a good job of telling everyone how rubbish life was – we actually needed to do something about it.”

City Camp innovation conference in 2012 chose Gig Buddies as the winner – which hoped to combine people with shared interests so everyone can enjoy music.

Paul said: “We don’t care what time people go to bed as long as they make that decision.

“We’re about trying to give people as much choice as possible about how they live their lives and our hook is music because that’s the world we were working in for 15 years.

“But we ask people to define what their gig is – one guy likes wrestling, another likes badminton, it could be the cinema – and we’ll find someone to support you to do it.”

The Argus:

‘Fantastic’ Miranda Kemp, from |Sussex Community Foundation, which has given the initiative three grants totalling more than £10,000 over the past three years, including in March to extend the Gig Buddies scheme, said: “Stay Up Late is a fantastic group that makes things happen for themselves.

“Paul is a real star, working tirelessly to give people with learning disabilities the opportunity to enjoy a great social life.”

Paul, who has now been promoted to involvement manager for South Downs’ Housing Association, said: “I didn’t set out to do an amazing job.

“I just found myself in this situation. You are given an opportunity and you could either sit back and let it go or try and make the most of that opportunity.

“We were seeing people not living the lives they wanted to and there was a sense of responsibility.”

The Argus:

Hundreds of heroes go almost unnoticed in our local communities.

But The Argus is determined to give them the recognition they thoroughly deserve.

We have teamed up with housing repair and maintenance company Mears to launch our weekly Local Heroes Award.

We are inviting readers to nominate their candidates and tell us why they have put them forward.

Contact Kimberly Middleton on 01273 544519 or email

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