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New On The Block: Paul's about to hit the big time
A new project aims to replace the big society – with the ‘gig society’.
Gig Buddies was launched this month at the City Camp Brighton event and has received £2,000 in seed funding.
A pilot scheme will be up and running in time for this year’s Great Escape festival in Brighton on May 10-12.
The idea is the brainchild of Paul Richards at the charity Stay Up Late.
He said: “Stay Up Late started out as an idea dreamed up over a pint of beer.
“I was talking to the drummer in a band called Heavy Load who has Down’s syndrome.
He was voicing his irritation at fans leaving Heavy Load gigs in Brighton early. Because Heavy Load features three musicians with learning disabilities a lot of their fans also have learning disabilities and rely on support to get them to gigs.
“The problem we were finding was that a lot of staff weren’t able to work flexible shift patterns, meaning that typically the exodus would start around 9pm. It just so happened that we were having a feature documentary being made about us at the same time that we started the Stay Up Late campaign – meaning that when it was screened (BBC, cinemas, US and Finnish TV) there was a load of people getting in touch voicing exactly the same concerns and so Stay Up Late spread far and wide as a call to arms to change things and make sure that people with learning disabilities were having every opportunity to lead active social lives.
“We see this as important as it’s not just about seeing bands, but it’s where you socialise, express yourself, and do the things that define you. Stay Up Late is all about promoting an individuals right to lead life how they want to.”
Mr Richards said the funding will be used to take legal advice to make sure that ‘buddies’ aren’t overburdened with CRB checks and to ensure that proper safeguards are in place.
He said: “We will look at what sort of insurance will be needed.
"We need to work out how we can start a web-based part of the project to enable people to organise their social lives, check out bands they may want to see, and also review the night through blogs, etc, to let other people see what’s going on. And we will research other befriending schemes and see how they deal with legal issues.
“Now we’ve got this far our next steps will be to seek funding to appoint a project worker. We will provide training to buddies, which we aim to be delivered in partnership with people with learning disabilities.”
“One of the things we've been talking about at trustees meetings is that we need to be working with managers and staff who support people with higher support needs to enable them to change working practices, shift patterns, and cultures but what about those people who don’t need a lot of support?
These may be people who receive a few hours of support per week as they lower support needs, and how could we find a way of enabling them to attend gigs too?
“We hope from this that people will develop friendships, be introduced to new experiences, broaden their social networks, develop confidence and that it will enable people with and without learning disabilities to discover what they might have in common – which may well be more than they imagined.”