By Mark Williams

The charity Stay Up Late is looking for volunteers to contribute to their vision for a 'Gig Society'.

Stay Up late began as a way of enabling people with learning disabilities to have more active social lives, and now the charity has a new project called Gig Buddies. The aim of Gig Buddies is to provide help for those who want to go out and see a band play at night.

For people with learning disabilities, who don't have a support worker able to accompany them, going to see their favourite band perform live in one of Brighton's many venues can be a near-impossible task.

Paul Richards, 43, Director of Stay Up Late said: ″We've called it our vision for the Gig Society.

″We want people to be able to decide how they spend their time. Even though we're called Stay Up Late, we actually don't mind what time people go to bed as long as they make that decision.″

Mr Richards was the bass player in the band Heavy Load, which had members with learning difficulties. They found it frustrating when some of their fans had to leave gigs at 9pm because their support worker finished at that time.

In March last year, Stay Up Late won a competition held by City Camp and were awarded £2,000 in funding for their new concept Gig Buddies.

Further funding followed and they are now in a position to start recruiting and training their first intake of Gig Buddies. The launch night will be March 23 at Komedia, Gardner Street.

Mr Richards said: ″I liken last year to the cartoon Roobarb and Custard, where the dog would go in the shed, and he'd be banging and sawing, and then he'd throw the door open on his mad invention.″

A volunteer Gig Buddy might be someone who goes to music concerts regularly and would like to give up a small amount of their time to help others to do the same.

As most bands play in the evenings, it is something that people can fit in around their jobs.

Madeline Denny, 24, Gig Buddies project manager said: ″They'll get two half days of training covering things like communication, disability rights, and the history of the project and where it's come from.″

Volunteer Gig Buddies don't need to have any previous experience of working with learning disabilities, and last year Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks became free of charge for volunteers.

Miss Denny described the ideal gig buddy as a kind person, with an interest in music and who is perhaps even looking to make some friends along the way.

Even in such an early stage, the project is already growing in reputation.

Mr Richards said: ″We've had lots of interest from other parts of the country but we want to get it right in Brighton and then have a sort of social franchise.

″Then we'll be able to say to people 'this is how we did it, so take it and run it in your town in a way that suits your local needs but keeps our philosophy'.″

The application deadline for the current intake of Gig Buddies is February 27 and Stay Up Late are also looking for an advisory panel of people with learning disabilities, who can help to plan and guide the project with their ideas. For more information go to