Have you got a question for Gig Buddies or Stay Up ... - Mencap


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Have you got a question for Gig Buddies or Stay Up Late?

Sarah_Mencap profile image

We were lucky enough to have some people from Gig Buddies and Stay Up Late join us in June 2020.

They shared a few posts about the work they do, and the friendships they have made.

This conversation is now closed, but please do read what they had to say.

> If you want to know about Gig Buddies have a look their webpages here - mencap.org.uk/get-involved/...

> If you want to know about Stay Up Late visit their website here - stayuplate.org

Best wishes


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26 Replies

Thanks Sarah! I'm the Gig Buddies Coordinator for Hull and East Riding and I'll be here all week to answer any questions you may have and to share more about what we do! Please do ask away!

Hi. This sounds great. Do your volunteers and buddies decide where to go, or it is timetabled?

Is it easy to match buddies up? Do you have enough people to go round? Do people just go straight out or do they have a few introductions first?

Where do you operate?


RachaelGigBuddies profile image
RachaelGigBuddiesExpert in reply to Freddy44


I'm Rachael, the Gig Buddies Coordinator for Bradford :)

Volunteers and Gig Buddies have total autonomy where they go and what activites they want to do. We ask our volunteers to keep a log on what they've done and how many hours at the end of each month.

We match people based on their interests and location and if they need particular support - we're always looking for people to take part as they're welcome to come to socials before being matched! mencap.org.uk/get-involved/...

Before we pair up our Gig Buddies we do a matching meeting, where we chat about what events they'll do, boundaries, contacts numbers and arrange a first meeting. This is done with the Gig Buddies Coordinator.

We have two Gig Buddies Mencap sites in Bradford and Hull & East Ridings. If you want to find out more about your local Gig Buddies sites, Please visit:


This is a lovely video from the Gig Buddies HQ


Sarah_Mencap profile image

Hello again.

I thought I would share this great interview about Gig Buddies on BBC Radio Humberside (34:50 mins in). It is all about Tommy and Martha discussing their friendship during lockdown.



Hi, I’m Paul from the charity Stay Up Late.

We started Gig Buddies in Sussex and have now shared the project across parts of the UK and in Australia.

Our charity started in an unconventional way perhaps. I was the bass player in punk band Heavy Load. 3 of the band had learning disabilities and so a lot of our fans had learning disabilities too. No matter where we played we noticed the same thing happen at every gig, at least half the audience would leave at 9pm because their support workers couldn’t work late.

So we started the Stay Up Late campaign to challenge inflexible support that was preventing people with learning disabilities from leading the lives they want.

You can watch more about the band in the documentary ‘Heavy Load’ (Metfilm).

The band went on to play Glastonbury, New York and started the charity to continue the debate we’d started. ‘How can we enable people with learning disabilities to fight for their right to party?’

Our work isn’t about ‘Staying Up Late’ at all in many ways, it’s about enabling people with learning disabilities to make proper choices about the way they live their lives and to uphold their human rights. Perhaps this is best summed up in our ‘Manifesto for an Ordinary Life’

Over the week we’ll tell you more about the work we do with Gig Buddies, look at some of the friendships that have been formed, our campaigning work and how we’ve been working during lockdown. Here’s a short video telling you more about Gig Buddies for starters.


Hi all,

I'm Rachael and I'm the Gig Buddies Coordinator for Mencap in Bradford. We cover the whole of Bradford and anywhere with a Bradford postcode. Our Gig Buddies site, here in Bradford is open to anyone over the age of 18.

Usually we meet all together, twice a month. Our socials have included, going to the theatre, pub nights, cinema, bowling and much more!

We encourage our Gig Buddies to meet up at least twice a month!

Whilst we've at home, we've all been keeping in touch on our Facebook group and doing regular online socials! You can read about what we've been doing here:


Here's a little update from our Gig Buddies pair, Becks and Savanna - they're both really looking forward to meeting up, once its safe to do so!


Hi again,

I wanted to share our video from Harris (our Gig Buddy in Bradford) on Mencap TV


Hi, Emily here from Gig Buddies Hull and East Riding!

Our site here in Hull has been running for a year now, we cover all of Hull and East Riding and are for aged 18 to 25.

We meet as a group twice a month and pairs meet twice a month too.

At the moment with us all staying home we’re doing these meets virtually instead.

We’ve been doing lot of quizzes, music bingo, dance parties and sing-a-longs!

Read more about what we’ve been doing recently here:


Gig Buddies is all about matching up a person with a learning disability with a volunteer who shares the same passions. This isn’t just related to music, it can be anything really.

Whatever their gig is, as we always say.

There are lots of great events organised for people with learning disabilities where they can meet their friends but we also wanted to find a way to enable people with learning disabilities to attend any event so they can spend time with people who share the same interests, whether that's gigs, clubbing, sport, theatre, whatever. We now have over 100 pairs of buddies who (when not in lockdown) attend a huge variety of different events across Sussex every month.

Here’s David and Mark’s story

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 live. He said that he had never seen a live band and never went out with friends. In just 3 months following his match with Mark he had been to 3 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 a great 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.

These projects sound great. I had never heard about them before. I wondered how you had been coping with lockdown (I guess you haven't been able to meet up at all). How is everyone coping with staying in touch online? how are you managing to keep it fun? Thanks, Jo

Emily-GigBuddies profile image
Emily-GigBuddiesExpert in reply to jow2319

Hi jow2319, all Gig Buddies partners have been coping really well during lockdown. Instead of face-to-face socials and meet-ups at a gig or event we're doing it online instead. The only concern with this is those who don't have access to smart phones or the internet, for these buddies we have been sending quizzes and activities to do at home though the post instead and have supported them to get access to being online.

We've held quizzes, sing-a-longs, dance parties, music bingo, coffee mornings and lots more on video calls and Gig Buddies Brighton have been hosting an awesome Coronavirus Fest on facebook with live music each night! Paul_StayUpLate

Here's the link to the Coronavirus Fest


And you can read about what we've been doing during lockdown here:


yes we've been doing lots of online socials (pub quizzes, karaoke sessions, games evenings) and coffee mornings.

We started an online festival facebook.com/coronavirusfes...

and have also been phoning everyone regularly to check in. The divide between people who are and aren't online has become starker though so we've also started a project to get smartphones to people we work with too. (That wasn't on our strategic plan for the year but we're just about to start sending the phones out next week along with easier to read instructions etc)

Sarah_Mencap profile image
Sarah_MencapAdministrator in reply to Paul_StayUpLate

I have just had a look - Gig Buddies Coronavirus Fest is a brilliant idea.

Here’s what Gig Buddy Liam has to say about Gig Buddies, specifically during lockdown and how it has helped him keep engaged and in contact with people.

“It’s been good as still get to speak to people and see their faces even if it’s over a camera. It’s been good to hear what others are doing during lockdown and how they’re coping. It makes me feel less lonely and helps to feel like we’re all in this together”

Liam’s Gig Buddy Becky says

“Me and Liam both love all things sport, during lockdown we’re unable to go to watch any live sport so we have been having video calls instead every other week. As a new pairing, following lockdown it will be nice to start planning out what socials we would like to do in the future”

They can’t wait till they can start going to watch football together!

When we match buddies up it’s not just about music, we also take in to account factors such as their age (not everyone wants to go to a gig with someone who looks like their mum or dad!), gender identity and sexuality.

Here’s a story about Sas and Laura who were matched around their love of football.

Sas and Laura

Sas has been matched to her volunteer Laura for 3 years and in that time Laura has supported her to attend a weekly football training session in Brighton run by BLAGSS Brighton Lesbian and Gay Sports Society, to the point where Sas now travels on her own to play football even if her volunteer is unable to attend.

She is part of the football teams WhatsApp group who she will keep in touch with en-route to let them know she is safe. She recently attended Laura’s wedding reception alongside fellow members of her football team – a great example of someone being fully included in part of their social circle.

It was Sas’s birthday during lockdown, so Laura arranged for a surprise doorstep visit from some of her football team to send their birthday wishes. Sas can’t wait until lockdown is over and she is looking forward to a big gig buddies party and marching in Brighton Pride next year.

Sarah_Mencap profile image


I am hope I am not stealing anyone's thunder by posting this, but here is a brilliant BBC report on Gig Buddies - Coronavirus: Gig Buddies scheme uniting people in lockdown


Great stuff!



Emily-GigBuddies profile image
Emily-GigBuddiesExpert in reply to Sarah_Mencap

Thanks for sharing!

This feature actually going live on BBC Look North today at 1.30 and again at 6.30pm showing more about our groups socials and Martha and Tommy's friendship during lockdown!

We've had a lovely feature on BBC Look North today showcasing the great friendship between our Gig Buddy pair Martha and Tommy and what things we've been up to during lockdown like virtual group meet-ups and quizzes.

Follow the link to watch and skip to

3 mins 47 seconds


there was a wonderful story on BBC Look North today but I'm going to let Emily share that as she and her team deserve all the credit for that. It's a wonderful article though, properly shows the aims of the project being about humanity.

Thanks so much Paul! It's a big team effort with all the Gig Buddies partners across the UK and Australia! we couldn't do any of this without you all!

Here's the BBC feature Paul is talking about (skip to 3.47)


It shows how important gig buddy friendships are and how they're continuing to strive though lockdown

Gig Buddies is all about enabling people with learning disabilities to go out to busy places in the evenings where there’s loads of other people enjoying the same activity. Obviously lockdown blew a huge hole in that! However, there’s loads of ways in which we’ve been keeping the friendships going. We’ll pick up on that more tomorrow but here’s Daniel and Angie’s story

Daniel and Angie

Daniel and Angie are coming up to their first year anniversary of knowing each other. They had planned to have a meal in the pub where they first met, but that has had to go on hold for the moment because of lockdown. After being introduced by the Gig Buddies coordinator Malcolm, they immediately became friends as they shared so many interests: theatre, pubs, events, bowling, football and most of 80’s music to name a few.

To name a few shows they have been to 80’s mania, Bee Gees, Panto, Thriller, and the most fun Tropicana Nights – an 80s disco. The last time they went to this they had trouble walking back to the car as we had danced for 5 non stop hours.

Whilst their activities are frozen for the moment, they are currently ringing each other regularly.

Angie says: “To anyone thinking about volunteering to be a Gig Buddy – I would say don’t think twice. Being a Gig Buddy, has given me new confidence, new friendship in a widening pool of diverse wonderful, kind interesting people I would never have found otherwise and a new sense of freedom to have fun.”

Daniel says: “Having a Gig Buddy makes me smile.”

We've had several lovely friendships grow over lockdown, one pair who's featured on Look North and BBC Radio Humberside has shared their thoughts on their friendship.

Here is what Martha had to say about meeting Tommy and their friendship;

“I was a bit nervous at first but as soon as I met Tommy, we were off. We knew straight away that we would get on brilliantly. We’re both huge musical theatre fans so we quickly made plans to start going to see musicals together in and about Hull.

Unfortunately though after we had met only twice - and whilst we were planning our next theatre trip! - lockdown started and we couldn't meet up in person. But this hasn't stopped us – throughout lockdown we have been staying in touch over Zoom and doing sing-alongs as a way to keep enjoying our love of musical theatre.

The Gig Buddies programme has also been running online virtual socials for the whole group with quizzes and catch-ups. And the project is supporting buddies and volunteers to stay in touch via videos calls, phone or even by letter for those who don’t have access to with technology”

In the words of Tommy; “I love Martha as a bestie”

I think Tommy's words summaries their Gig Buddy friendship perfectly.

You can find out more about Gig Buddies Mencap here - mencap.org.uk/get-involved/...

Or if you don't live in Hull, East Riding or Bradford - you can see where your nearest Gig Buddies site is here - gigbuddies.org.uk/other-gig...

Also if you want to know more about befriending - Mencap would love to hear more from you if you or someone you support would like to know more about befriending. Please do get in touch on here or email -


We’d love to hear any ideas or answer enquiries but are able to help in particular around:

-Finding out more about befriending

-Find out if there is befriending available in your local area

-Receive information to set up a befriending service.

The through lockdown my team at Stay Up Late are fantastic and as soon as we were presented with the challenge of keeping our work going through lockdown they set about changing the ways we do things.

Here’s some of the things we’ve been doing:

-Phoning everyone regularly for a quick check-in to see how things are going

-Socials by Zoom, we’ve had pub quizzes, karaoke nights, chatshows and impromptu fancy dress sessions

-Coffee mornings where there’s no plan or agenda, just time to meet up and chat on Zoom and chat about anything that comes to mind

-Coronavirusfest – just as lockdown was starting to look inevitable we set up a Facebook page as a way of keeping the gigs going and invited musicians to stream live from their homes. The response has been overwhelming with a wide range of performers with and without learning disabilities performing. facebook.com/coronavirusfest/

-Campaign ambassadors meetings – we have a network of self-advocates who are our campaign ambassadors so we’ve been meeting regularly online with them and talking about what we can do and have started a project to link our ‘Manifesto for an Ordinary Life’ to the Human Rights Act.

-Digital connections project – all of our activity has inevitably been online which has made us more aware than ever of all the people we work with who aren’t digitally active. So we started a project to equip those people with smartphones and get them more connected.

It’s been a busy time and we’re doing all we can to keep friendships going.

One of our campaign ambassadors (and a trustee) Daniel said he’s got a plan for what we can do when lockdown ends. He wants a barbeque on the beach while we all dance listening to Slade records.

I’ve said I don’t care what time of year it is, or what the weather’s doing, I’ll be there with my disco trousers and my flashing hat on to join him!

For more information on our work please see



Sarah_Mencap profile image


One final post from me. There is a lovely video on Mencap TV from Rebecca and Savanna. Enjoy


This conversation is now closed, but feel free to create a brand new post if you want to ask a question about Gig buddies, Stay Up Late or anything else. Just go to healthunlocked.com/mencap/w...

Best wishes


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