Gig Buddies In A Box

A project developed by Stay Up Late
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Supporting people with learning disabilities to be full and active members of their communities, one gig at a time

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Our charity was started by the punk band ‘Heavy Load’. Three of the members of Heavy Load had learning disabilities and they were tired of seeing their fans leaving their gigs at 9pm due to support staff working inflexible rotas. They started the Stay Up Late campaign in 2006 and it was featured in the award winning feature documentary about them. After 15 years of anarchy and mayhem the band decided to call it a day in 2012. But set up Stay Up Late as a charity in order to continue the campaigns good work.

The work of Stay Up Late falls into three main areas; campaigning to change institutional and inflexible care practices, educating people about the issues facing people with learning disabilities and running the Gig Buddies volunteer project.

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We started Gig Buddies in Brighton and Hove in Jan ’13, the concept is simple; we match people with learning disabilities and autism with a volunteer who loves the same kind of music so they can go to gigs together.

Through Gig Buddies we are able to support people to be less socially isolated and lead healthier and more fulfilled lives that they’re in control of. We’re also able to support people with learning disabilities and autism to develop their informal social networks and friendships outside of typical social care settings.

We know that this is not just healthier for individuals, it’s also healthier for communities. A community that sees people as individuals with particular interests will see past any disability and get to know the person.

"I like going out to listen to music
and to dance and I like
going out without my mum"

About Gig Buddies


We ensure the right support is in place so that the project runs successfully, wherever it is...

Here’s How It Works…

  • All participants and volunteers are interviewed so we get to know them, and find out how they enjoy spending their time
  • All volunteers have full criminal records checks conducted (DBS in England)
  • All volunteers receive a day’s worth of training which covers supporting people with learning disabilities, communication, safeguarding and dealing with unexpected incidents.
  • When a volunteer is matched with their buddy they will be made aware of any specific support needs, where appropriate.
  • Volunteers are asked to commit to one gig a month and also to meet their buddy for a coffee to plan the next event.
  • We run regular social meet-ups so buddies can meet each other and share experiences.
  • Volunteers are given 2 formal supervision sessions per year to check that everything is going well and to see if any more support is required.
  • Volunteers are not expected to support participants with any personal care needs.

"He enjoys the feeling of independence of being free of my supervision when he goes with a Gig Buddy. The sense of being a young adult enjoying doing the sort of thing other young adults like in a parent free zone is very important to him."

Our Guiding Principles

In order to ensure the quality of the Gig Buddies programme everything we do is with our guiding principles in mind

1. Activities

Increasing the meaningful participation of those with learning disabilities in various cultural activities and gigs

2. Choices

People with learning disabilities being able to make real choices about the way they lead their life, and being able to lead on delivering and developing the project

3. Community

Developing ongoing relationships to enable people with learning disabilities to develop informal support networks and friendships in their communities

"I don't go out in the evening because people pick on me I mostly stay in bed.
Now that I have a Gig Buddy I feel like I'm in the community and not being bored at home and get me out to a sport eventand music. If I did not have my Gig Buddy I would be anxious and scared to go by myself"

Gig Buddies In A Box



We’re keen to work with organisations who are going to be able to work with us to transform communities through their Gig Buddies project whilst upholding the core fundamentals of what makes Gig Buddies special to us.

We’re looking to work with organisations who:


  • Work with people with learning disabilities in an inclusive way, enabling them to be fully involved in decisions about the project.
  • Will be able to create a dedicated role for a project coordinator to oversee the project locally.
  • Are open to taking an assets based approach to running the project/training, eg. utilising the particular skills of participants in training sessions.

  • Are realistically going to be able to get their version of Gig Buddies off the ground within 9 months of expressing an interest (including securing funding)
  • Are willing to support the wider work of Stay Up Late in its attempts to challenge and change institutionalised care systems, that don’t support people after 9pm at night. This may include committing to make changes within your own organisation if you are a support provider.


Self Eligibility Checklist

1. Passion

Are you passionate about inclusion and enabling people with learning disabilities to be full and active members of their community?

2. Commitment

Are you committed to ensuring your Gig Buddies project is as user-led as possible?

3. Support & Experience

Do you have the backing of your board/management, and experience of running a volunteer project?

5. Experimental

Are you up for experimenting, trying things out and sharing your experiences?

Whats in the box?

When your organisation becomes part of Gig Buddies In A Box you will gain access to the wider Gig Buddies community via an online portal where you can chat to other Gig Buddy groups, share news, call out for help and download forms, policies and procedures to help you. As well as full training, the box includes:

      • Training resources and session plans
      • Referral paperwork and forms
      • Draft policies and procedures
      • The Gig Buddies branding – colour coded for your own locality
      • Access to your own local version of the Gig Buddies website
      • Draft funding budgets to aid writing applications
      • Training
      • An annual Gig Buddies conference for all partners to meet-up, share experiences with participants and learn from each other.
      • Additionally we can provide support scoping out potential funding sources and support you with writing your applications. (This is a separate offer that we can assist you with and will agree specific additional charges as appropriate).
      • Ongoing support (we can provide additional consultancy if required and costs for this can be discussed)

The Cost

The maximum size for any Gig Buddies licence will support 30 pairs of buddies. If you are a large organisation wanting to support more people then we can discuss the set up of more projects and licences on a case by case basis.

We are keen to support organisations big and small. A typical licence costs £6000 paid over 3 years giving you the rights to use the Gig Buddies™ in your area, and to reflect the level of support needed over that time in order to set the scheme up well:
Year 1: £3000
Year 2: £2000
Year 3: £1000
An annual licence renewal fee of £500 will also be payable. If you are a small organisation wanting to set up a micro version of the project (between 5-10 participants) please get in touch to discuss costs. We can also provide additional support and consultancy services, and can discuss all costs specific to your needs.

"Before I had a Gig Buddy I felt lost at the weekends. I had never been to a gig,
but having a Gig Buddy has meant that I've discovered new music. It means I can travel to Brighton, which I couldn't do before. Once you start going out you are more able to do other things. It improves your confidence. "

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Bring Gig Buddies To Your Area

If you want to take the exciting step of bringing Gig Buddies to your area drop us a line and we'll send you a short application form. Alternatively, if you're an organisation that would like to work with us to provide support to different groups of people please also contact us as we'd love to talk to you about how we can tailor Gig Buddies to the needs of the people you support.

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Contact details
2nd Floor, Manor Offices,
Emmaus Brighton & Hove,
Drove Road,
Portslade, BN41 2PA,
United Kingdom
+44 (0) 1273 418 102