2020 – Stay Up Late remixed – or ‘How to Be a Punk in a Pandemic’

We had a lovely team away day to reflect on the highs and lows of last year and looking forward to what we can do to mark 10 years of Stay Up Late being a charity.

It was not just lovely to actually see colleagues face to face but also to hear everyone’s reflections on such an extraordinary year.

Everyone had been asked to make a poster in advance that told their story of the year and we used the back of a beach hut as our make-shift art gallery.

The great re-mix

Last year we all said goodbye to the late great re-mixer Andrew Weatherall and in many ways it felt like 2020 was a year where we had to totally remix the charity and our projects in order to still do the things we feel passionate about and make a difference. Of course there was little to go out and stay up late for, and no gigs, but the need to connect and create friendships was never greater or important.

My poster started with one of the last albums I bought before the lockdown ‘Braindrops’ by ‘Tropical F**K Storm’ and then my analogy of our work being like a music festival where the toilet lorry malfunctioned and ended up spraying poo everywhere.

It also felt at many times during the year that I was stood in front of a wall of Marshall amps all turned up to 11. It was intense.

But from all that mess and noise some brilliant things emerged thanks to my frankly awesome team.

The good that came of 2020

We’ll reflect on this properly in our annual review but here are a few things I reflected on.

Ambassadors meetings

Of course like everyone else we were running stacks of Zoom meetings but Darren, our campaigns coordinator, started running fortnightly meetings for our campaign ambassadors network which has grown brilliantly as a result. Me and Darren were left scratching our heads and saying “why hadn’t we thought of that before?!”

Coffee mornings

Another thing which was a small idea but turned out to be a great thing was our ‘Coffee Mornings’ – the idea was simple, an online hour where we meet-up and chat about whatever comes up. No agendas.

These have been a real success and something we’ll be carrying on in real-life, it also means we can listen to what people with learning disabilities are wanting to talk about and not force our own agendas on meetings.

The office move and community hub

Our office move was motivated by the need to find a venue where we could create opportunities for socially distanced meetings and get people more connected. The community hub hasn’t fully opened yet due to the restrictions still easing but already amazing things have started to happen and the charities all using the building are starting to work together. It’s very exciting to think about where this could all lead.

The office move also gave us a great opportunity to ditch 10 years of clutter!

Streamlining our volunteer systems

We started to look at everything like our volunteer training sessions and application process to think about how we could make these much more friendly in an online way.

As a result we’ve taken part of our training online to create a shorter Zoom part and we’ll carry this model on in real life.

We also had some great feedback about our online application forms and as a result have greatly reduced the questions we ask. We can ask those when we meet people and it’s something we’d just not sat down and thought about before.

The team’s posters

Everyone came up with their unique approach:

Victoria – getting a ‘Learning Disability Leaders Award’, team work, achieving her ambition of doing standup comedy, giving talks on Egypt, making new connections and escaping the ‘prison of lockdown’

Katie – reframing Gig Buddies by asking ‘What’s your gig?’, new team mates, new projects and cocktail parties

Jess – ‘A Storm at a Festival’ – it might keep raining but we keep on dancing.

Laura – how we stayed inspired but recognised the anxiety and tough times were going through. But through all this there was hope, ideas and positive energy.

Darren – the joy of Zoom meetings, people getting online, linking up with other Gig Buddies projects and his incredible indoor firework party social

Malcolm – an incredible punk playlist starting with The Buzzcocks ‘Oh Sh*t’ through Alternative TV’s ‘Action, Time, Vision’, UK Sub’s ‘Plan of Action’ through to the hope of The Undertones ‘Here Comes The Sumer’.

Jules – the work we’ve been doing to be more diverse, new projects, our new communications, Rohan’s Twitter take-over and keeping the vibe going online.

Annie – made an incredible zine telling the story of how, in all the chaos, we still managed to ‘keep it punk’ and make real change happen.

Jenny – increased volunteer participation, opportunities for greater community connection, being true to our campaigning and human rights activism but still having time for some pleasure and being kind to ourselves!

Common themes

There were of course common themes that emerged from the whole team:

  • A ‘Festival of Fun’ or ‘Festival of Connection’
  • Incredible team work
  • Friendship
  • Trying to not leave anyone behind
  • Keeping it fun
  • Keeping it real
  • Just how much we actually ended up achieving together
  • Everyone kept healthy
  • And of course we all ‘Kept It Punk’

Lowri’s ‘poster’

Lowri (our Communications Coordinator) couldn’t make the day but instead made hers out of shells on the beach in Wales where she summed up the year in 3 words:

Calon = Heart

Egni = Energy

Cefnogaeth = Support (in the mutual support we all gave each other)


I had three words that summed up the year for me too from how everyone had pulled together as a team:

1. Kindness

The kindness everyone showed to each other

2. Humility

The way everyone tried stuff out, asked for help and realised we were all in a really difficult and confusing time. It was ok to be honest about that and what might have felt like our failings at times.

3. Action!

I was just bowled over by how everyone just got on with trying to make great things happen for people with learning disabilities despite all the challenges. It was incredibly inspiring.

The Stay Up Late team really and truly are a bunch of authentic punks and when push comes to shove they can’t half shove!

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