Gig Buddies in a box

Gig Buddies matches up people with learning disabilities and/or autism with a volunteer who shares the same interests and passions, the idea being that it supports people to grow their informal support networks and friendship circles thereby promoting positive physical and mental well-being.

The idea is pretty simple but there’s a lot of thought and work that’s gone in to making sure it’s run as well as possible and that people are kept as safe as is possible whilst also enjoying the richness of activities going on in their local communities.

The 4 Principles of Gig Buddies

There are 4 key things which we think make Gig Buddies special, and which can’t be changed, or it’s not a Gig Buddies project:

1. It’s led by people with learning disabilities

We started off with an idea but through working with our advisory group (The Storm and Thunder Team) and listening to participants and volunteers the project has evolved over time. We aim to keep the concepts of co-production through all our work.

2. It’s about meaningful community participation

It’s about going to ‘mainstream’ events and gigs in your community that are open to all. In this it’s also essential that it’s about respecting people’s choices. It’s not about us organising our own events, except for the occasional fundraiser and awareness raiser.

3. It’s about cultural activities

A gig could be a rock concert but could also be an afternoon of looking round art galleries. The important thing is that it’s your ‘gig’ – whatever it is that you enjoy doing. Other buddies go to football matches, checking out cake cafes in Brighton’s Lanes, nature walks as well as a whole shed load of gigs and concerts.

4. It’s about friendships and volunteering

We are passionate about reducing social isolation and whilst we know loads of great support workers the fact is that they are still being paid to do a job. Gig Buddies is all about having people in your life who aren’t paid to be there.

We also know that it will look different in every area as everywhere is different. But these 4 things just can’t change.

We’ve also created this short presentation which gives an overview of how the project works. (There’s more info on each slide in the notes area) Gig Buddies overview (click on the link to download it)

The Manual

The first thing in ‘The Box’ is the manual which contains loads and loads of know-how that we’ve developed in running the project.

In the manual you’ll find:

  1. Context and background
  2. Coming up with a local launch strategy
  3. Setting up your advisory group
  4. Recruiting participants and volunteers
  5. The matching process and top tips
  6. Community building – both the internal community within your Gig Buddies project and also externally in your town or city
  7. Using social media to promote your project
  8. How to work the website, and using WordPress
  9. Monitoring and evaluation
  10. Training and vetting volunteers

The Gig Buddies Extranet

Training Materials

The volunteer training section covers:

  1. An introduction to Gig Buddies
  2. An introduction to learning disabilities and autism
  3. The Social Model of Disability
  4. Communication
  5. Safeguarding
  6. ‘What happens if…?’
  7. And also how to run the dreaded dance-off! (The highlight/lowlight of any training day depending on how you view it!)


Gig Buddies is a Trademarked thing and so we will help you to find a domain that works for your area. The website itself can be branded for your own colours, have your organisation’s logos added and other things to link it to your area/organisation.

It’s all built in WordPress (just like this website) which means it’s easy to edit yourself. It will contain things like:

  1. Signing up to be a Gig Buddy
  2. Local events (as added by you)
  3. Reviews of gigs buddies have been to
  4. Blog posts and news
  5. Frequently asked questions

Easier to Read Policies

As a charity our vision if that all our policies and information should be as easy to read as we can make it. So here we’ll be adding all the easier to read policies that we’ve written so far. You’ll be able to find:

  1. Confidentiality and data protection
  2. Consent
  3. Equality, diversity and inclusion
  4. Health and safety
  5. Lone working
  6. Safeguarding
  7. Wellness at work

Other Useful Resources

You’ll also find things like:

  1. The Volunteer Handbook
  2. Our event planning check-list
  3. Our guide to running user-led meetings
  4. Our guide to writing press releases
  5. Evaluation questionnaires and surveys

Promotional Materials

  1. Leaflets and posters
  2. General Gig Buddies presentations slides
  3. DIY films we’ve made (and that you’ve made!)
  4. Our stock photos
  5. Optional extras:
    • Conference banners
    • T-shirts
    • Ideas for promotional materials

Funding Support

We can’t write bids for you (as much as we love writing funding applications!) but we also can’t claim to be experts and simply also just don’t have the time as we’re busy writing our own and working with our existing funders. BUT we can share things to help you.

We’re happy to share things like:

  1. Draft budgets, showing costs that we experience
  2. Some example content for funding bids


In-keeping with our Punk/DIY ethic we enjoy creating our own materials to try and help explain the project further and we’ll be adding these as and when we create them.


And then there’s us! We’re more than happy to help give advice and share ideas. We’ve got loads of experience amongst us of not only running Gig Buddies but also in campaigning, co-production, user-led approaches and how to start a party!

But there’s also of course YOU the community of Gig Buddies partners. It’s possibly a controversial view of mine that many of you will no doubt disagree with but I see it like The Beatles. They were always far greater than the sum of their parts and didn’t release anything like near as brilliant as individuals as what they did when they were the fab four. I see it the same way with building a community of Gig Buddies partners. The vision is that we’ll all share and develop our work together the overall aim in mind of improving the lives of people with learning disabilities and/or autism.

(See this blog about when this vision goes wrong and gets skewed – Social franchising and the biggest risk.)

Do get in touch if you’d like to develop Gig Buddies in your area. While we may sometimes give the impression that we work off the back of old envelopes and cigarette packets, in fact it’s all pretty well thought out and evolving in an organically co-produced way. We’d love you to be part of that.

Paul – Director

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