Voices of Gig Buddies: Jo
Jo, one of our longest partnered Gig Buddies, writes about her time as a volunteer and how her friendship with Christian has evolved over the years.
So apparently, it’s been 10 years since I trained to be a Gig Buddy with Stay Up Late. They say time flies when you’re having fun!
I was drawn to Gig Buddies because it is based on positives – hooking people up through gigs, music, things people love doing together – encouraging connection and friendships. It’s such a great way to address the huge issues of inequality, loneliness and exclusion that too many people with a learning disability face.
At the time I became a Gig Buddy, I worked with people with a learning disability but I wanted to live and breathe this in my own life, outside of work too. I also wanted to role model to my kids the importance of inclusion, volunteering, equality and compassion. (It’s easy to talk about these things as a parent but it’s even better if you can role model!).
I’ve been with my Gig Buddy Christian for about 8 or 9 years I think. I lose track if I’m honest! We met at ‘Kiss my Disco”, run by the lovely Nick Carling in Lewes. I was a little nervous as I was really hoping I’d have a great connection with my potential Gig Buddy and I’d been told that he wanted to meet me and see what I was like before committing to me as a Gig Buddy. Very sensible! The question was…. Would I meet the mark?
Well, I did. Yay! We met, talked and laughed a lot together and this is how it has carried on really! We’ve been to see a huge range of musicians and comedians – some that Christian has introduced me to and some who I’ve suggested. We‘ve been to comedy gigs, cafes and restaurants. Our first gig was actually seeing Kylie at the O2! How brave was that?! We’ve been volunteers at a festival together and have created some great memories! We’ve been to some great venues in and around Brighton; The Dome, Theatre Royal, Concorde, Green Door Store, Brighton Centre, St Georges Church, Lewes Con Club (to name just a few!) and all the venues have been supportive.
Christian has become a friend. He’s met many of my friends through the years, and my family all know him and I know his family… Actually my daughter Molly’s been to a comedy gig with us, and Colin, my partner – who knows Christian well now – has stepped in for me at a couple of gigs I couldn’t do when I was ill. Colin and Christian get on well together and have a laugh, so it’s fab they’ve hung out together too. Recently, Christian has stayed with us over night. We had fish and chips together, walked by the sea and watched TV. We have no doubt he’ll come and stay again.
I feel very lucky that we get on so well.
That’s not to say it’s always smooth. There’s been times when we’ve both had stuff/difficulties going on in our lives… when there have been bigger gaps between seeing each other… but that’s just like other friendships isn’t it? You weave or shuffle your way through those moments and when things ease and you emerge on the other side, you make contact and your adventures together begin again. Then we’ll have flurries of seeing each other maybe 3 times a month because that’s when there’s good stuff on that we both want to see!
I’m a HUGE fan of Gig Buddies. I love its ethos and I’d highly recommend being a Gig Buddy. They say that loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking 10 cigarettes a day. Loneliness is horrible and too many people with a learning disability are lonely and isolated. We need great projects like this to help combat issues like loneliness.
But of course the last word needs to go to Christian who says:
“Having a Gig Buddy has changed my life for the better. Before Gig Buddies, I hadn’t realised that my life was very low. Very low. It made me make new friends through doing something that I am passionate about- that’s music. Best gig? They’re all good! It’s hard to say just one, so I’ll say six! Damian Dempsey, Sarah Pascoe, Kylie, Romesh Ranganathan, Michael Bolton/Gabriel and Ferris and Sylvester!”
Would you like to be part of such a great project? You will get so much out of it. Give them a bell to find out more or call me. I’m certainly happy to rave about Gig Buddies!
– Jo Giles