2014 – Our year in blogs

It’s been another amazing year for the charity and here’s our pick of our best bits of news looking back:

We’re in the NME

We get a mention in a piece about access to live music for fans with disabilities.

The Wild Things Juke Box

2014 saw the completion of the Juke Box project – showcasing some amazing music by people with learning disabilities and also showcasing some amazing rhino sculptures made out of felt, gaffer tape and old records.

Gig Buddies was 1 year old – Jan ’14

It’s been another truly amazing year for the Gig Buddies project and things have moved on a lot since this post – now there’s over 50 participants and 50 volunteers who’ve collectively been to over 360 gigs, and gone to Glastonbury, Southseafest, Latitude and Shakedown festivals. Now we’re planning to set up versions of the project with partners in Scotland and Australia. Oh yes, and some lucky buddies even got back stage to meet James Blunt!

Hosting the ART-is project

Back in March we hosted a group of 35 European artists with learning disabilities as part of the ART-is project. It was an incredible weekend and the project has continued to grow and deliver great things with further visits to Belgium and Spain. Next up its Poland and the final festival in Malta.

UKID support us

UKID are a Glastonbury based rock/drum & bass band and out of the blue they got in touch with us to offer their support to the Gig Buddies project. It’s so generous of them and we’re looking forward to the release of their debut album in early 2015 and planning to do some more gigs with them.

School of punk rock – class of 2014

Paul and Simon (from Heavy Load) were back at Somerhill Junior School working with a new intake of little punks, teaching them about disability hate crime and how to write a punk song in 20 minutes.

We were recruiting again

It seems that it’s become an annual event to employ one new awesome member of staff per year, starting last year with Madeline and this year we said hello to Kate!

Storm and Thunder get creative

It’s been another great year for the Storm and Thunder Team, advising the work of the trustees and we’ve got plans to get them even more involved over the coming year, and they played a great part in our recent AGM. Here they had a visit from an author giving them some ideas about how to write creative blogs.

10 reasons why people with learning disabilities don’t have great lives…

This blog followed on from the workshops we ran at the BILD and Learning Disability Wales conferences in late 2013 and looked at the obstacles getting in the way of people leading great lives, and what could be done to remove them. This was probably our most retweeted and shared blog of the year and we’re hoping to build on this work over the coming year.

Sex and health and rock ‘n roll

We ran a project, with funding from East Sussex County Council, to deliver health promotion training to our volunteers. We were able to use everything we learned from the training to create some easy to read health guides. The drafts are available now here but we’ve got some ideas about how we can make these even better and will update them in the new year.

On your marks get set go – Spirit of 2012

We were thrilled to be given the opportunity for Evie Rothwell to run in the National Lottery Anniversary Run, through the Olympic Park which raised funds for the charity but also enabled us to be part of something showing how the legacy of the games, and volunteering, is having a lasting effect on people across the country.

Berhana’s trip to Glastonbury ’14

For the second year running, and with huge thanks to our mates Attitude is Everything, we were able to run another Gig Buddies trip to Glastonbury Festival where our participants worked as access stewards. Here Berhana tells the story from her perspective.

A draft manifesto for change

This post followed on from the ’10 reasons why…’ post above which got us thinking how we could try and come up with a manifesto that put what needs to change across in a straightforward, short and sweet way. The idea being that it would fit on to a mug so when a manager of a care home is writing the rota they’d be reminded of what they need to think about. We’re hoping to be able to develop this idea over 2015.

We’re radical and that’s official!

2014 really was a year of some incredible high points and here’s another one which really was a total thrill for us, to be recognised by NESTA and The Observer as one of the 50 new radical people and organisations in the UK making a difference in communities. This really meant a huge amount to us.

Gig Buddies UK and social franchising

There has been a huge amount of interest in the Gig Buddies project and we get a lot of requests from people wanting it in their area. We’re only going to be able to run it in Sussex as we believe the most important aspect is being able to develop relationships, which means we need to know everyone well. So we’re working on a plan to share it and this blog is hopefully the first of many which will tell the story of our journey to do this.

And here’s the second part to this blog here

Annual Report 2013/14

This is an overview of the previous year and you can download the full report and accounts which are linked at the end of the post.

Paul’s interview on Radio New Zealand

As news of Gig Buddies starts to travel we’re starting to pop up in some unexpected places. Here’s Paul speaking on Radio NZ and we also appeared in Stylist Magazine amongst other things over the year.

ART-is trip to Belgium

The ART-is adventure continued and we had an incredible time in Belgium – we ran a workshop to write a punk song with a group of people from various countries with learning disabilities and then performed it 2 days later to a crowd of 5000 people at the Buitenbeenpop Festival. Truly amazing!

Punk AGM write-up

As part of our ongoing efforts to make the charity as user-led as possible we decided to run our AGM as an Open Space Forum this year, enabling everyone to share their ideas for the strategic direction of the charity. This is a write up of this very successful experiment.

Jo Whiley talks about staying up late

It was great to see this interview by Jo Whiley from Mencap’s Little Noise Sessions talking directly about the issues that we talk about. Hopefully a sign that our message is starting to get across. We live in hope.

FAQs about Gig Buddies

This may sound like a slightly dull blog title but we get asked all sorts of questions about how Gig Buddies works so here’s a compendium of them.

Paul’s new blog – ‘Pressure Drop’

As a charity we know that it’s important to keep active on social media, and also because of the Heavy Load movie we’ve also got great networks and contacts and we’re known about right across the country, and beyond. However, the downside to this is that people often think we’re a huge organisation with loads of resources when the truth is that we’re tiny.

Paul’s new blog aims to lift the lid on the way we work although he confesses that he’s been so busy lately new posts have been few and far between!

Gig Buddies in The Guardian

Looking back over the year it’s been pretty action packed and then The Guardian approached us, on the back of our New Radical Award, hung out with us at The Horrors gig in Worthing and wrote this wonderful feature on us. The reaction was amazing and we’ve had so many requests from people either wanting to be volunteers or wanting Gig Buddies in their own area. We now know we have our work cut out for the year ahead to try and make this happen.

The article also brought our favourite quote from the year “Wahhey, free beer!” – Andrew Walker

Commissioning for change – Richmond Borough Council workshop

Continuing on from our ’10 reasons’ post and our ‘manifesto for change‘ post this is some work we did with the Learning Disability Forum at Richmond Borough Council.

Andrew talks about going to Australia

Andrew, one of our Gig Buddy participants, and a frankly awesome public speaker talks here about what he’s looking forward to with the trip to Australia in Feb ’15 to help launch Gig Buddies Sydney.

Extra Time’s young punks

Here we worked with local charity Extra Time and ran a songwriting workshop with their holiday club, and came up with an awesome song together.

Why Gig Buddies in Australia?

We’ve had a couple of people asking why we need to go to Australia, how much it’s costing and who’s paying. Here’s why and why this will also be an amazing opportunity for us to learn how to share the Gig Buddies model with other organisations.

John Renbourn fundraiser raises £1976!!

We were thrilled to have guitar legend John Renbourn and local folk singer Bob Lewis do a fundraiser for us. And we raised £1976 towards Gig Buddies, amazing!

Lemos and Crane, 22nd Nov ’14

Paul was back talking at longtime friends of the charity, Lemos and Crane’s conference in London looking at new ways in which people with learning disabilities can be supported in their communities.

ART-is in Madrid

Here we talk about the latest stage of the ART-is project where 3 Gig Buddies participants went to Madrid with Madeline and Kate.

My late night thinking on Stay Up Late…a blog

We were thrilled with this guest blog by Alexander Kenmure reflecting on our work.


Here’s a couple of other blogs that name checked our work too

Digital 2.0 for “Wicked” problems

Steve Halliday reflects on how we should engage with ‘wicked problems’ and refers to Gig Buddies and the ways in which social media enhances the project for participants and volunteers.

Gig Buddies: Fighting FOMO

This blog is from Relational Welfare and succinctly tells people about what we’re about.

Finally a big thank you to everyone who’s supported us in so many different ways and supported our fundraising efforts.


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