Transcript: Gig Buddies

A project that matches people with a learning disability with a volunteer who shares similar interests to engage in nightlife activities together.

Podcast Episode: Gig Buddies

Category: Disability 


What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.

MM Michael McEwan
SM Samuel Magg
KF Kerry Ferguson

On this episode I went to find out about a project in Scotland called, Gig Buddies, Gig Buddies for like music fans who have a learning disability where volunteers who shares a similar interest so, I went to find out about this kind of work and I went to speak to Kerry Ferguson and Samuel Maggs.

MM So, Sam what is Gig Buddies and why is there a need for this project?

SM Gig Buddies is a project that supports music, theatre, sports, you name it and the way we do that is by pairing people one on one to a volunteer who shares the same interests, to become gig buddies. You know so that could be two people who really like folk music or two people who are Rangers fans or two people who really like musicals, no matter what it is, you’re paired to each other based on those interests. You know it could be multiple interests, it could be one specific interest. Why it’s important? Because people need to get out and do things and have social relationships and having friendships and having relationships makes you a healthier, happier person, you know and it’s all about tackling social isolation, getting people out into the community more that actually there’s a lot of events out there that are saying they’re inclusive but are not necessarily inclusive that actually they’re exclusive to people with a disability. You know but that’s not an inclusive event, it might be a safe … it might be a place where people can go and feel comfortable but actually, we want to get people out to mainstream gigs. Mainstream events into the community and really change public perceptions of what people with a learning disability can do and challenge all sorts of perceptions really.

MM So, we’re going to speak about the areas you cover as well but is there any plans to make it wider than the areas that you’ve got …

SM There’s always plans.

MM … at the moment?

SM Well, yeah we’d absolutely love to, the big question is around funding obviously so, at the moment we cover Midlothian, Edinburgh, West Lothian and Glasgow so, really the Central Belt of Scotland really but we’d love to get it into Dundee and we’ve got a few connections with starting in Dundee, some venue connections and things like that. We’ve got some connections with some social care organisations up in Aberdeen, the organisation that Gig Buddies is actually run through up here in Scotland are called Thera, the Thera Trust and we’re a support organisation and we work also quite heavily up in Inverness so, we’ve got a few connections up there so, we’ve got friends in all sorts of places really but we just have Gig Buddies in kind of those main Central Belt areas at the moment and it’s also a project that I think wants to be everywhere and needs to be everywhere, you know, wherever you go there’s going to be people who are socially isolated. Where it’s more vital probably is in the more rural areas but then that’s also it’s trickier to run, you know, because it’s harder to reach people, it’s harder to pin point people to events that are easily accessible and when I say easily accessible, I just mean things as simple as bus routes and things like that you know, not necessarily physically accessible venues or anything like that just actually getting places in a lot of the more rural areas is really tricky and it’s frustrating because obviously those are the places and the people that need Gig Buddies the most but it’s also where projects like that are harder to run so, it’s just looking at how we can do that and how we can access those areas.

MM So, if anybody wants to become a volunteer for Gig Buddies in different areas and stuff like that, how do they get involved?

SM So, volunteers, specifically at the moment, volunteers … a number of ways really, for example yesterday we did across in Edinburgh we had Napier’s University’s Fresher’s Fair where we were just talking to students about what we do for students I think it’s a really good draw because it’s a volunteering project that fits around your interests and your time essentially so, as a voluntary role, Gig Buddies, is super casual. We want your Gig Buddy pairing to be just like any of your other friendships, that it happens when you want it to happen, you call up your friend and you say, “Hey, there’s this gig on at the weekend, do you want to go out?” or, “Oh, in October, I’ve noticed that this film comes out, how about we book some tickets?” you know, and there’s no formality about it, it fits around everybody’s time, we very much recommend … it depends on the person and their support needs and stuff but we say … a question I’ve often had fr0om support workers and family, are, “What day should Gig Buddies happen?” and it’s like well what day is something happening in town? You know if you just say, “We’re going to do Gig Buddies the first Tuesday of the month.” What’s to say anything’s happening that you want to go to, you know, and similarly with our friendships we don’t say, “You’re my friend that I see on a Wednesday.”, “You’re my friend I see on a Thursday.” We see each other when it suits all of us and when there’s something to do and when there’s a reason to meet up, we want a reason to see our friends and that’s what Gig Buddies is about, it’s about saying, “Hey, there’s this thing happening at the weekend, I think you’re going to really be into it, let’s get some tickets, let’s go out.” I’ve also found Gig Buddies is great at like expanding each party’s horizons of what is out there so, my gig buddy for example, has suggested so many great things to me that I’d have never gone out to if it wasn’t for her suggesting those events and likewise, we’ve got a lot of volunteers who suggest things that their buddies may be have never heard of and they go along and that’s it maybe a new band they start to love or a new venue they start to love. Find out about us on … Facebook’s a great place to find out just about everything we’re doing. We’ve got 3 separate projects which are Glasgow, West Lothian and Edinburgh, you can find out about all of them just by looking up Gig Buddies Scotland. So, we’ve got kind of like a central Facebook page, Gig Buddies Scotland, that shares the lot and then each of those projects has an individual page but you can find everything through the Gig Buddies Scotland page. Send us an email, and that will come through to all of us and the right person from the right area will just get back in contact with you and have a chat about whatever it is you want to chat about really and yeah, it’s just really simple to become a volunteer.

MM Tell us about some of the events?

SM Yeah, so we make a point that we very rarely organise our own events, that actually what we want to be getting people out to are mainstream events that are going to be happening anyway. Obviously, each individual pairing can go to what they want when they want regardless of what we’re doing as a group but we very often … in each place we work there’s two to three socials a month which are just group events where we say, “Come along and meet other people.” They’re fantastic places if you’re not a member yet, come along to a social, have a chat to one of our staff members, have a chat to some other members of the project or volunteers and see if it’s the kind of thing you want to get involved with and they’re also great places for people who don’t yet have a volunteer that actually if you can get out to a social, it’s just another way of making those social connections and expanding your social network and meeting new people and especially meeting likeminded people, I think that’s the key that we really want to get likeminded people talking to other people. It’s about making friends ultimately, making friends, expanding your social networks and just getting more confident, so yeah, the socials we run are just very often public events, you know public events that anyone’s going along to and we just say, “This is happening in town, come along.” And very often they’re free events so, for example this weekend a couple of us are going to the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh from 2 till 5, that’s just, it’s free entry to the Jazz Bar, there’s a live band, come along, get a drink, chat to people, listen to some music. Tonight actually, in West Lothian, there’s a social that our West Lothian coordinator, Hannah, is running which is an EP launch for like an indie folk artist, you know it’s just a local gig but it’s like £5 a ticket, what she did is just get in touch with the artist, she reserved 10 tickets, we put it out to the group saying, “we’ve got 10 tickets to this, who wants to come along?” and those spaces got booked up and there’s a load of people going to a gig that maybe they wouldn’t have heard of otherwise.

MM So, tell us about Edinburgh Festival then?

SM Yeah, so we’ve got a really, really fantastic relationship with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival specifically, also with the International Festival but I think what you’re referring to is specifically with the Fringe, what we did this year?

MM Yeah.

SM So, we’re really lucky enough to be one of the Fringes Fringe Days Out partners which is one of thirty community groups specifically in Edinburgh because that’s where the Fringe operates and the Fringe Days Out partners are community groups working with all sorts of people so, there’s people working with families, people working with children, we’re working with adults with a learning disability and we get a lot of free stuff basically is what it boils down to, yeah in its simplest form we get to offer our members essentially a free festival and this year our kind of staple in the calendar was an event that we called Fringing 9 to 5, where we enabled, in the end sixteen members and volunteers, a big group of us, to get out to the Festival from 9am until 5am the following morning. Throughout the day we saw six shows, all sorts of different stuff, we saw theatre, and then a lot of it was also stand-up comedy, musical comedy, and we saw David O’Doherty who was lovely and we got some great photos of David O’Doherty, Mark Watson, Flo and Joan, who are musical comedians and we also later in the month, we actually interviewed Flo and Joan and that’s a video that will be on our Facebook page at some point, or just go and search Gig Buddy Scotland and there might be an interview with Flo and Joan up there at the moment, I it could be coming. And then we went clubbing until 5am, I think seven people went into the club and all of those seven members had been with us since 9 o’clock in the morning and I think that’s absolutely just fantastic and everyone had a great time, you know and actually nothing went wrong and obviously as the person kind of putting that event together, extremely nervous about the whole thing but yeah it just takes organisation and actually then, we had some fantastic volunteers helping everyone throughout the day but it worked and it was absolutely brilliant and there’s a video as well up on our Facebook page, we put it to 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton, go and check it out.

MM Yeah, sounds good.

SM And I just find it the most uplifting thing of just … it’s just a video of fun and it was just a day of fun and yeah, it was fantastic.

MM Are you planning to do that next year now or was that a kind of one off?

SM That’s the big question, are we planning on doing it again? I’d love to look at doing it again, absolutely or doing something very similar at least, definitely the late night clubbing, I think we need to do, we need to push more of and say, “Actually look, people can be supported out to this time or people really want to.” You know and cos it’s a different experience and you might say, “Oh go into a club that’s from 8pm till 10pm, you know still going to a club.” But actually, there is something about clubbing until 5am and it is a different experience and it does mean something different to people and I think it’s really important that the people who want to do that are given that opportunity.

MM So, are people listening to this and they want to be a Gig Buddy, what’s the process of being a volunteer?

SM So, do you mean in terms of like actually signing up, what does that kind of …?

MM Yeah, yeah.

SM So, I’ll go through signing up as a volunteer and I’ll also go through signing up as a member.

MM Yeah.

SM Yeah, yeah?

MM Yeah, yeah.

SM So, signing up as a volunteer, as I said, is very simple really that you just get in touch with … just send us an email to whether you want to a volunteer or a member, just a great place to initially make contact you know, and then your local coordinator will get in touch with you whether that’s me in Edinburgh, whether it’s Molly in Glasgow, or Hannah in West Lothian, will get in touch and just have a little a chat. If you’re a volunteer, there’s a really simple application form that you just need to send out, send across to us and then we’ll meet for an interview, we’ll get your PVG done, and then there’s some training that all of our volunteers go through, that mainly looks at different ways in which we can support people through Gig Buddies, what the role of a gig buddy is and also about adult support and protection, safe guarding confidentiality, boundaries and all the stuff that people need to know about and then we’ll pair you up with someone. From the point of view of a member, get in touch with us and we’ll just come out and have a chat with you, you know we’ll meet in a caf• or we can come to wherever it is you’re comfortable with and we’ll just talk you through that sign up process which is really, really simple, really all we need to know is what you want to do with Gig Buddies, what do you want to get out of Gig Buddies, what is it you’re interested in going to and there’s a few things obviously like data consent forms and stuff like that and there’s a bit of boring paperwork to go along with it but it’s all very simple stuff that we ask, you know it’s just what do you want to get out of Gig Buddies, what are you looking to get from the project and the big question is just what are you interested in? You know, what do you want to go to? What kind of music do you like? What kind of films do you like? What kind of theatre do you like? Are you a sports fan of any kind? Who do you want your gig buddy to be? What kind of person would you like? And then after a while, we’ll get in touch and say, “we’ve got a gig buddy for you.” Hopefully. You’re kind of put on to a waiting list, I suppose, but because it’s matched on mutual interest, there’s no real time frame for being paired up, it is just when the right person comes through, and I think that’s where we differ sometimes from other kind of befriending projects, whereas we really are going to wait for the right person, that we could pair anyone with anyone but actually we want to make valuable relationships and relationships that people really feel comfortable in and feel valued and every step of the way, you’ve got an option of who you’re gig buddy is, if you don’t feel that actually that’s the right relationship for you, the right person for you, just say and that’s cool. We’ve got our socials if you want to come along and be part of our little community and meet other members and meet other volunteers and meet likeminded people, but we really want to give each pairing the freedom to do what they want when they want and just get to know each other in a way that’s comfortable to them and find out what their relationships going to be about and we ask people to get out roughly once a month, any more than that’s absolutely fantastic, obviously, Edinburgh Fringe, you could do 5 events in a day, we did 6 events in a day and then went clubbing in the evening, not in the evening, in the morning, really. So, it depends obviously what time of year it is, what’s happening.

MM So, how many buddies have you got all over Scotland? Just like a rough number.

SM We’ve got roughly thirty pairings at the moment, the numbers always change because obviously new volunteers come on board, volunteers leave, so we’ve always kind of been skirting around thirty, sometimes a bit over, sometimes a bit under, but it’s always been roughly that number. With Glasgow now starting up obviously, across the country, those numbers are going to go up and yeah, cos we ask for our volunteers initially to be around for a year, because we really want to promote that as a relationship that can develop, if you’re looking to volunteer with us and you know you’re going to be around for 3 months, there are obviously things you could help with, like coming along to socials and just being a kind of a point of contact and helping out at socials and stuff like that but we’re probably not going to pair you up with anyone one on one unless that person is just really cool with, “Hey, this person is going to be around for 3 months, I’m going to get out to a few things, that’s cool.” You know, really we want it to be more long term that it’s developing a relationship, and I suppose because we’ve been running now in Edinburgh for about 3 and a half years, we’re now starting to see some of those relationships that have gone on for longer end in some cases because people are stepping away or people, you know people’s circumstances change at the drop of a hat, you know people leave the country or have a different job in a different city and have to go off, you know, you never know what’s going to happen but that’s again that’s the nature of relationships and the nature of just people’s lives and things and that happens with our members as well. So, yeah we’ve got about thirty pairings and we’ve got about sixty to seventy members so, around just under half of our members have a one to one gig buddy but we’ve also got a lot of people who are very active in the social side of things who don’t have a gig buddy and we really promote that to the people who don’t have that one on one pairing that come out to a social, get to know other people and we always say to volunteers in the training that encourage your buddy to come to socials, and make those connections and start those networks and relationships with other members and other people because what would be fantastic is once you come to the end of your volunteering, which will inevitably happen, that you’re not going to volunteer for Gig Buddies forever, probably, it would be really good if your buddy, maybe doesn’t need a volunteer anymore that actually they’ve got that social network around them that they can say, “Hey, if I need to get out an event, I’ve just got these guys I can call and they’re my friends.”

MM Whereabouts did you hear about Gig Buddies, Kerry?

SM Through your support, wasn’t it?

KF Yeah, through my support, yeah.

SM Yeah.

KF The staff support me every single day so, I heard through my support and that’s when I met Sam for the very first time.

SM Yeah, and that was about three years ago now.

KF Yeah.

MM Yeah, yeah.

SM Yeah.

KF When I met Sam for the first time, I thought I can get into this, I really enjoyed it and I enjoyed it very much. I’m going to continue with this cos I really like it, I don’t want to give up on it. Well I think it’s like a good way of other people to get involved with us and then if they need to know anything they can come and talk to me or Sam, if they’re not sure what goes on in Gig Buddies and I’ve been there for 3 years now so, I know most of the things that happens. We both like (… unclear) events, we got to events, we go to youth clubs, karaoke, we go to like shows and stuff, talk about the newsletter, what they need to change to make it better or just you know anything.

SM People like yourself Kerry, you’re ambassadors.

KF Exactly.

SM What’s your role? Do you want to talk about that quickly?

KF Well if I’m an ambassador, obviously I am one, if they need someone to talk to, an ambassador, I’ll say, “Well come and talk to me and I can tell you what’s it all about if you need anything, just come to me and I can tell you if you need (… unclear) or anything, just come and talk to me and I’ll be able to help you out with anything you need help with.”

SM Yeah. Why were you paired with your gig buddy?

KF cos I wanted to get … I wanted to feel comfortable with the one that I had so I felt comfortable and we talked about other stuff.

SM Yeah.

KF You know like (… unclear) and stuff.

SM And you enjoy the same things, don’t you?

KF Yeah.

SM So, what kind of things did you get up to with your buddy?

KF I went to the Playhouse a lot, the cinema, tea, lunch, shopping.

SM Yeah.

KF Just anything. I went to the Jazz Bar, as well by the way, twice.

SM Yeah.

KF That was enjoyable.

SM So, that’s quite a popular social that we ran.

KF The Jazz, it was good.

SM Yeah, so that’s something that we do as a group isn’t it?

KF Yeah.

SM Where every now and again, every kind of couple of months and we make a big emphasis that we’re not support workers, and we’re not there to replace support workers, we’re there to be friends, really isn’t it?

KF Yeah.

SM And is that what you found from having a gig buddy, that actually that’s just a friend in your life to chat to?

KF Yeah, I found her easy to talk to and chat to, it really was easy just to talk to her.

SM Yeah and that’s kind of what we want.

MM So, what would you want to say to people if they want to go out and about and get a gig buddy, what would you say?

KF I would say, phone Sam or come and talk to me and get someone to come and see you and then get you trained up and get (… unclear) and then you can start to build a relationship with that person and get to know them before they go out anywhere together.

MM Okay, thank you.

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