Brighton’s music scene gets accessible

More music fans in Brighton can now enjoy live events, thanks to a scheme pairing up gig-goers who have learning disabilities with volunteer buddies

“I haven’t been to many gigs, no. But I will do now,” says David Briggs, a rock music fan from Brighton.

David, 27, has a long list of bands he’d like to see. He also has a learning disability, which means he and many of the other 1.5 million people in the UK with a learning disability struggle to get to gigs. Why? They need a support worker with them, and support workers often finish their shift mid-set.

But a new scheme in Brighton – Gig Buddies – is trying to change this. Through Gig Buddies, David will now be going to gigs with Suzy Ridgewell, a volunteer buddy and music-lover, who will see the evening through to the encore.

The pair are also off to Glastonbury festival this year, as volunteers with charity Attitude is Everything.

“I’d love to have gone to the big music festival in Preston Park last year but I just couldn’t,” says David. “I’m really excited about helping out at Glastonbury. It’s my first festival. I’ll be helping people in wheelchairs and directing people, that kind of thing. We’ll be at the front too, so should get a good view. I told my friends on Facebook that I was going to see the Rolling Stones, who are headlining. I want to see the Arctic Monkeys too. I really like them.”

“I haven’t been to many gigs, but I will do now”

David’s buddy Suzy, 24, works for a local housing association by day and is a huge live music fan by night. She’s also looking forward to going to Glastonbury for the first time. “David is really keen, it’s going to be exciting. There are loads of bands I want to see,” she says.

“I’ve seen, through my work, that it’s difficult for people with learning disabilities to get to events, and I love live music and want to expand my music tastes, so I thought, why not get involved?”

After a Buzzbnk crowdfunding campaign, plus some cash from the Learning Disabilities Development Fund and a local housing association, Gig Buddies is now getting off the ground in Brighton. There are 30 volunteers on board, and 15 people signed up for a buddy so far. In some cases, free tickets will be provided.

Madeline Denny, co-ordinator of the Gig Buddies programme, is currently in the process of matching people for gigs.

“We feel like this is going some way towards solving a big problem for a part of society which can be marginalised, and we’re really happy that we’ve had good interest from volunteers so far,” she says.

There could also be scope for matching people for football games or other events at some point, she adds. And also for the charity to expand outside of Brighton.

“We hope to keep growing and growing this, so that everyone with a learning disability can feel like they can get the most out of their social life.”