We've compiled answers to some of your frequently asked questions (FAQ) about Gig Buddies.

Click the question to reveal each answer.

What is Gig Buddies

Gig Buddies is a volunteer befriending scheme for adults with a learning disability, matching them with a volunteer who shares the same interests.

Gig Buddies recognised that many people with a learning disability don't have many people in their lives who aren't paid to be there, much support or who are based around a genuine interest.

The aim of the project is therefore to support people with a learning disability to develop new social circles and informal support networks. 

Who are Stay Up Late?

Stay Up Late was set up as a campaign organisation in 2006, born from the punk metal band, Heavy Load, who had band members with a learning disability.

They used to get crowds of people with a learning disability attend their gigs, but noticed a lot of the audience left by 9pm, to fit with the hours of support worker shifts. So, the band set up a campaign around making hours more flexible to allow people with a learning disability to be out after 9pm; to "stay up late".

In 2013 they set up Gig Buddies and the project solution to this, matching people with shared interests around music to go to gigs together. The project has since evolved, and matches people to be "buddied" for a range of activities, not just gigs and music. 

Find out more at stayuplate.org.

What is the age group you work with?

The project is for anyone over 18 years old, but we ask that 80% of people on the project be under 30.

This is because we want to reach the next generation of people with a learning disability and support them to have friendships and connections.

Who is the scheme aimed at?

Anyone can get involved but we're particularly interested in working with people with a learning disability who get little or no funded support as there is is a risk that this group of people will be most at risk from social isolation.

Where can I take part in Gig Buddies?

Mencap currently have funding to run Gig Buddies in Norwich, Long Eaton and Bradford.

However, we're looking for funding to be able to deliver the project in more areas.

Stay Up Late also currently run Gig Buddies in Brighton and East Sussex, and have other Gig Buddies in a Box sites launching in Calderdale, Portsmouth, Croydon and have established sites in Edinburgh and Sydney.

Do volunteers get training?

Yes - all buddies go through the Gig Buddies training programme.

This generally takes 1 day and covers areas such as:

  • an introduction to learning disability
  • communication
  • safeguarding
  • 'what to do if' scenarios

All volunteers must complete DBS issues, and we also ask for 2 references. 

We also recommend that new pairs of buddies come to a social for their first gig together, we're on hand to provide any support too.

Who decides on the buddy?

The Gig Buddies coordinator meets everyone who gets involved in the scheme (participants and volunteers) and will conduct an initial interview.

This will enable to them to make an informed decision about who to match with who.

The participant and volunteer will then be introduced to each other and we will support their first gig together. 

Participants and volunteers are also offered ongoing support, and if, for whatever reason, it's not working out we are happy to find a different volunteer.

We believe that the person with a learning disability should be firmly in the driving seat when deciding if they like a volunteer or not, as it is central to the Gig Buddies belief that we want to change the power balance for people with a learning disability.

What if the pairing doesn't work out?

It's totally fine if a pairing doesn't work out.

We believe it is important to ensure that the person with a learning disability is in control of who their buddy is. 

If it doesn't work out we'll offer support to see if there's something we can do to resolve the relationship, but on the rare occasions it doesn't work at all, we'll support you to find a new buddy.

How much does it cost?

Gig Buddies is a free service, but we expect participants to pay their gig ticket prices and travel costs. 

We do reimburse volunteers for their expenses (we can reimburse gig tickets up to £10).

Is it all about music?


We encourage people to say what their interest is. That could be playing or watching sport, walking, going to theatre or church etc. However, the focus of this project is to support people to access evening based activities.

Whatever your interest, we'll aim to find a match!

Find out more

Take a look at our Gig Buddies webpage, or for more information contact gig.buddies@mencap.org.uk

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