Gig Buddies in Lockdown

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Project description

Gig Buddies is usually all about supporting people with learning disabilities to lead active social lives by matching them with a volunteer who shares the same cultural interests. They’d then go out to mainstream gigs and events together. Obviously lockdown blew a hole in that idea for now and so Gig Buddies had to reimagine the whole project online.

What was your response to Covid-19?

For Gig Buddies, the whole project up until March had been about going out to real-life mainstream places without any digital aspect to it at all. On March 16th that changed completely and overnight everything went online. Examples of what was done:

  • Phone checkins with everyone in the early stages of lockdown to see how people were doing

  • Weekly coffee mornings on Zoom. No agenda, no theme just a chance for connection, although they’ve often turned in to fancy dress sessions.

  • Weekly socials on Zoom. Pub quizzes, karaoke evenings, games nights, singa-longs and anything people dreamt up.

  • Coronavirusfest – a live music festival that we ran through Facebook from March until August. (We’re having a rest). It started with live music every night by musicians with and without learning disabilities and culminated in an epic 12 hour session run by all the Gig Buddies projects.

  • We were also concerned about those people who are not digitally active and so we started a ‘Get Connected’ project to get smart phones to people with learning disabilities who had no internet connection. We’re then training them and providing support to learn more about what they can do now.

  • Our campaign ambassadors (people with learning disabilities) have met far more frequently through Zoom than they ever did before.

What is the impact and benefit for people?

  • It’s been a fantastic way for many of the people to check in regularly and it’s created a strong sense of community.

  • The phones project has also been a way for us to address the inequalities faced by people who aren’t digitally active. We knew that was a problem obviously but hadn’t seen it as something that was in our remit before. I’m not sure why.

Is the solution sustainable post-Covid?

​​​​There are elements to Gig Buddies work that will definitely be continued after lockdown:

  • Trying to get smartphones to digitally excluded people

  • Meet up for socials in real-life but even when this happens, it is recognised that Zoom meetings can further increase the participation of people with learning disabilities in the planning of them

  • Likely to end up with a blended approach of advisory groups that are in real life and on Zoom. (It’ll save a lot of travel around Sussex and enable Gig Buddies to be greener as a charity)

  • Gig Buddies will also start to hold social distanced socials in parks as a way of creating human to human contact.

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