Gig Buddies receives two years continuation funding to expand team and continue to tackle social isolation in Calderdale


Gig Buddies receives two years continuation funding to expand team and continue to tackle social isolation in Calderdale


The scheme also announces stage and screen actor Darren Jeffries, as it’s very first ambassador








Gig Buddies Calderdale has been going strong since it launched as a pilot project in June 2017. Led by Gig Buddies and Engagement Coordinator Gemma Hailwood-McCallion, based at Square Chapel Arts Centre, Halifax, the aim was to try to address the barriers that prevent people with a learning disability accessing local arts and entertainment. The scheme has proved popular and as a result, has been awarded a two-year continuation fund of £46,000 from the Henry Smith Trust as well as continuation funding from Calderdale Council, to help expand the team and continue its work in the community. The project has also confirmed its very first ambassador – the stage and screen actor Darren Jeffries.


Gig Buddies Coordinator, Gemma Hailwood-McCallion said: “Gig Buddies has been a wonderful project to be involved with and has reached out to so many people who were otherwise isolated and bored in their homes. We’ve been able to go out into mainstream venues to enable people to have a great time in a safe environment, just like everybody else does! It’s been fabulous working with such a dedicated and fun group of volunteers without whom, the project would simply not have worked. I am excited to be expanding the team for Calderdale, to our quest to help people ‘Stay Up Late’. What is also hugely exciting about where we are now, is that we have our very first ambassador; Darren Jeffries has been along to some of our socials and has been a real hit! It’s great to hear that we are appealing to more and more people who can help us spread the word about Gig Buddies.”



Stage and screen actor & Gig Buddies Ambassador, Darren Jeffries said: “It’s an honour and a privilege to be ambassador for Gig Buddies Calderdale. As a lover of live music, comedy and theatre, the idea of anyone being denied access to these life-affirming experiences because of circumstances beyond their control is frustrating and unfair. I’ll be supporting the Gig Buddies team every step of the way, as well as looking forward to plenty more memorable evenings with our brilliant Gig Buddies members.”


Pioneered by Brighton-based Charity Stay Up Late, Gig Buddies connects people with a learning disability with volunteers who share a similar passion for entertainment, culture and live events; and supports them to access all the great events and gigs going on in the community.

Since the birth of Gig Buddies Calderdale, the scheme has matched over twenty-five pairs of buddies, held fifteen social events which have introduced over fifty people to the local entertainment scene, connecting people who may have otherwise missed out on the growing number of events that have been showcased in Calderdale over the past two years.


The funding, that has been awarded by the London based Henry Smith Trust and is being administered by the Calderdale Community Foundation, will enable the project to match even more pairs of buddies, increase the number of social events and expand the team by creating two new post to support the continued work.


The new roles include a Project Assistant and a Quality Checker, the latter being a role for a person with a learning disability. This will enable the team to ensure the work being done and the way in which it’s being doing done, is accessible to the people it seeks to engage with.


The Gig Buddies initiative is funded by Adult Health and Social Care, The Henry Smith Trust as well as the West Yorkshire Business Consortium. The partnership with Square Chapel Arts Centre, Calderdale Council and the Brighton based charity Stay Up Late will continue for a further two years.


For anyone wanting more information about Gig Buddies Calderdale or to become a ‘Gig Buddy’, please contact Gemma Hailwood-McCallion, or call 01422 353 073.





For more information, images and press interviews please contact Sofia Cann, Marketing and Communications Manager, Tel 01422 353073



Notes to editor:

What is Gig Buddies?

It’s a volunteer befriending scheme for adults with learning disabilities and autism, matching them with a volunteer who shares the same interests.

We call our volunteers ‘Gig Buddies’ and our participants ‘Gig Goers’.

What is the youngest age group you work with?

We work with anyone over 16 years old (this is specific to Gig Buddies Calderdale – other schemes could be for other age-groups depending on the organisation running it).

Who is the scheme aimed at?

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

Do volunteers get training?

Yes – all our Gig Buddies will go through our training programme; this includes sessions which cover areas such as an introduction to learning disabilities, communication, safeguarding and ‘what to do if’ scenarios.

All volunteers also complete DBS checks.

Can you provide a volunteer for a one-off gig?

No. Gig Buddies is all about developing friendships and expanding an individuals’ social circles and informal support networks.

We won’t be able to provide one-off support to bolster staff hours or cover sickness. That’s not what we’re about.

Who decides on the buddy?

The Gig Buddies Project Coordinator will meet everyone who gets involved in the scheme which includes participants and volunteers and will conduct an initial interview. This will enable us 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.

Central to our core values though is that we want to change the power balance for people with learning disabilities so we believe they should be firmly in the driving seat when deciding if they like a volunteer or not. After all Gig Buddies is about building friendships.

What if the pairing doesn’t work out?

That’s totally fine, again we believe it is important to ensure that the ‘Gig Goer’ with a learning disability is in control of making decisions about who their buddy is. If it doesn’t work, we’ll offer support to see if there’s something we can do but if it doesn’t work at all that’s fine, we’ll support someone to find a new buddy.

We’ll also support the buddy not to feel bad about themselves – sometimes these things happen, and we’ll work with them to find a new matching.

How much does it cost?

Gig Buddies is a free, but we would expect a participant or ‘Gig Goer’ to pay their gig tickets and travel costs. We will reimburse volunteers for their expenses. We can reimburse gig tickets up to £10 but would ask that you contact the Project Coordinator if finances are a barrier.

We would reasonably expect that venues where gigs or other events were happening would offer free tickets which would be allocated to the Gig Buddy volunteer.

Is it all about music?

No – we encourage people to tell us what their ‘gig’ is. That could be playing/watching sport, walking, going to the theatre or church. Whatever someone’s interest we’ll aim to find a match.

Do you have a waiting list?

Yes – we are restricted due to funding as to the capacity of the scheme. We also pride ourselves in Gig Buddies being a high-quality service where we take time to get to know everyone. This means it can take a couple of months before you go out to your first gig.

Are you a user-led organisation?

Yes. All participants will be invited to create an advisory group which will meet regularly and direct the project in terms of what sort of social events might be great and to keep feeding back on the progress of the project.

How do I get involved?

You can contact the Project Coordinator at Square Chapel Arts Centre for more information and to arrange a friendly chat, message via our Facebook and Twitter pages after which you will be sent a short application form.

Do you organise gigs?

No. We do organise occasional fundraisers, but we believe that all events should be for people with learning disabilities and Gig Buddies is all about being involved in mainstream community life.

We will however, organise social meet-ups for our Gig Buddies and Gig Goers in pubs so people can share their experiences and meet each other.

Why are you only in Calderdale?

This is presently where we are funded to work but doesn’t mean that we cannot facilitate attendance at gigs outside of Calderdale and welcome volunteers from anyone who is interested.

How do buddies arrange gigs?

Buddies are encouraged to meet up for a coffee once a month and look through gig/event listings together. You might want to look over cinema listings or local theatres to see what might be of interest.

How can carers and support workers help somebody with Gig Buddying?

The biggest challenge we find is that it’s sometimes difficult to make sure there’s good communication between volunteers and buddies. That’s where support staff can come in and make sure that dates have been written in the diary and that the staff team are 100% behind enabling the relationship to flourish. It’s also important that staff are aware of the best way of communicating with a buddy whether this is by phone, Facebook, email etc.

How do buddies get to the gigs?

This all depends on individuals and what they are comfortable with doing. If they live in a large town, and are confident at using public transport, then they may well meet up at the venue, or a familiar meeting place. If someone lives rurally, or isn’t confident at using public transport, the buddies may arrange to meet at the participant’s house. Getting home will be the same sort of arrangement and we aim to match people based on a whole range of things, including transport requirements and so will take in to account whether a volunteer drives or not too.

How are volunteers recruited?

We find our volunteers through all sorts of ways, Universities, venues, employees of local companies, word of mouth and us advertising at various events and online. In some cases we’ll target specific interest groups if we’re looking for a volunteer with specific interests, or in a particular part of the county.

Can companies do ‘Gig Buddying’ as part of their corporate social responsibility?

We would welcome any companies that want to support our work and encourage their staff to become Gig Buddies on a long-term basis, however, the whole emphasis of Gig Buddies is about establishing relationships with people with learning disabilities and so it isn’t suited to one-off pieces of volunteering.

If you’re interested in talking about how we might work with your organisation though please get in touch.



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