When Gig Buddies Sydney came to town

WHILE in England on a two week holiday, our CEO Carol Smail and the Independent Coordinator, Jo Smail, stopped by at Gig Buddies HQ – located at the seaside city of Brighton.

Armed with Antipodean confectionary, Carol and Jo spent two days catching up with the Stay Up Late team at their new offices and took in team meetings, trips to the pub and a jamming session.

With the Caramello Koalas and jelly snakes proving a huge hit (pictured below), at the weekly Storm and Thunder meeting, the advisory team of service users which encompassing the vision of being a ‘truly user led organisation’, Carol gave an overview on all things Gig Buddies Sydney related and the progress we’re making as we try to replicate the successes of the UK entity.


Up for discussion, the forthcoming Glastonbury Festival and Stay Up Late’s involvement; if you’re in that part of Somerset during the last weekend of June be sure to check out the ‘punk/disco make-over stall’ in the Green Future Fields “before the glitter and spray paint runs out!”

The room also heard about Heart Venture, a dating agency set up for people living with disabilities within the Brighton vicinity. The initiative came about when Daniel, son of founder Carol, featured on Channel 4's TV show The Undateables.

Off the back of the program and with the lack of local dating agencies, Heart Venture was formed; for anyone looking for love within the local area, check out their website which has details about their grand launch event – a James Bond theme night.

Office meetings and trips to the local watering holes aside, Rock House at the Westhill saw a gathering of gig buddy participants, volunteers, friends, families and Stay Up Late staff. All who came together with rotation of instruments between the musicians who played on the night (pictured below). The night coincided with Finnish band Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät’s (or PKN for short) entry at the Eurovision song contest, beamed live from Vienna into the concert hall. Guitars, microphones and keyboards were downed while the first ever punk band in the competition’s history took to the stage.


Performing to a global audience of millions PKN, who consist solely of people with learning disabilities, did not make it through, but a member of a band who supported them during their 2013 tour of England, Zombie Crash, had another brush with fame: David Briggs, along with Berhana Wells – a budding soul singer and Kate Ogden, a Gig Buddies staff member, took part in a radio interview with BBC Radio Sussex.

The three highlighted the benefits of being part of Gig Buddies, and spoke of the reasons why a befriending scheme that pairs people based on mutual interests is so important.

“Quite often people with learning disabilities are socially isolated. You might get people in supported housing who do not have the opportunity to access live gigs and live events that others might take for granted”, concluded Kate.

Matthew Collins

Gig Buddies Sydney Social Media Coordinator


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