Daniel Wakeford and the Power of Music and Community

Gig Buddies unite

When we launched Gig Buddies, our aim was simple: connect music enthusiasts and people with learning disabilities and/or autistic people to share the joy of live music. The pairs were (and are) matched on their shared interests, which proved to be a powerful catalyst for genuine connection. Music, especially experienced live, acts as a universal language that transcends where you’re from or who you think you are.

A decade on and Gig Buddies continues to nurture meaningful relationships through the magic of music. But now it’s not just our project (and it’s not just music). Over the years, we’ve been joined by 20 other Gig Buddies projects around the country and even the world! Together, we’ve formed a vibrant community united by common values, fostering friendship wherever we go.

Rock-Popstar Daniel Wakeford

As we’re spread across the globe, when the opportunity comes to get together in person, it feels like a very special moment indeed. A year ago, we were lucky enough to receive tickets for ‘The Daniel Wakeford Experience’, allowing a few of us to meet up and party together. To mark the anniversary, we want to look back at the great times had and the enduring power of community.

There were multiple shows around the UK, so different groups of buddies went to different shows, often turning up in big, loud, and colourful groups. Katie, our Operations Director, was the bassist on that tour and got the joy of seeing how the different projects embody our values and create space for people to enjoy live music, wherever they live.

Daniel with his band members and gig buddies from around the country showing disability solidarity.
Two buddies drinking pints at a live gig of autistic singer Daniel Wakeford.

Daniel’s tour provided accessible and affordable tickets, targeted at the buddies, which made for some very successful outings. We need more artists to follow suit and make that extra effort to get people to their shows. Not everyone is easily reached through traditional advertising channels and past negative experiences may make people feel unwelcome. Having a clear and vocal message, as well as a representative presence, is essential in creating a more inclusive music scene (and who knows, you might be excluding your biggest fans!).

We need more GREAT venues

Another important knock-on effect of having an artist that stands for inclusivity is that venues then go that extra mile in terms of accessibility. Here are just a few accommodations made for our buddies:

  • A cashless venue made an exception and opened a cash till for us
  • Detailed information was provided in advance regarding facilities
  • A quiet space was designated for buddies needing a moment to themselves
  • Bouncers were briefed (SIA training doesn’t always cut it)
  • Seats were provided at the back for if people needed to sit during the standing concert.
Daniel Wakeford on the stage playing a gig.

Some big adjustments, some small. But all important. These changes allowed some buddies to enjoy their first-ever live gig, so thank you to the venues who stepped up and made us feel welcome. We know some buddies have become regulars now that they feel comfortable in the space, the best possible outcome. And although we continue to shout out great venues, we hope that one day soon these accommodations become part of the norm, creating equal access for people with learning disabilities and autistic people.

It’s a year later and we’re still smiling at all the generosity and the joy that comes from being part of such a well-supported community. Thank you once again to Daniel and O2 Academy Venues for making it all possible. Here’s to more gigs that stand up for our right to party, friendship and music!