On 17th March we had an emergency team meeting as social distancing was starting to take effect, and a full lockdown looked ever more likely.
We needed to plan how we could keep our Gig Buddies project going even if there were no gigs to go to, and if we’re not allowed to even see each other.
Such is the positivity, and creativity, our my team that they immediately jumped to the challenge of keeping things going, and a result we’ve discovered new ways of working and things we will carry on past the ending of the lockdown.
This post is not just a round-up of everything we’ve done as a team but also a reflection on the true purpose of what Gig Buddies is really about.
So in true Spinal Tap style here are 11 things we’ve done with the Gig Buddies project in the lockdown.
1. Team check-ins
The first thing we wanted to do was look after our own welfare and find ways to keep connected. We’re having our one to ones and team meetings regularly via video call (which still means we get to experience Darren’s vivid dream experiences) but also have a quick informal check-in once a week too. No agenda, just a quick catch up and chat with each other.
There’s been a great deal of positivity and fun and Jess (East Sussex Co-ordinator) has come up with some great ideas for Pandemic Positivity.
2. Coronavirus webpage
I don’t know about you but my inbox filled up dramatically from all the brilliant and thoughtful resources that were being shared amongst the local third sector community, and wider in the learning disability and social care communities that we’re also part of.
This was both great and totally overwhelming.
The aim of our page is to share information with our Gig Buddies to provide advice, ideas and reassurance.
We also wrote to every person with a learning disability and volunteer that we work with to let them know what our plan was.
3. Phone check-ins
The whole team took on the job of making regular contact by phone with everyone that we work with. They’re 10 minute calls to check how people are feeling, whether they are getting enough support and keeping things focussed on positive things to try to get us through the lockdown.
We can’t promise support such as shopping but if we found there was a real need the whole team have said they are up to finding a way to do what is necessary.
We wanted to keep the live music happening so came up with the idea of Coronavirusfest. It’s an online festival through Facebook with performances every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Within an hour of creating the page Lauren Laverne had given us a shout out on BBC 6 Music and now thousands of people have visited and watched the performances.
There’s no rules about who can play, it’s open to everyone and we’ve had great sets from artists with and without learning disabilities, some who are well known some who aren’t. It’s been a lovely way to create connection and a huge amount of fun.
Check out some of the performances here:
5. The Gig Buddies lockdown podcast
Malcolm (West Sussex Co-ordinator) has taken to creating podcasts featuring buddies and team members talking about what they’ve been up to. Have a listen:
6. Online socials
We’ve taken our socials online with video meet-ups. These have involved pop quizzes, beer and burger nights and then off to watch a live set on Coronavirusfest.
It’s obviously not the same as meeting up in person but it has given us the idea that we should be doing more of this sort of thing to plan socials in the future. Having planning meetings online will mean we can involve even more people with learning disabilities in shaping our work after lockdown and make real-life socials even better.
7. Coffee mornings
We didn’t want to create loads of extra work for our team, who were already working harder than ever. However, it seemed we needed to do something to create other regular opportunities for connection. Our coffee mornings therefore have no theme, no agenda items, everyone just turns up on a video call and we take it from there and see where it leads us.
8. Connecting with volunteers
We realise too that this is a difficult time for volunteers and so we’re making contact with everyone to keep them connected to the project, as we’re going to need them more than ever after the lockdown ends.
We’ve also been conducting volunteer interviews by video call and have found ourselves asking “why haven’t we thought of doing this before?” – it will save so much time and travelling around the county.
9. Advisory groups and campaign network meetings
We decided to pause all our ‘No Bedtimes’ campaigning work – that can wait until such time as it feels right to start again – but we didn’t want to lose contact with our network of campaign ambassadors so we’re meeting them online regularly. We’re looking forward to a guest spot from Scott Watkin on our meeting next week.
We’ve also started holding our Storm and Thunder Team meetings online to make sure our advisory group are well involved in all our coronavirus lockdown planning.
10. Connecting people not online
We knew this already but the lockdown has really focussed our minds on this problem.
We have discovered that 25% of the people with learning disabilities that we work with aren’t online, and don’t have access to a smart phone. This of course means the divide between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is shown to be even greater at a time like this.
We’re therefore planning to start a project to connect more of our buddies to reduce these inequalities and provide training to enable more people to get connected.
11. Connecting with the Gig Buddies partners
We’ve been holding weekly meetings with our Gig Buddies partners from around the UK and in Sydney. It’s always the evening for the Sydney team and we’re always amazed at the size of the wine glasses that they appear to have down under. They’re the size of bottles!
I’m also amazed at the positivity and energy from everyone involved. They’ve also stepped up to the challenge of keeping Gig Buddies going and we’ve heard about:
- Kazoom parties
- Charades evenings
- Pub quizzes
- Bake-off challenges
- The Masked Singer sessions
And all sorts of fun ideas. It’s just terrific to hear what’s going on to support people with learning disabilities through these challenging times.
It all goes on to demonstrate that Gig Buddies is not about gigs at all (although it can’t be denied that they do help!). What Gig Buddies is really about is it’s about friendship, human connection and being part of your community(ies).