With summer coming up, we spoke with Sam Maggs at Gig Buddies with Thera Trust, a project that supports people with a learning disability to socialise and attend events they wish to go too. Sam discussed the benefits of getting out in your local community and advice on how to do to go out into your community and the importance of accessible events:
- What barriers do people with a lived experience of a learning disability face when looking at events in the summer?
We find with Gig Buddies, one of the biggest barriers is not having anyone to go with. But we also have a lot of people say I don’t know what’s going on in my area. So a big issue is that they can’t get around and look in the local community. There’s a big anxiety around asking for support and a lot of places access information is not easily findable. One of the biggest things we say to venues is that access info should be really easy to find as its supposed to be accessible. People are sometimes anxious about speaking to someone else about this.
- How can they face these barriers?
So a big thing we’ve found, focusing on the people we support for the moment, is for that individual to communicate what they want to do. Do their support know what they want? You have to make sure the support teams know the avenues to look for events; that can just be googling what’s happening in Edinburgh or looking at specific organisations. A lot of organising comes through the gatekeeping positions – your support needs to access it. Let your support know what you want – tell them if you want to see more music or go to the theatre.
My biggest tip for any kind of event is just call the venue and have a chat. For big venues call the box office, someone will be happy to answer the questions. Even if they’ve got a website its always easier to just call them and ask them.
- Do some people you support struggle with confidence when it comes to getting out and about?
Yes. Absolutely. It is a big reason why Gig Buddies exists, to ease these worries.
- What would you say to people struggling with confidence?
Venues want to make it easy for you. I’d hope that all places want to be welcoming and they want you to have a good time. I find that, especially front of house teams, will be really accommodating. Even if phoning them in advance can be daunting, you can email them instead. They’ll probably be an information email address. You can ask if a member of your team can meet you at the door. There’s no harm in asking for things. You can ask your support or your family for help to meet you at the door. Just don’t be afraid to ask for support. Everyone around you wants to enable you.
- What advice do you have for friends, family, or support workers?
One of the most frustrating things I hear is that people stay inside in winter because they don’t. Socialising, accessing the community, attending events; these aren’t just summer activities. What do you do? People we support are just the same as us. They want to sit in a pub, go to a park, go to the cinema or a fair. What people want to go to, people want to go to. Some of it is just sitting down and going online and looking.
You spend enough time with these people to know their hobbies. Sit down with the person and find out their interests.
When I meet someone for the first time I always ask what they’ve been too before. If someone is a fan of rock music I ask what they’ve been too before.
Look within your local community. Smaller events are cheaper, tend to be more accessible in terms of building relationships, and on your doorstep.
- How do you go about attending outdoor events? (Festivals, park days, etc.)
A lot of the time we do this it’s as a group. We put together an easy read guide of where we’re meeting, what time etc. This can be really helpful if you’re taking a group of people.
You need to find out the key information. Where is it? How do you get there? How will you get home? Remember that the local area around that event will be very busy so travelling will be slightly more challenging.
The key is forward planning. Are you going on your own? Do you need to prebook travel? Make sure you’re aware about money. Do you use a debit card or cash? Can you find out if they’re cash or card only. Call them up or send an email.
Once you’re there you can enjoy it but you need to make sure that you know what you’re doing.
- What benefits do you see in the people you support attending events?
Their confidence shoots up. They also get better knowledge of the local area. They discover venues that after a few months they become happy to go to alone. We always meet up beforehand and walk there but after a while fewer of them do because they know where they’re going.
Sometimes as well we’ve had it when people find their favourite spot where they discover an event or a type of music that becomes their passion.
If you can get out and find out what’s on in your local community it is much easier to be a part of it. You can find your scene. It can be a favourite type of music or becoming a regular at your local pub or café. Once you’re recognised, the staff teams can look out for you more. If you do find a spot you really vibe with and attend regularly they will learn how to better support you, whether that is with communication, or access. This is what people can really gain.