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New Mencap Gig Buddies project to help people with learning disabilities enjoy Norwich nightlife

PUBLISHED: 15:40 14 August 2017 | UPDATED: 15:47 14 August 2017

BUILD chief executive James Kearns, club user Hannah Gill and party host Alex Colman at a previous Fuse Party Night, run by BUILD. Picture: SIMON FINLAY

BUILD chief executive James Kearns, club user Hannah Gill and party host Alex Colman at a previous Fuse Party Night, run by BUILD. Picture: SIMON FINLAY

Archant Norfolk

For many people, going to a nightclub, gig, pub , cinema or the theatre is an easy thing to do.

Rose Ellen, 33, from Hellesdon, who enjoys nights out through the BUILD charity and welcomes the Norwich Gig Buddies pilot project. Picture: SOPHIE WYLLIERose Ellen, 33, from Hellesdon, who enjoys nights out through the BUILD charity and welcomes the Norwich Gig Buddies pilot project. Picture: SOPHIE WYLLIE

But one in four young people living with a learning disability in the UK say they have been bullied at clubs and gigs and one in three have been bullied by nightclub staff making many people afraid of going on nights out, according to learning disability charity Mencap.

To combat the problem, Mencap has joined forces with Brighton-based charity Stay Up Late to launch Gig Buddies in Norwich.

It has also launched in Long Eaton, Derbyshire.

The pilot project will initially pair up 20-25 volunteers with young people who have learning disabilities so they can enjoy a night out.

Prince of Wales RoadPrince of Wales Road

Hayley Burwood, 40, has a learning disability and is chairman of Norfolk user-led learning disability charity Opening Doors, said: “It is really frustrating for people who need support to go out if they have to go home early from a gig or night out because their carer needs to finish their shift.

“If you get matched with a volunteer, that is great in lots of ways. The person gets to meet and gets to know a new person. They can also go out to listen to music or whatever they want to do. To be a friend to someone means you can really communicate with them and sharing what music you like on a night out is a good start.

“I really hope this project is a success. It’ll make a big difference to people’s lives in Norwich.”

Volunteers will be paired up with people who have shared interests and will receive training.

Hayley Burwood, chairman of Opening Doors. Photo: Geraldine ScottHayley Burwood, chairman of Opening Doors. Photo: Geraldine Scott

James Kearns, chief executive of Norfolk disability support charity BUILD, said: “Sometimes people need help understanding the conventions of going out. Gig Buddies will help people become more independent and confident. It will also help change public attitudes to people with disabilities.”

BUILD runs FUSE Party Nights for hundreds of its members once a month at Mercy XS in Norwich and Dr Thirsty’s in King’s Lynn.

Mr Kearns added Gig Buddies took that idea to another level.

Kate Oldroyd, Mencap programme manager, said: “Mencap believes that everyone deserves a night out. Gig Buddies looks to revolutionise Norwich nightlife, ensuring people with a learning disability get out and do the things they love.”

James Kearns, chief executive of Build charity. Picture: ARCHANTJames Kearns, chief executive of Build charity. Picture: ARCHANT

Visit www.mencap.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer-mencap



Safety is key for good night out

A 33-year-old who enjoys group nights out thanks to a learning disability support charity has emphasised the importance of feeling safe at entertainment venues.

Rose Ellen, from Hellesdon who has a life-long learning disability and has access to supported living, has been enjoying BUILD’s monthly Fuse parties at Norwich’s Mercy XS nightclub for the past five years.

Miss Ellen, who has been a sales assistant for B&M on Norwich’s Riverside Retail Park since 2015, said: “Norwich Gig Buddies is a really good idea because it helps you feel safe and you get to have someone come out with you. It would make me want to go on more nights out. Having someone with me makes me feel safer.

Norwich indie rock band Youth Killed It performing at  the Changing the Record gig at the Open Norwich venue. Picture: RACHAEL SCOTT/MENCAPNorwich indie rock band Youth Killed It performing at the Changing the Record gig at the Open Norwich venue. Picture: RACHAEL SCOTT/MENCAP

“Going out on FUSE nights makes me happy because I can see my friends. I like dance music. It helps me build my confidence.”

She added it would help her on nights out if people were more understanding of her condition.

Mencap research

There are 1.4 million people in the UK who have a learning disability.

National learning disability support charity Mencap researched over 300 people with a learning disability aged between 18-35 in 2015, which revealed:

-Out of 192 people who have been to a club or music concert, when asked if they had been afraid of staff, eight said often, 49 said sometimes and 135 said never;

-Out of the 190 people, when asked if they had been worried about asking staff for help, 24 said often, 62 said sometimes and 104 said never.

-Out of 191 people, when asked if they had been told they could not enter because of their learning disability, five said often, 19 said sometimes and 167 said never;

-Out of 188 people, when asked if they had been bullied by members of the public in a venue, 14 said often, 41 said sometimes and 133 said never.

For advice call Mencap Direct on 0808 8081111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email help@mencap.org.uk

Norwich city centre venue hosts disability awareness night

Music and theatre acts as well as nightlife lovers came together to campaign for fairer access to mainstream live music and nightlife for people with a learning disability.

The Changing the Record gig at Open Norwich on Bank Plain, organised by the regional Mencap team, attracted 180 people including people with learning disabilities as well as representatives from charities.

These included NANSA, BUILD, The Garage, Assist Trust, The Hamlet Charity and Society Alive.

The one-off event was not connected to the launch of the Mencap Gig Buddies pilot project.

Emily Flores-Gutiérrez, regional projects officer for Mencap, said: “The atmosphere was fantastic. It was also a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of learning disability and the need for people to have fairer access to mainstream gigs and nightlife.”

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