A volunteering project matching people with and without learning disabilities who share similar interests has re-launched in Croydon.

Gig Buddies helps combat the social isolation faced by many people with learning disabilities, enabling them to befriend members of their community with whom they can enjoy a mutual hobby.

Run by local disability arts charity Club Soda and supported by the Council, the project was piloted in Croydon last year and re-launched in March 2019 having secured three years of funding.

Kate, a Gig Buddies volunteer said, “I heard about the Gig Buddies program many years ago so I was very excited to learn a branch had started in Croydon.

"The program is inclusive, friendly and joyous. It has been a unique opportunity to share my passion for music with others who have the same excitement for live music.

"Music is always better with others.”

Since re-launching, the project has attracted around 20 volunteers and buddies waiting to be paired up.

Gig Buddies attend monthly socials in Croydon to get to know each other, enjoy nightlife and build a community of like-minded people.

The project grew out of Sussex charity Stay Up Late, which started as a national campaign to ensure people with learning disabilities receive support beyond 9pm.

Many care homes have inflexible staff rotas, meaning adults with learning disabilities are unable to access the practical support they need to go out in the evenings and enjoy a vibrant social life.

Gig Buddies attracts people from a range of ages, with diverse interests, from heavy metal music to walks in the park.

Gig Buddy volunteer Rosie said: “Being a part of Gig Buddies Croydon has been such a positive experience for me so far.

The socials have been really varied and a lot of fun and a great chance to meet new people, see a few bands, play some board games and even watch a cabaret.

"I'm really looking forward to another year of it!”

Gig Buddies Croydon will be celebrating their relaunch on July 22 at BoxPark Croydon with performances from Club Soda DJs.

Come down 5-9pm to talk to them about volunteering or ask about being matched with a Buddy.