New campaign bids to promote nightlife to disabled Scots

Alasdair Clark

Stay Up Late Scotland wants to make Scotland’s vibrant late-night scene more inclusive of disabled Scots 

FED UP of calling time on their nights out at 9pm, campaigners want to make Scotland’s vibrant late-night music scene better for those who often have to leave before the night is over because of accessibility challenges. 

Disability rights activist Michael McEwan, working with Stay Up Late Scotland, wants to make sure disabled Scots can live life to the full and not be limited by accessibility challenges which often mean they can’t enjoy the best of Scottish nightlife. 

Speaking to Barrhead News, McEwan said Scots with disabilities often can’t enjoy nights out in the same way most people take for granted: “Going out to see bands, clubbing or seeing friends is part of everyday life for lots of people. However, if you have a learning disability, you may need support to do this.

“Lots of people with learning disabilities aren’t able to lead full and active social lives because their support workers finish at 10pm, meaning lots of people with learning disabilities leave events at 9pm.”

McEwan’s call has been supported by Drake Music Scotland, a leading charity which campaigns for and creates opportunities for disabled performers, who are already working with the innovative “Gig Buddies” project in Edinburgh to make sure more disabled Scots can freely attend music gigs without limitations. 

Speaking to CommonSpace, Pete Sparkes, artistic director at Drake Music Scotland, said: “We believe that the more opportunities there are for young people to get actively involved with music making the better, going to see live gigs, and even more importantly being part of live gigs is something that we are supporting in Edinburgh in collaboration with Gig Buddies. 

“Fantastic to see that this brilliant initiative is also promoting more inclusive gigs in Glasgow.”

Read More: Michael McEwan: How society is starting to adapt itself to the needs of autistic people

Midlothian based “Gig Buddies” links music fans who have a learning disability with volunteers who share a common interest so that they can attend live music events, tackling social isolation and ensuring disabled people aren’t excluded. 

Speaking to CommonSpace, Simon Walker from Upward Mobility highlighted the challenges disabled people face, saying that they often need to pay double the price to attend events because of the need to purchase an extra ticket for a support worker. 

Campaigners say music promoters and venues could make a change to their pricing structures to account for this, a simple change which would make disabled people more welcome.

Those who organise live music events are also encouraged to break down barriers by making sure all of their events are accessible to disabled people as a matter of course, rather than organising “specialist events” marketed solely for disabled people. 

Walker told CommonSpace: “We have a passionate belief that every person in society should be given the opportunities they need to develop their potential and play an equal, inclusive and rewarding role in their communities. We run various events throughout the year and we have recently collaborated with Gig Buddies and Drake Music to creating a great atmosphere and event for all to attend.”

Now McEwan wants to bring the Edinburgh initiative to Glasgow, and Stay Up Late Scotland have organised a night of live music in Glasgow on 20 September to promote the project, which Gig Buddies will attend. 

Sample Fest 2018

Supporting McEwan, Gig Buddies project manager Samuel Mags said: “Stay Up Late launched the Gig Buddies initiative 6 years ago in Brighton. We started the project in Edinburgh and Midlothian in 2016 and last year branched out into West Lothian. It’s only fitting that Gig Buddies in Scotland gets behind, and fully supports Stay Up Late Scotland. 

“Both organisations aim to enable people with a disability to lead full and active social lives and to know that they can be active members of their local community.

“Through being part of Sample Fest 2018, we want to talk to the local community about any barriers they face in living the social life they want, with a view to developing Gig Buddies in Glasgow.”

Sample Fest 2018 will feature live bands and information services, including dates-n-mates, and Include Me 2 Club, who will offer advice to those who attend. For more information on Sample Fest 2018, click here. 

Picture courtesy of Eddy Milfort