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Gig Buddies Auckland: New Programme Aims To Enable Greater Access To Live Music And Events

From Movies and Music in Parks to the International Buskers Festival, Auckland has a thriving live music and events scene, but for many people disabled people, going to a gig, watching live sport, or simply meeting up with friends comes with additional challenges.

Loneliness and social isolation can affect us all, but research shows that disabled people are up to four times more likely to report feeling lonely most or all of the time. Physical and financial barriers, social stigma, and a lack of evening and late-night support options can make it difficult for those with additional needs to make the most out of all the city has to offer.

But a new initiative is out to change that. Gig Buddies Auckland aims to combat social isolation. The programme, delivered in partnership with disability support provider Spectrum Care, matches people with disabilities with volunteers who share the same interests and passions. Once paired, the ‘buddies’ go out together to gigs, movies, museums, sporting events, or whatever they like!

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Gig Buddies initially started in Sussex, England, back in 2013. Since then, the programme has expanded to other cities in the UK, Ireland, and Australia. In 2023, Gig Buddies received funding from Spectrum Foundation, a philanthropic organisation with a focus on reducing inequality for disabled people and their whānau, to establish the programme in Auckland.

"Most disabled people want to go out, have fun and hang out with their friends, but it’s not always that easy," says Gig Buddies Project Lead, Hans Matig-a. "Even if an event is accessible, many people aren’t confident enough to go out by themselves, and they might feel awkward bringing a parent or support worker."

Hans is quick to point out that although Gig Buddies volunteers receive training and ongoing support, they are not paid support workers. "It’s all about helping people to build genuine relationships," he says. "You have someone there that you know, that you can trust, but they’re not working. They’re not paid to be there. They want to be there."

Hans hopes that Gig Buddies will give disabled New Zealanders the opportunity to explore their interests, experience new things, and enjoy all that Tāmaki Makaurau has to offer. "We already have several participants and volunteers, but applications are still open for anyone who would like to join. We’re also working closely with other organisations to create accessible and inclusive events that are open to all."

Their first venture, Gig in the Park, is a free event with live music, market stalls, and arts and crafts. It’s suitable for those with physical access needs, and there is a dedicated quiet space and ‘chill-out zone" for those with sensory needs. Gig in the Park will be on Sunday 4 Feb in Fergusson Domain, Oranga. Check out Music in Parks or Gig Buddies Auckland on Facebook for further details.

To find out more about Gig Buddies, visit https://www.gigbuddiesauckland.org. For more information on other disability support services, visit spectrumcare.org.nz.

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