The Show Goes On - Online with Sound Express27-November-2020
This year the Learning Disability Wales Annual Conference took place online and focused on the theme of loneliness and isolation, forming part of the on-going national conversation for 2020/21. The conference presented good opportunity to showcase what is being done to re-duce loneliness and isolation in Wales, and provided a platform for our Emerge Community Arts learners to raise the virtual roof with a performance to remember. . .
Our north Wales partner Emerge Community Arts became involved in the online event through Flintshire Do-It and links with the North Wales Transformation Project.
Emerge Community Arts' Creative Director Anna Davies, explains: “’Sound Express’ is the name of the band made up of the learners we support in Greenfield, Holywell and have been in-volved in many local performances in Flintshire and beyond. People are aware of them and the amazing music they all produce. Emerge were approached by Learning Disability Wales and ‘Sound Express’ were asked to play a gig on-line as part of the Learning Disability Wales end of conference event and the launch of Gig Buddies North Wales, a new initiative helping people to attend live events.
“Emerge welcomed the opportunity to get involved in this project. Our aim is to reduce social isolation and for those who’d like to take up the offer we really want our learners to know and use Gig Buddies once we are all able to do so again.”
So what is Gig Buddies all about? Gig Buddies matches up people with learning disabilities and/or autism with a volunteer who shares the same interests and passions, the idea being that it supports people to grow their informal support networks and friendship circles thereby promoting positive physical and mental well-being.
Gig Buddies specifically focuses on events that happen in the evenings, such as concerts, in or-der to break the many barriers that stop people with a learning disability going out at night and staying up late. These barriers include lack of support, or inflexible support that forces people to leave events early. Other obstacles include transport, confidence, safety, and accessibility of venues and events. Most importantly, Gig Buddies are free to choose what their ‘gig’ is and when and where they want to go. This could be a concert or a festival, but it could also be a rugby match, a trip to a museum or theme park, or a visit to the beach. A Gig Buddy could support endless possibilities!
Of course, due to Covid-19, social activities – particularly those which draw together large num-bers – are currently not being permitted. But as with so many parts of all our lives, the internet has presented an opportunity, as Anna Davies describes: “One of the key purposes of the Sound Express show was to raise awareness and officially launch ‘Gig Buddies, North Wales’. While physical shows are off limits, the virtual ones carry on – and Gig Buddies is relevant to both providing an opportunity for people to get together and watch a live gig on-line.
“Everyone who could attend from the band (9 of our learners) really enjoyed the event, there seemed to be a lot of people engaging with the event online, leaving positive comments and wanting to find out more. The live gig was streamed on Facebook and YouTube and our learners and families from our other projects watched live and connected with everyone via the comments box.
“Chris one of the band members was so happy when we told him his Mum was watching live and she wrote in the live comments how proud she was of him - he was so pleased about this. Another band member, Ryan, joyfully proclaimed, ‘I love this, we are the best band in the world!’.
“It was a very different experience for everyone in terms of what we are used to when we per-form to an audience. Usually it's all about getting ready, setting up, having a visible crowd and performing to them, dancing and really putting on a show. On-line it was different for us all, a new way of ‘gigging’! For our learners, while it can be a challenge playing to a non-visible audi-ence, it was a great experience for everyone. We’ll be supporting our learners in this new way of communicating on-line during our on-line Performance Skills workshops.”
Where some hope now appears to be on the horizon, Covid-19 continues to make people feel isolated, and worried, as Anna reflects: “All of us are missing our families, friends and usual activities however with the support of Addysg Oedolion Cymru | Adult Learning Wales, Emerge has continued to meet and support our learners, providing a sense of normality and positive engagement which we know has meant so much to everyone involved. Events like these presents an opportunity to showcase the wonderful Sound Express and the great things we have achieved during these difficult times. It also helps everyone to feel good, be part of something new and exciting and provides an opportunity to learn, share music, connect with each other and have a great time!”
So our learners did indeed raise the virtual roof then with the Sound Express online show – sharing music they have written together - online - for the very first time; huge congratulations to all involved! A recording of the event can be viewed online which includes positive viewer comments made throughout the show, and for those who are interested in finding out more about the Gig Buddies initiative, please visit the Gig Buddies website or see the Learning and Disability Wales pages for more information.
Our thanks to our partner Emerge Community Arts and our learners. We are so pleased to see – and hear - the fruits of your online learning with us. We can’t wait for the next instalment!