We recently met with Sam Maggs, Project Coordinator for Gig Buddies Scotland. Gig Buddies Scotland is a not-for-profit project under the charitable organisation Thera Trust. It aims “to link music fans who have a learning disability with volunteers who share a common interest”. The project focuses on preventing social isolation through befriending.
For Sam, flexibility at work means that he can be available to meet other’s needs. Sam works wherever he needs to be. That might be at home, in a coffee shop, at a conference event, at a gig, or at a volunteer’s home. The list goes on.
Sam shows that with a flexible career you can achieve a huge level of freedom and availability while contributing to an important and meaningful cause. His ‘working anywhere’ brings people together.
On experiences before the business
Can you tell me about your background? What led you into this line of work?
I graduated university in 2016 with a degree in commercial music.
Towards the end of my degree, I had to do a business project with another student. I did it with a guy who was not anti-establishment but anti-business, in a way. His dissertation was all about music in a non-commercial sense.
We decided we wanted to do something not-for-profit. We wanted to do something that was music for music and not music for profit.
We applied for a short-term grant that O2 was offering. They do a thing called ‘Think Big’, in which they give out small grants for use in short-term community projects.
Once we obtained the grant, we ran a not-for-profit called ‘Sound of Mind Music’. This was a music workshop mostly for people with Dementia.
Once my degree project ended, I came across this job in Edinburgh.
What was the outcome of your project?
It got us experience in dealing with people in support organisations.
Additionally, this project gave us experience in working with a range of disabled people. Not everyone we were playing music to had Dementia. We went to a few residential homes where there were people with learning disabilities or acquired disabilities.
This project wasn’t the only time I’ve been around disabled individuals. In fact, my dad is a care manager for people with learning disabilities.
I didn’t have any anxieties over this line of work as I had been brought up around people with additional support needs. This is something I’ve been used to since I was a child.
On the business
Who exactly do you work for?
I work for Thera Scotland which is an organisation subsidiary within Thera Trust.
Thera Trust is a registered charity which works across the UK. They support people with learning disabilities.
Where does Gig Buddies come into it?
We are a not-for-profit project within Thera Scotland.
How did Gig Buddies come about?
Gig Buddies was formed 5 years ago in Brighton by a punk band called Heavy Load.
Many people within the band had learning disabilities.
They played at gigs until the early hours of the morning but they noticed that a lot of their fans and friends with learning disabilities left the gigs early.
Ultimately, it was because of inflexible support in social care.
Paul Richards, a bass player in Heavy Load, co-founded Stay Up Late (SUL) in response to this.
SUL is an organisation which campaigns for disability rights. Gig Buddies was set up by SUL in 2013.
They licensed this product [Gig Buddies] out to different organisations. Thera Scotland has a licence to run Gig Buddies.
What do Gig Buddies do?
Gig Buddies aim to prevent social isolation by pairing people who have a learning disability with a volunteer who shares the same interests in music and theatre, for example.
Once a month, each pairing goes out together and has a good time.
Why are volunteers sometimes needed?
A disabled individual can be the best of friends with their support worker. Yet, ultimately, their support worker is paid to be in their lives.
The support worker could say that they can’t spend time with them over the weekend because they’re not on shift then.
How has Gig Buddies been proven to benefit individuals with disabilities?
Friends make you happier.
Being happy has been proven to make you a healthier person.
People need and want social lives. Being deprived of that can actually be very unhealthy.
Gig Buddies helps to enhance their social lives and give them a choice in what they do.