Brighton Lives

We ❤️ Brighton Heroes: Paul Richards of Stay Up Late

Stay Up Late are a totemic Brighton charity whose influence spreads way beyond our seaside city. They are the brains behind Gig Buddies, who pair people with learning disabilities with pals to attend gigs with. They were born out of a disarmingly simple problem: support workers accompanying people with learning disabilities to concerts traditionally finish their shift at 10pm. Therefore both would leave early – normally by 9pm – and be deprived of those culturally enriching and perspective-altering elements that live music can provide.

Paul Richards is the founder of Stay Up Late, which was born from his band Heavy Load; a punk outfit composed of five men – some who had learning disabilities – that became famous for their passionate, chaotic gigs. They eventually had a film made about them (Heavy Load). That was back in 2008 and since then Stay Up Late has been a quiet juggernaut, with social franchises in nine UK cities and even one in Sydney. They’ve had coverage in The Guardian, attend festivals like Glastonbury and Latitude, and positively affected hundreds of people.. They’re rad. We called Paul to talk about why live music really can change lives.

 

Hey Paul! Gig Buddies really seems to have captured people’s imagination. Why do you think that is?

I think it’s because the concept behind Gig Buddies is easy to understand. We match people up with a shared love of the same thing. In that process we alleviate social isolation. Simple.

 

Right! And live music is the thread for this?

Absolutely. Music gives people a common interest. It brings them together.  It’s also about changing how we engage with people with learning disabilities. They get pathologized and people make assumptions about what their disability means. It’s about people owning their condition.

 

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How would you tangibly measure the positive effects of your work?

On a micro level it could be someone going to a nightclub for the first time in their life. Or discovering a new band. On a grander scale: going to Glastonbury for the first time. But it’s also about the effect it has for our volunteers: they now see their buddy as their friend. These are small societal changes.

 

Is there a danger that people with learning disabilities have a limited cultural experience?

Definitely. Recently, Kate [Project Manager for Stay Up Late] organised a meet-up at  an experimental music night in Worthing. They all hated the music but they loved the night and were united in that. People with learning disabilities often have a narrow cultural experience: how do you make those decisions about what you really love until you are exposed to stuff you don’t?

 

It’s also about the wider confidence it gives people?

Absolutely. It’s about giving them more of an idea about the way they want to live their life and giving them the confidence to go and do things in the community. I describe Gig Buddies as scaffolding around someone’s social life. Hopefully you can take that scaffolding away and you’ll see people going out to nights outside of Gig Buddies.

 

How does the process actually work?

Just go on the website and fill in the form. We do training every month and we’re always eager to hear from people. People are matched around musical interests but also maybe around their location, age, gender and sexuality. They’ll be introduced and any specific support needs will be discussed. They’ll then go to their first gig together. We also provide ongoing support.

 

How many people do you currently have on your books?

We’ve currently got 100 pairs of buddies but a waiting list of 100-150 people with learning disabilities looking for buddies. We really need more volunteers to match them with. We think of it as turning something you would already do – going to a gig – into a volunteering opportunity. We know it’s hard to find the time for people to volunteer- this enables you to do that whilst doing something you love and getting a new friend along the way.

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Is Stay Up Late now your actual job?

It is, yeah. At first I was doing it voluntarily. Then part time whilst I was working for other support organisations. Now it’s generating enough funding to cover my wages, which is another dream: to work in Brighton and do this!

 

What motivates you in the morning?

A sense that  – through our work – we’re able to make real change in people’s lives. That is exciting. But also working really closely with the people we’re enabling and to create a culture and charity that works in a way which I think it should be done.

 

Lastly, it looks like you have Harry Fairchild on your books. We interviewed him a while back. He’s a dude.

Harry does training sessions for us. He’s a force of nature, that man! I remember him marching with us at Pride and was walking out with his top off. He said, “I need to get the air to my body. And also the girls like to see my body.” I’ve never known anyone like him.

 

What a legend, cheers Paul!.

Check our previous entries in our ‘We ❤️ Brighton Heroes’ series

PLATF9RM Members’ 9 Top Albums For Getting In The Zone

You’ve got deadlines looming. An inner feeling of dread is mounting. Your concentration…. wait, is that a dog over there??? Nevermind. Where were we? Oh yeah– your concentration. It’s shot. Things are looking gloomy and that deadline has never looked so precarious.

But don’t worry. We’ve got you. Here’s the nine albums PLATF9RM members play when they desperately need to get sh*t done. These are tunes to bring us back to earth – to focus – when our brains threaten to drift into the stratosphere of endless procrastination. They’ll transport you to the ever-elusive zone and turn those “To Do” lists into “Bloody Well Done” lists.

And yes we know Spotify’s pretty good at churning out concentration playlists. But they're basically algorithms; we're proper humans, with proper recommendations.

 

Kerri Lush




My concentration album is most certainly 新しい日の誕生 by 2814

Released in 2015 on the London-based Dream Catalogue's label, ‘Birth of a New Day' is a mystical, heady journey through a Blade Runner-esque cityscape. Often tied to the vaporwave genre, this album brings together ambient-electronica (a la Tangerine Dream or Vangelis) with an imagined sci-fi future dystopian aesthetic. On paper it should be a distraction, but I find the sound induces a wide-eyed state of productivity.


Zoe Brownrigg




RX Y is an alternative to Bon Iver for those who who love Bon Iver but don’t want to be distracted by their favourite songs whilst working. RX Y’s peaceful guitar and indistinguishable lyrics will lull you into a calm work-flow. Also very good as background music to yoga.


Cliff Ettridge




I have a go-to album that I use– usually very late at night – when I simply have to hit a deadline: Pieces in a Modern Style. Pieces in a Modern Style by William Orbit.

This simply is the album to let your mind get lost in. If you are trying to focus, it acts like an aural massage. It bathes you in very simple electronic strings and its smooth sounds allow you to concentrate fully.

It's not an album you have to try hard to listen to whilst working. It's more a soundscape that envelopes you. Simple, soothing, soaring, mellow: it inspires thoughts and focuses the mind.

Once playing, I tend to forget what time of day it is. It could be 1.00am in the early hours, it could be 8.00am in the morning, even 3.00pm in the afternoon. It usually goes on late at night but, when I'm wrapped up in it, I could be anywhere.


Lana Burgess




My ultimate concentration album is Tomorrow's Harvest by Boards of Canada. The opening track, ‘Gemini’, starts with a filmic fanfare that sets the scene for a productive writing session like nothing else. The ambient electronic sounds are calming and progressive, keeping me focused and blissfully lost in flow as I write.


Pete Blunden




So for me, it'd have to be the Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit's third album, Stay Gold. All their albums are exceptional, but this one gets the most plays. There's something about the steadily beating drums, flowing guitar and passionate, echoing vocals that provide an overwhelming sense of calm. I often catch myself thinking in multiple directions at once, but those sisters focus my kaleidoscopic thoughts into a laser-sharp focus beam. Pew pew!


Abbie Swan




The Blaze - Territory. Short, but very sweet. With a gentle mix of instrumental electronics and emotive vocals, this album makes it easy to zone out and focus on whatever is in front of me. As a designer I definitely need upbeat music to create a fast working pace, so this works perfectly.


Dale Blackburn


Generally speaking I’ll look for something instrumental and rhythmic. I want to avoid getting distracted with lyrical content or ambient drift. Often this can range from hip hop to post rock to electronic music, with some of my top artists being Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Explosions in the Sky, and Dawn of Midi. However, my definitive “getting stuff done” album would be Tycho and their album Epoch:

It’s got the right balance of instrumentation and dynamics, with the shifting rhythms and melodies setting a decent pace to work at. I particularly like their mixture of analog and digital


Jim Turner




When I need to get stuck into something proper and create some good work, it has to be an album that helps my mind shift into that state. I want to be transported and lifted out of the normal trudge to some other place where the sparkling mind stuff can happen. You’ve gotta let that magical transformation occur to be able to create something out of nothing.

Astral Weeks has got to be the one. Released in 1968 when Van Morrison was in his early twenties with a band of jazz musicians he’d never met before. It’s a transcendental album that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Each song is a perfect meditative spell to take you to that elsewhere we’re looking for, where creating good work is baked right in. So, put those headphones on, play ’Madame George’ and see what happens.


Maddy Zoli


I'm one of those people who really listens to anything. It is hard to pick just one favourite, but speaking of my work I know exactly the genre of music that really helps me getting "in the zone". While I work on my illustrations, I usually listen to a mix of bossa nova and jazz music from a unique Japanese band who do Studio Ghibli covers. Some people think that jazz is kinda "messy" but paired with bossa nova’s milder melodies, it is perfect to relax the mind and keep concentration on what you’re doing.

 

Check out these other great blogs that PLATF9RM members have composed...

PLATF9RM Members Tell Us About The Most Inspirational Women In Their Lives

Emma Croman: My Perfect Brighton

Guestblog: Kerry Watkins - 2018’s Social Media Trends That Every Business Should Know

You’ve only got to take a nap and something has changed on social media - a new feature, a different algorithm or new metrics. And it can be hard to keep up! But these are four key trends that I think have had a really positive impact for many businesses.


Instagram ‘Stories’ take over!

2017 was a big year for Instagram Stories and brought us the Stories Highlights feature - allowing us to save our Stories content. Good for all marketers out there who couldn’t quite get to grips with ephemeral content only lasting for 24 hours! ‘Stories Highlights’ allows you to create saved packages of your Stories and make them available online for all eternity (or until you decide to delete them). And because highlights are saved on our profiles, stories can receive many more views if they are saved. You can also see all your old stories in Instagrams ‘Archive’ - I loved it when this feature appeared! - where you can go back to your old Stories (well, ‘old’ as in more than 24 hours old!) and add them to Highlights if you wish.


Facebook Advertising Gets More Sophisticated

You may have noticed at the start of 2018 that the reach of your organic Facebook posts took a dive. (Again!) So whilst this was good for us in the sense that we now see more content from friends and family, we’re not seeing brand content. Hence the need for an advertising budget. This year has seen brands investing more in ads outside of the typical ‘single image traffic ad’ - including Instagram Story video ads, Store visits ads and FB messenger ads. We’ve worked with a few businesses recently who have seen great results with Messenger ads as it gives them an opportunity to build a rapport with potential clients without taking them away from Facebook. It’s really worth spending time looking at the different campaign types on offer from Facebook and thinking how this could help your business. It’s still such a cost effective platform compared to all other networks.


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LinkedIn video grows

In 2017 LinkedIn rolled out native video and many businesses have seen a big increase in reach and engagement with their connections. Even though they were the last to the party with video, LinkedIn does offer a unique platform for B2B marketing. Video regularly out-performs static content and the reasons are simple - the movement of visual content catches our attention and keeps us engaged. It takes less effort to consume video content than written content and, in the world of B2B sales and marketing, building trust is key and video does that. Over the next couple of years, we’ll be seeing more and more video on all networks and I’d definitely recommend getting involved.


Shoppable Instagram

Last, but by no means least, Instagram finally rolled out shoppable posts to the UK meaning that any ecommerce site could tag products in Instagram posts, giving the shopper a more seamless shopping experience. You need to sync a Facebook catalogue with your Facebook shop so Instagram can link products directly to your website. Not always as simple as it sounds though - trust me, I’ve heard many people banging their heads on their desks trying to get this working. Once set up, it is a really valuable feature that makes it a much smoother consumer journey, especially because Instagram still doesn’t let us hyperlink to URLs in captions! One thing at a time though I guess.



Kerry Watkins is the founder of Social Brighton, a boutique social media agency passionate about helping businesses achieve their goals through social with a tailored approach.


Social Brighton are a small team of social media experts specialising in strategy development and consultancy, training courses and workshops and a more hands on approach to managing social media and paid advertising.


Kerry is leading a PLATF9RM Learns session called ‘How To Be A Social Animal’ on September 5th. Book your place here.

We ❤️ Brighton Heroes: Jo Wren of The Grow Project

Jo Wren is a woman who calms a room by walking through the door. There’s useful synergy between this and her job as co-founder of The Grow Project, who organise nature therapy courses for people with mental health and wellbeing issues. They’re mostly based at Saddlescombe Farm near Devil’s Dyke and, over the course of their seven year history, have helped over 520 local people confront their demons.

They’re a life-altering organization for many and Jo, whilst being self-deprecating and sweetly awkward at accepting acclaim for her actions, has been central facilitator in this. We invited her along to Hove Town Hall to chat about the history of Grow and why nature can be a powerful tool in the battle for good mental health.

 

Hey Jo! What are you earliest memories of nature?

I only started thinking this through recently. My dad and I used to walk for miles and miles in North Wales when I was younger. He was at his happiest when he was outside and I think he’s handed that down to me!

 

What do Grow’s courses entail?

Our main thing is a course called The Grow Season. It’s one full day a week for eight consecutive weeks. We meet in central Brighton and take people out of town - mainly to Saddlescombe Farm near Devil’s Dyke. They’ll do a variety of different activities: it could be walking, conservation work, shepherding or maybe something creative like wild art. The aim is to remove them from their comfort zone and find something in nature that inspires them.

We also work with businesses and organisations who take day courses with us.

 

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What effect have your courses had on people’s lives?

I sometimes still bump into people from the first course – seven years ago – and they’ll literally say things like, ’Grow saved my life’. That can be quite overwhelming! It’s obviously incredibly rewarding but I also think that it wasn’t me who got them there. We provide a safe, supportive environment for people but the change has to come from themselves.

 

What is most people’s journey to Grow?

If you start feeling that you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, generally the first thing people say is go to your doctors. The first thing they’ll do is medicate, at a huge cost to the NHS. But it’s just a holding pattern really; you’re not truly getting “better”. They’ll then say that you should try talking therapy and put you on a waiting list and that might take another 6 months.

 

That’s a long time in someone’s life.

It is! That whole time they’re possibly deteriorating. Then even if you get talking theory it’s maybe six weeks, 12 if you’re lucky. There’s a real gap. I think we tend to be in the space people are not yet so bad, or where when they have gone down a difficult route but are coming out of it. We’re not a crisis group.

 

Do you think people in Brighton are perhaps more prone to mental health issues?

There are stats that show Brighton has some of the highest mental health issues in the country. Drugs and alcohol are a big problem here. Also, lots of people come to Brighton from other towns and cities and maybe don’t have support networks. They can then run into trouble. Isolation is such a big problem for many people.

 

Are your courses about connecting to other people as much as nature?

Certainly. When we started, we were focused on connecting to nature but one of the more important things is connecting to yourself. Other people are vital in this. If you were to attend group therapy sessions, meeting 12 people in a room can be really difficult. Meeting 12 people on a hillside is nowhere near as intimidating.

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Do you think social media and 24-hour emailing is making it harder for people to unplug?

Absolutely. I think it’s really valuable to unplug. The internet and social media is an incredible resource and connects you with people in incredible ways. But we are bombarded.

 

And we’re always chasing the dopamine hits from social media likes and engagement…

Exactly. That feeling we get from a bunch of likes on our Instagram post is great! It’s natural to want those things but people need to know there’s other ways to get them.

 

There’s also a culture of always being busy too? As though if you’re not busy 24 hours, you’re not working hard enough?

Definitely! Recently I’ve actually only been working three days a week and I've deliberately kept that space. It can feel a bit lazy but it’s been so positive for me and Grow– I’ve had the space to think about things and where I want to go

 

How do you see the future of Grow?

We’re partnering with other groups and charities a lot more now. We’ve formed the Green Wellbeing Alliance with local similar-minded charities and there’s the beginnings of a community. I think that's the way small projects like us will thrive: stop chasing funding separately and club together. I don’t want to live in a world of competition.

 

We agree! Thanks Jo.

Check our previous entries in our ‘We ❤️ Brighton Heroes’ series