There are few things worse about going to a gig than missing your favourite band because you have to leave early, but this is the reality for thousands of people with learning disabilities across the UK.
Because many people with learning disabilities’ carers finish work at 10pm, they are forced to go home earlier than they would like so staff can change over back at their homes.
But punk band Heavy Load, who play this weekend’s Glastonbury Festival, have taken action to change this by starting the Stay Up Late Campaign.
The Sussex five-piece, made up of members with and without a learning disability, started their fight because they were having to ask to go onstage earlier in an evening so their fans would be able to see their set before they had to go home.
Bassist Paul Richards said: “From touring the round the country we also knew that this wasn’t a local problem. This meant that people with learning disabilities were missing out on all sorts of opportunities.”
Heavy Load no longer accept having to go on stage earlier than planned, but unfortunately people still have to leave their gigs early because of staff changeovers.
Paul said: “It’s not just our gigs, we heard about another musician who was taken off stage mid set because his support worker was going home!”
The campaign is all about fighting for the rights of people with learning disabilities to be able to stay up and stay out late if they want to, and to encourage support workers to be more flexible in the hours they work and where they change over.
Paul said: “I know loads of support workers who are more than happy to work late, as long as they have enough notice. A lot of this is about planning ahead and being flexible.
“We also realise that support workers have other commitments too outside of work and we’re not suggesting that this is something that should happen every day.
“I think that this can also been seen as a recruitment issue and something that people with learning disabilities should be asking about when helping to choose their support staff.”
Thanks to a grant from Awards For All to help kick start the campaign, the response to Stay Up Late has been excellent; Mencap is pushing it nationally, while the band, the stars of a recent BBC Four documentary, has just returned from the launch of Stay Up Late Cymru in Cardiff.
They are also encouraging people to run their own nights and have even created a party box containing lots of things to help run a Stay Up Late night.
Some other groups have come up with their own ways of supporting the campaign – Coventry charity Grapevine has organised a bed push through the city centre for tomorrow, when they will deliver a Stay Up Late report to city councillors asking for them for a more flexible approach towards the hours they ask support staff to work.
Meanwhile Heavy Load will be pushing their message through playing gigs up and down the country, from Glastonbury this weekend to Rock the Boat in Camden on July 8.
Paul said: “Rock the Boat has been organised by Mencap and will also feature DJ performances by Wild Bunch DJs as well as Tim Westwood and somebody else famous – but that’s a secret!
“There’s lots of other things happening too and we’re really excited to be releasing the second of our ‘Wild Things’ compilations which showcase music being made by people with learning disabilities. This release features act from all over the planet and will be a double album – we’re hoping to have it ready by next month.”
For more information about Stay Up Late click here
Picture source: Morgan White Photography