Fight for the right to party with the Stay Up Late campaign

We started this blog as a space to share all the news and goings on here at Keen2Go with our members and their families. We quickly saw the potential to grow it further and develop it into a platform to showcase the incredible initiatives and organisations doing amazing work across the country.

It’s time to get that lime green megaphone out and shout from our modest rooftop as we take a brief look at the fascinating formation of the brilliant Stay Up Late.

Life doesn’t stop at 9pm. Think of all the epic stories, friendships and spectacles we would have missed out on if it did. Staying out late doesn’t always turn out to be the wisest of choices, but it’s always a choice and a choice we may take for granted.

Many people with learning disabilities aren’t being offered that choice and as a result miss out on leading a full and active social life. Stay Up Late are all about smashing through the barriers – in true punk style – to ensure all people have the power to choose how they wish to spend their time.

They sparked a movement which evolved into a charity and later introduced the Gig Buddies initiative to widen still the opportunities for people with learning disabilities in the evening economy.

But where did it all begin?

Like many strong social movements before it, it all began with a punk band. Brighton’s Heavy Load, once described by The Sunday Times as “possibly the most genuinely punk band touring today”, was formed of members with and without learning disabilities who played to disability nights and day centres.

Heavy Load – That’s Not My Name

A common feature accompanied the band’s often chaotic performances: an exodus of fans leaving the venue at 9pm, just as they were starting their set. It wasn’t a comment on them or their music, but a result of the inflexible shift patterns of support workers in the crowd. Shifts typically ended at 10pm and they would leave at 9 to ensure they all got home on time.

The people they supported were missing out on opportunities past this cut off and that would not do – so the awareness campaign was born. In the words of Frank Turner, “…the only thing that punk rock should ever really mean, is not sitting around and waiting for the lights to go green”. The seeds of Stay Up Late were sown.

Research has found that almost 1 in 3 young people with a learning disability spend less than an hour outside their home on a typical Saturday (Mencap, 2016) and 85% of young disabled adults from the 18-34 year old age group feel lonely (Scope, 2018). It is the barriers to experiences and social opportunities that need to be torn down to improve these shocking statistics.

The campaign needed a spotlight and whacking great big PA system to capture the public’s imagination. Enter award winning filmmaker Jerry Rothwell, who had read about Heavy Load in a Mencap newsletter and was intrigued to explore the possibility of shooting a documentary on the band.

Heavy Load (2008)

Heavy Load The Movie, released in 2008, was very well received and featured the birth of the campaign, along with all the trials and tribulations of band life. The success of the film opened many doors for the band who went on to release 3 studio albums, tour extensively, play Glastonbury and support Sham 69.

The profile of the campaign grew with that of the band and led to the founding of Stay Up Late as a registered charity. Their website states ironically, “we decided to do that most punk of things and start up a charity to uphold government policy”, referring to the commitments made by government bodies.  

And they haven’t looked back since. In addition to the championing of people with learning disabilities to decide for themselves when they wish to end their night, they have extended their campaigning to other areas with their ‘Manifesto for an Ordinary Life’. One area that is a particularly hot topic in the wider community is that of support in dating and relationships.

The Gig Buddies initiative has grown through social franchising and is now able to offer services in regions up and down the country and even in Sydney, Australia.

The exciting thing is that the next chapter for this fantastic charity could involve you. You can use the links below to explore the Stay Up Late website: support the campaign, make your voice heard or get involved with the Gig Buddies project. Check out the awesome shop (where you can find the Heavy Load DVD) and read the incredible story of how the organisation was born.    


Find out more

Our local Gig Buddies franchise is Croydon. Check them out:

We may be small, but we’re keen to help!

Please get in contact via @TogBlogUK to see if we can help raise awareness for your organisation/initiative or help share your story.

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