It's nearly midnight at Tiny Rebel bar in Cardiff. Richard Horrigan is chatting to Panic Shack, a band he has just watched at Clwb Ifor Bach, about meal-deals.
Panic Shack have a song called ‘Meal Deal’, so Richie and guitarist Romi and bassist Emily are talking about their favourite meal-deals. (Read to the end of the interview to find out Richie’s favourite!)
Panic Shack have just played 2 gigs in 1 day. Richie has seen both of them. Richie has also seen gigs at St David’s Hall and Tramshed today – that’s 4 gigs in 1 day!
Richie is a Gig Buddy and loves going to gigs. His favourites are music and wrestling.
A ‘gig’ is any social event that you enjoy. As well as music, it could be watching a musical, going to a clubnight, horse-riding, visiting a museum – or just a nice walk in the countryside.
At Gig Buddies Cymru we help adults with a learning disability (and autism) to lead active social lives by matching them with a Gig Buddy who enjoys the same things. Gig Buddies then go to the events they love together.
My name is Kai Jones, and I am a project coordinator with Gig Buddies. I met up with Richie and chatted about his life as a Gig Buddy.
Richie lives in a First Choice house and is supported by Innovate Trust.
Richie: I'm Richie. I live in Roath, Cardiff. I'm 37 years old and part of an organisation called Gig Buddies Cymru. I've been with them for 3 years and I go to a lot of gigs and wrestling shows.
I also have 3 hours a week paid job with Innovate Trust. I'm a participation assistant, and I do a lot of stuff with their Insight app. I run my own current affairs show once a month, where I use video links and easy read language to talk about the news and help people to understand.
Kai: How did you first hear about Gig Buddies?
Richie: I was in Spectrwm one day doing my work on a computer and I clicked on the website, and it said 'Gig Buddies'. I went on to the Gig Buddies website and I filled in an application form. Kylie from Gig Buddies came to my house and told me what Gig Buddies is about, and she asked me about the things I like, interests and music. She told me about the next social, so I came out, and I was out until 2am! This was just before covid.
Kai: Why did you want to join Gig Buddies?
Richie: Back then I didn't go out as much.
Kai: What were the things that was stopping you from kind of going out?
Richie: Sometimes you have to be back by a certain time - it's not barriers, but if you go out with some people you have to pre-plan it so there is enough staff, so they can plan it with you.
Kai: You joined Gig Buddies just before the pandemic. What did you do to keep active and have fun during the pandemic with Gig Buddies?
Richie: Watching Dragma online and going on the Gig Buddies Kazoom parties. We were having parties, late night parties on Zoom, called Kazoom, and they were every couple of weeks.
They were wild, bonkers, fantastic, fun, singing and drinking! We did karaoke and we played a load of games. We had a talent show, and it always finished really late!
Kai: When Kylie (our other project coordinator in South Wales) found you a Gig Buddy, we did the match meeting on Zoom. What was it like to meet Mark, your Gig Buddy, on Zoom?
Richie: It was difficult, as we were in lockdown and couldn’t meet properly for 6 months.
Kai: What things did you and Mark do to stay connected during lockdown?
Richie: We watched the rugby online. We watched Wales v Australia and Wales v New Zealand. And I told him about the things that I do for Insight, like the Newsround show.
Kai: What was it like when you when you met for the first time in person?
Richie: Because I had only seen Mark on Zoom, I said "Good god, it's good that you're real flesh!" We met at Chapter at a Gig Buddies social and played bingo outside, and would you believe it? We had the same numbers! I had number two, he had number two, I had 3 and 4, he had 3 and 4. It was so funny.
Kai: How do you plan your Gig Buddy events with Mark?
Richie: We meet on Zoom, we say hi and how's your week been, and have you been busy, and we'll say, "Oh, where do you want to go next?" Say, something like Bar Eleven in Cardiff, to watch the football.
Quite recently, he's never been wrestling event, so I took Mark to two events.
Kai: That's brilliant - you've introduced your Gig Buddy to things as well. Tell me about the things that you've done together as Gig Buddies?
Richie: We've been watching football together at the pub. Gigs - we went to see Royal Blood at the CIA. We've been to wrestling down the Bay, and at Tramshed.
Kai: After the Royal Blood gig, you did a ‘Merch Stall Review’ for Huw Stephens' show on BBC Radio Wales?
Richie: Yes, the gig was super fantastic. I did a review for Huw Stephens, and I said: "Huw, I went to see Royal Blood with my Gig Buddy Mark, and I spent £150 on merch," and Huw Stephens said, "How much?!" I also went to see a band called Junior with another Gig Buddy called Danielle, because Mark wasn't free. And I did a review for Huw's show for that.
Kai: And you also did a review of another gig, when we went to see a Welsh band called Peaness with a group of Gig Buddies?
Richie: Yes, spelt, p.e.a.n.e.s.s. Hehehehe!
Kai: I loved that on their merch stall they had little fuzzy felt peas that were made by the mum of the drummer. So that's amazing, you've done 3 reviews for Radio Wales about gigs you've been to. What does it feel like to do the reviews?
Richie: Number one, I enjoy them, and it gets the Gig Buddies name out there. And not just that, I did a radio interview with Gail, another Gig Buddy.
Kai: That was as part of great coverage we had on BBC Wales about Gig Buddies in September. You took part in a live radio interview on the Radio Wales drivetime show.
Richie: The funniest thing was, it was live on air, I had to say, "Who am I speaking to? What's your name?" because automatically I had Huw in my head, but this was with someone else, another presenter. When I do the reviews for Huw Stephens it's on my mobile, and this felt so real.
Kai: The reviews you do are so brilliant. You manage to fit in a lot about the gig into 90 seconds – that’s a really difficult thing to do.
Richie: When I do the reviews and listen to them back, I get emotional. With the Junior review, I played it back and straight away, I got emotional. In a good way.
Kai: As well as music, you’re a big wrestling fan. You recently went to a wrestling all-nighter at Gassy Jacks with Mark, watching the Royal Rumble live from America. What was that like?
Richie: Well, it went from 9am until 5am! It was fun, awesome, the crowd were chanting. They just got into it. Everyone was cheering. They had wrestling tunes and a wrestling quiz.
Kai: What things haven't you done yet that you would like to do?
Richie: Probably a football match, a Cardiff City match, because the truth is, I haven't been to the stadium since covid.
Kai: Last question. Why should people join Gig Buddies?
Richie: As I say to Huw, Gig Buddies is a fantastic charity. They're looking for volunteers at the moment. Gig Buddies is about doing things, like staying up late, going to the wrestling (sometimes until 5-o-clock in the morning), going to gigs, like tonight – whatever you want to do. Gig Buddies is one word, and that is F.U.N - fun. So do it. You won't regret it!
At the moment, applications from new participants are on hold as we don’t have enough volunteers to match people who are waiting. We are hoping to re-open applications in the next few months. We urgently need new Gig Buddy volunteers. You can help us by telling people that we need new volunteers.
Richie’s favourite meal-deal is a triple cheese sandwich, ready salted crisps, and a bottle of coke.