As part of Learning Disability Awareness week 2017, we have collected good news stories from our members. Here, United Response share the story of Stuart who loves karaoke so much, he set up his own karaoke night in Chesterfield!
Stuart and his friends loved singing karaoke together at various local pubs, but sadly they were often made to feel unwelcome. Rather than give up his hobby, 54-year-old Stuart decided to start his own karaoke night.
“We went to a few pubs and the pattern always seemed the same,” explains support worker Rob, who helped Stuart organise the night. “We were made to feel welcome at first but then as the weeks went by that changed.” The popularity of karaoke among Stuart and his friends meant that group grew quite rapidly — the pub’s surroundings would soon be too small to fit them all!
“That’s when I just said: why don’t we do one ourselves?” adds Rob, “and Stuart jumped at the chance.” A local social club in Chesterfield agreed to let them use their space for free, and they started off with just a laptop and TV. This problem solving idea quickly turned into a successful night in its own right, and now the group boasts an attendance of around 15-20 people, with ages ranging from young to old.
Those who come have been able to get out and socialise more often, and this has created other benefits. “It’s definitely a confidence builder,” says Rob, “one guy was too shy to sing at first, I had to get up with him. Now he gets up on stage three or four times a night!”
A safe space
Having a space where Stuart and his friends can have fun without judgement has been vital for their wellbeing. Many places aren’t well-adapted to people with learning disabilities. “I know that they feel safe there,” says Rob.
The karaoke nights happen one evening a week from 6:30-9pm, and is open to anyone in the community. It has been running for almost a year.
“They tend to sing the same songs,” jokes Rob, “but then so do I!”
Looking to the future
Stuart hopes to build on the success of his karaoke night and eventually organise more nights in the future. For now though, he’s enjoying his weekly singing sessions in the local social club.