Norfolk

Norwich theatre and concert 'buddy' funding ends

Gig buddies Ruth and Megan
Image caption Mencap had paired Ruth Cordle with Megan Kennedy because of their shared love of musical theatre

A charity project enabling people with learning disabilities to go to gigs and shows with volunteers has had its funding stopped.

Gig Buddies had paired up 50 people with similar interests to accompany each other on nights out in Norwich.

Mencap ran the project for a year with the help of a legacy but a lack of funds means it can no longer sign 18 to 35-year-olds up to the scheme.

Mencap director Alison Pike said the scheme "transforms lives".

"I know from speaking to some of the buddies that the impact of the project has been amazing in Norwich," she added.

"People with learning disabilities are one of the most excluded groups in society.

"Many of them are in bed in their pyjamas before eight at night. That might be a nice idea now and then, but not every single night.

"Gig Buddies improves physical, emotional and mental well-being and it makes where we live more inclusive and a happier place to be."

Image caption Existing Gig Buddies will continue to be supported, despite the closure of the scheme

Last month, BBC Inside Out filmed buddies Ruth Cordle and Megan Kennedy meeting up and enjoying a musical at the Theatre Royal.

"After such a short period of time Ruth has become my friend," said Ms Kennedy.

"I would like to see more people paired up, that would be lovely, but I am so glad I have had the opportunity to do it, and to meet Ruth."

She said they would continue to meet up regularly and on Tuesday night went bowling with other Gig Buddies.

Mencap said its partner organisation, Build, based in Norwich, would support existing buddies.

"I am really excited that people have formed such strong relationships and are going to be able to continue to spend time together," added Ms Pike.

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