How many new mates can you make in a week? We challenged Gem Royston-Claire to reboot her sad social life at some nights designed to bring you and your future pals together.
I dubbed it ‘The Saddest Barbecue of All time. Two burger and two sausages, leftover meat from a two-for-£5 dal dredged from the freezer. that summer it was charred delights for one. Unless you count the onlooking pigeons. Fast forward a year and the barbecue guestlist hasn’t grown much longer. Or any longer at all, in fact. I know I’m not the problem , as by all accounts I’m an absolute hoot!
The trouble is that London life doesn’t throw up a lot of opportunities to turn friendly banter with strangers into actual friend friendships. You can’t, for example, pipe up during a busy commute with: ‘You’re right, random stranger, the new Routemasters do smell weird. Coffee?’
Luckily there are non-creepy ways of meeting new people. In the hopes of improving the pigeon-to-human ratio at next year’s barbecue, I commit to spending five nights testing the best of the city’s socialising opportunities – from chummy creativity to networking on the night bus. Future BFFs, here I come!
Where? Drink Shop & Do.
Who it’s aimed at? Cool creative types
Drink Shop & Do hosts some of the most unusual activities in London: papier-mache monster-making, Beyonce dance classes and Lionel Richie biscuit decoration, for example, which makes it a perfectly silly place to meet people. I try a doodle club. My controibution: a terrible picture of a cat. I would feel ashamed, if it weren’t for other’s dirty drawings. Bu, hey, if a stranger’s detailed sketch of a penis isn’t a conversation starter, I don’t know what is@ The staff are lovely. Booking manager Grace offers yo chaperone another woman who’s turned up solo and looks anxious. It’s all as sweet as the blue sherbert cocktails they serve. Of which i drink some. Several, in fact. And some wine.
The verdict: Perfect for meeting grown-ups who don’t want to be grown up.
Friends made: Six, I think. It all got a bit hazy.
‘MINGLING MADE EASY’
Where? The Friend Zone, Underbelly, 11 Hoxton Square, N1 6NU (venue varies).
Who’s it aimed at? ‘Social skydivers’ (people who want to talk to strangers).
The Friend Zone has one aim: to help, nay make, people meet. They break the ice using giant Jenga, Twister mats and other fun and games. I plan to arrive half an hour late, so I can sneak into the crowd unnoticed before bewitching strangers with my sparkling wit. Unfortunately I misread the start time, meaning I’m the first one there. I pretend to receive a call, and stand in Hoxton Square chatting to myself for a good ten minutes. When I go back inside, numbers are a bit thin, making the ‘mingling made easy’ part a bit difficult. I hit it off with two girls: one who gives me her business card (ker-ching!) and another who politely declines when I ask to follow her on Instagram – friendship tease.
The Verdict Fun once it gets going.
Friends made: Only one, but I feel like she’s a keeper.
HOT JAM ACTION
Where? The Women’s Institute: find your local branch at thewi.org.uk.
Who’s it aimed at? Doughty make-do-and-menders. The WI is, quite literally, an institution. It’s a place for women to chat about issues, listen to inspiring speakers and, of course, craft the heck out of stuff. Membership is £34.70 a year, but you can try before you buy by gatecrashing a local meeting. I opt for the Gothic Valley WI, who meet in Highgate’s Lauderdale House. It’s less blue rinse, more hot-pink hair dye: I make sure to apply extra eyeliner, but thankfully non-goths are welcome. It’s an eclectic group, ranging in age from 25 to 50. The guest speaker is a lady called Sarah, discussing sexism in the computer-programming industry. There isn’t a lot of time for banter, but it’s great to feel part of a community. Highlight? The buzz surrounding the idea of having a female funeral director hold one of the future talks. Awesome.
The verdict: The WI is laden with lady-mate material.
Friends made: Zero, but I’ll be back.
Where? City Socializer.
Who’s it aimed at? Friendly locals doing fun things.
City Socializer is a slick site that lets you see what’s happening in your area, and which of the site’s members are attending. Essentially it’s a big group of like-minded strangers, getting together to do fun activities, from late-night museum trips to R&B karaoke. I RSVP to potential new friend Leanne’s invitation to enjoy some factual inaccuracy and city silliness on a Bullshit London tour. I learn, among other things, that there are killer mermaids in the Thames, and a secret fried chicken shop in Buckingham Palace. In between nuggets of ‘bull’ I chat with fellow Socializers, which is made a lot less awkward by the useful pre-meet stalking the site lets you indulge in. Yeah, it’s creepy, but failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
The Verdict: A pleasant, non-awkward day out.
Friends made: Four. Get in!
THE LAST RESORT
Where? A night bus. Anywhere in London.
Who’s it aimed at? Drunk people.
Befriending someone on a bus might be frowned upon during rush hour, but after midnight, anything goes. Feeling brave, I cruise the N73 route, attempting to strike up banter with ‘lively’ locals. I feel the need to act tipsy myself to make it all seem slightly more socially appropriate. It’s a bit sad, but I do have a fabulous faux-slurred conversation with two cousins who have been to see one of the National Theatre Live screenings at Islington’s Vue Cinema. ‘So much cheaper,’ we all agree, while cementing our new ‘bezzies’ status with some mutual Twitter following. It’s amazing how ballsy I feel after only a few nights out. If this week’s taught me anything, it’s that there are friendship possibilities everywhere. Plus, making a dick of yourself in public isn’t always necessarily a bad thing.
The Verdict: You can strike gold on the right route.
Friends made: Two. If they can remember me.
TOTAL FRIENDS MADE: THIRTEEN
Meat aisle, here I come!