How do you make friends as an adult? Northern Soul goes Speed Mate-ing
Ever wished there was a Tinder app for finding mates? Perhaps you wish you had a partner in crime to help you paint the town red, or maybe you’d like a cinema buddy? Or someone who shares your passion for cheese and pickle sandwiches, thrash metal or origami? Me? I’d like to find people who love a pub quiz.
I have an excellent group of lady mates, but they’re spread out all over the place (even as far flung as Kenya) and meeting up regularly can be tricky. So, it’d be nice to meet some new people in Manchester. But as an adult, it’s difficult to make new friends. Compared to previous generations, our lives are no longer static. We’re more transient, meaning we leave behind our steady network of pals, and this can often lead to a latent feeling of loneliness that’s hard to shake.
I’m lucky because I live with one of my BFFs – and have always done so (even the girl I met on Spare Room ended up becoming a best friend) – so my home life is essentially a continuous sleepover. But Housemate and I still chat about how we’d like to extend our circle of friends in the city, and the anxiety that comes with putting yourself out there.
What happens when you get chatting to someone ace? What if they don’t like you? How do you suggest the possibility of a ‘mate date’? What’s the correct etiquette? After all, the days of sharing your jelly tots, bonding while skiving PE or over several pints in the student union are long gone.
Is it even possible for grown women to make new friends?
This is where Girl Gang Manchester steps in. Taking inspiration from ‘dating shows, bad business meetings, teenage sleepovers, art attack and agony aunts’, the team have come up with a novel way to help those who might feel a bit isolated in the big city. With creative challenges, conversational topics and lots of laughs, it’s essentially speed-dating but for friends, and none of that weird fear of rejection nonsense or agonisingly stilted conversation.
Guided by out hosts, we dive straight in with ice-breakers. Who likes marmite? (Me) Do we prefer cats or dogs? (Dogs, although I love cats, too) Friday night or Sunday morning? (Sunday morning)
The Wonder Inn is an excellent, friendly venue (all dim lighting, exposed brick and laid-back vibes) and the event is being held within Girl Gang’s latest exhibition, See My Selfie, an exploration of the combative nature of ‘the selfie’ which is well worth a gander.
We take part in a game of Snog, Marry, Avoid between political figures and the various celebrities associated with Bake Off (my thing for TV chefs dictates that I’d snog Paul Hollywood. “It’s the eyes,” I explain. “And the promise of cake.”), followed by a round of Would You Rather?
The idea? To meet, and chat to, as many lovely people as you can, and try not to feel like a numpty in the process (or embrace your inner-numpty, I suppose). Then there’s a game where we’ve got to sell a randomly selected item (a slinky) to another person. Now, I’m not a gifted sales person and the only thing I can think about, as I babble incoherently, is the time the family cat got her head stuck in a slinky. Next, to my horror, we’re urged to sell ourselves. My friend, Danielle – who came with me to the event – swoops to my rescue and suggests we sell each other. That I can do.
Some of the activities might not be for everyone, which is fine. There’s no pressure. It’s all about being comfortable. After finally getting my hands on a seat, I decide to forgo the dress-making game involving a black bag and some tape (which just reminds me of hen party games and, to be honest, I’m all hen-partied out this year), and take a few minutes to check out the exhibition instead. I’m not the only one. I get chatting to a couple of lovely girls who’ve decided bin-bag fashion isn’t their cup of tea.
Towards the end of the evening we get into groups and, directed by prompts laid out on the table, we chat about assorted topics. Our first conversation starter includes Piers Morgan and, not wanting to waste our breath, we opt for another. This time it’s the relevant topic of selfies: narcissistic or empowering? It brings up loads of interesting thoughts and opinions and, before we know it, we’re chatting like old friends about appearance and social media.
From the outside, it might look a bit strange – loads of women playing games, laughing, chatting and generally having a right raucous time – but I’m on board with this. I think we can all benefit from a bit more silliness and sincerity in our lives.
“What’s going on here, then?” asks a lad as he’s queuing for the toilet (there’s an open mic night going on in the main room and the loos are at the back of the building).
“Eh?” He’s confused.
“It’s a cult,” I joke.
“Oh, right,” he says, before disappearing into the loos.
But in all seriousness, I reckon they’re on to a real winner. Before I leave I chat to Megan Marie Griffith, the lovely lady who started Girl Gang, about upcoming projects and the success of Speed Mate-ing.
“At our last event, someone came up to me and said, ‘I’m here with my Girl Gang’,” she tells me. “They’d met at the last speed mate-ing event and there were 13 of them. They just clicked. They meet up most weekends and are even talking about going on holiday together.”
Tales like this make the event even more impressive. It’s such a simple concept and yet, without the tremendous team effort of Girl Gang, we probably wouldn’t put ourselves out there and connect with people as easily.
Although we don’t come away with potential new besties, Danielle and I have a right laugh. As we walk towards Piccadilly, we chat about the people we’ve met and how we wish we’d been a bit more forward. But I’m proud that I’ve shed my awkwardness and stepped out of my comfort zone. I’ve had fun and I’ll certainly be heading to the next Speed Mate-ing event in August.
In a world where we’re supposed to be increasingly connected, we’re beginning to feel more isolated. So, if like me, you fancy making some new mates, or you’re just up for having some fun, head down to one of the Girl Gang events, have a chat and get involved.
The next Speed Mate-ing event is scheduled for August 16, 2017 at Texture MCR.
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“The need for us is still there.” At 28, Junior Akinola is the first person under 30 to chair a board of a major performing arts venue in the UK. But that didn't stop Manchester's Contact Theatre from hiring him. northernsoul.me.uk/the-need-f… @cparkwriter @Jr_JT3 @ContactMcr pic.twitter.com/tobyXTPpOc