I’d like to introduce you to My Friend Charlie. No, I’ve not capitalised that strangely by accident – you see, Charlie is more than simply a friend to me; Charlie is the friend we all need and one that we can all make.
For those of you who haven’t come across her yet, Charlie set up the eponymous and different type of dating agency My Friend Charlie back in 2017, and since then has seen it grow from humble beginnings to covering multiple cities and hosting events as varied as paddle boarding, gin tasting bike safaris and even their signature axe throwing. Aimed at busy professionals (the events, not the axes), MFC takes the view that creating relationships in real life will usually trump trying to make them through online methods; face to face can sometimes lead to face to face after all.
MFC doesn’t claim to be utterly unique, but in a way it really is. Their approach is not all just about dating, providing a cattle market where different methods are used to allow participants to size each other up and make a snap judgement on attractiveness. No, MFC events are almost entirely built around the concept of relationships in all their forms, not just romantically.
Going to a MFC event is basically like rocking up at a dinner party filled with wonderful, interesting people. The only difference between that and a normal dinner party is that you don’t actually know any of the other people when you arrive, but find yourself soon chatting away with people as if you’d known them for years. Whether it’s a Virgin Atlantic pilot, a book publisher, a passionate sailor or the owner of a cocktail emporium, everyone at these events seems to have a fascinating tale and are willing to share it with a smile.
That’s not to say helping single people not stay single isn’t at the core of what they hope to do at MFC, however. Whilst events are laid back and relaxed, and often result in strong and lasting friendships, there is still the underlying knowledge that all of the people there are single and looking for love. People are encouraged or helped to mingle so everyone gets the chance to speak with everyone else, and at the end of the evening you are able to ask Charlie to swap numbers with anyone you fancy.
And therein lies the difference. It’s difficult to put a finger on things, but it really does feel like you are being set up by a friend with someone they think is quite cool. As someone who sadly has never once been set up by his friends, this is a novel experience indeed and makes it all far less intimidating and transactional than a more traditionally organised singles event. In a world of dating apps, swiping and “next!” mindsets, the tone here is a more than welcome change of pace.
It’s not unusual to bump into people on more than one event, either. Before you know it you’ve seen someone a few times and, even if there is no romantic connection at all, you find yourself hanging out with them simply because they are great people. I’ve been to a growing number of singles events over the past couple of years, and never before have I felt like I was simply tapping into a new group of friends, all of whom happen to be single.
I’ve been lucky enough to go along to paddle boarding on Regents Canal, wine and cheese tasting in Kensington and on an amazing Staycation in Buckinghamshire (co-organised by the literally fab @fabsarahryan), and plan to write in a little more detail about all of these over the next couple of weeks. In fact I’ll happily go back again to any of these, or any of the other, myriad, wonderfully different events, from pub quizzes and running clubs to supper events and dinner in the sky. I’m also staying in touch with many of the people I’ve met at these events; you can never have too many friends, after all.
But one friend I’ll definitely be staying in touch with is Charlie (and by extension the whole amazing team there). Whether I’m in London looking for something cool to do, in Bristol looking for a love connection or soon in Manchester too, it’s worth every penny and every hour of travel to know that at least one friend has my back when it comes to helping me find love.