Holly Cooke from Stoke-on-Trent started a Facebook page called 'The London Lonely Girls Club, dedicated to making new friends.
When Holly Cooke was new in London, she could not make new friends and often found herself alone in the big city. The 26-year-old from Stoke-on-Trent then started a Facebook page called "The London Lonely Girls Club," dedicated to making new friends, which grew to 20,000 people in just a few years. From 2018 to 2022, there were 10,000 young women who, like Cooke, found it hard to make new friends. Last year, the number had "grown spectacularly" to 31,000, and now, 5 or 6 members organize events like brunches, game nights, cocktail parties, and picnics. "London is so big, it leaves a lot of space for loneliness. I Googled how to make friends in London," Cooke told the BBC. "People feel it in so many different ways. London is so transient. Some just moved here; others have been here their whole life."
Cookie tried her "Bumble" to make platonic friends but found the process "intense and scary". She said, "What if you could get two, three, or four of you together?" This is when the idea of starting a Facebook group crossed her mind, with group events now being fully booked in minutes. She and two volunteers organize four and six events each month, which previously included picnics, brunches, board games, and cocktail nights. The fun events are open to women of all ages but are popular among the young generation. Londoners are more likely than others in the UK to experience severe forms of loneliness – 700,000 of them feel lonely ‘most’ or ‘all of the time,’ according to a report conducted by Campaign to End Loneliness.
While 8% of Londoners overall experience severe loneliness, this is 12% for young Londoners; 18% for low-income residents; 15% for members of LGBTQ+; 12% for Single Parents; 18% for the Deaf and Disabled, and 14% for some ethnic minority groups. Harry Hobson, director of the neighborly lab and co-author of the report, said, “Severe loneliness has a massive impact on people’s lives and their health and mental well-being. It overlaps with depression and anxiety and feelings of despair and alienation. We must recognize the health risks and costs posed by loneliness in London which as this report shows falls hardest on people who are already vulnerable."
Cooke said her club is a "safe environment" for people to meet face-to-face. "Meet-ups are getting booked up in five minutes," she said. "Our first meet-up post-Covid sold out in two minutes. "It's been a crazy journey. I started it because I just wanted to make some friends." Groups like these are becoming an "in-thing" in London. In 2022, The Guardian reported on the "Proper Blokes Club," a mental health walking club where men of all ages go for walks through the city and share their struggles. The founder, Scott Oughton-Johnson, had gone through a painfully long custody battle and separation and started the group after a video invitation to go for a walk-and-talk.
The club is a space for men to “have a safe environment to talk about things”, says Johnson, “without the potential judgment you might get from friends and family.” The youngest member of "The Proper Blokes Club" is 19, and the oldest is 75. “People have gone to each other’s weddings and birthdays,” says Oughton-Johnson. “Sometimes I take a step back and think, this group of lads never knew each other a few months ago, and they’ve found lifelong friends out of it. It’s amazing.”