Loveless or Loving it in Lambeth? Figures reveal that over half of the borough’s residents are single


We explore why the area has the second highest percentage of singles in the UK


By Kat Bawmwang, Naomi Agius and Rachel Jenkins

My face is three inches away from someone else’s. The face of a complete stranger.

Granted, at 5’3” my eyes are more level with the carefully crafted goatee on his chin but still, we’re close enough. Both of us are pretending that we are truly engrossed in the music we’re listening to whilst remaining at an uncomfortable kissing distance.

No. I am not in a club. I am on a crowded tube full of people on their way to work.

The awkwardness of the whole situation reminds me of a first date. As the train passes through Clapham Junction, it triggers off the memory of an article that revealed Lambeth as the borough with the second highest amount of singles in the country.

The vehicle lurches forward. Mr Hipster-Goatee-man loses his balance. I pull back just in time, almost knocking my head against the door. It’s a close shave but I narrowly miss a kiss on the nose.

I wonder if he’s read the article. Questions run through my mind: What does this mean about people in Lambeth? Are people single by choice or by default? I am almost tempted to ask my new friend what he thinks about this, but he suddenly makes a move for the door. It’s his stop already. Darn.

The investigation begins

The Office for National Statistics revealed a three million rise in singles over the last decade, meaning that 35% of men and women in England and Wales have never been married. Figures rise to over 50% in areas like Islington (the number one spot for singletons) followed by Lambeth. In fact, the study showed that single men in Lambeth make up 61% and single women 56% of its population.

They say curiosity killed the cat and this Kat (excuse the pun) really wanted to know what residents thought about the rise of the singleton. Is it an unwelcome epidemic or just a reflection of changing priorities in an emerging culture?

“I think it’s more generational than geographical,” said Brixton resident, Josh Pollen, 31.

He thinks that the role of religion, as well as the wealth of the younger generation, are in decline which may be some of the reasons why people are not getting married today.

The national survey seems to back this opinion as local authorities with high proportions of single people also have younger populations.

Norah Marshall, another resident, said: “People who have just come to London want to move to where it’s more bustling.

“Lambeth is a real flavour of London with its quintessential London vibe.”

Her friend, Art Terry, shed more light behind the rising single population.

“People come to London looking for love but we live in a culture of fear,” he said.

“London is going through a real flux. In some ways it’s friendlier and in some ways it’s not.”

He went on to explain that in a place so culturally rich and diverse, the city presents itself as a place full of opportunity but at the same time, the very same quality that makes it appealing can be the one that makes the prospect of meeting someone so daunting.

The new (online) dating game

A quick google search on the subject of dating will reveal a plethora of tips and resources ranging from promises of finding true love to hilarious disaster stories.

Do a search on online dating and you can have your pick of any type of niche you can think of –– from dating men in uniform, women in prison, nudists, zombie lovers and farmers only –– there’s a site for everyone. 

But do they help people find love or keep people looking for it?

When speaking to people about why online dating or other dating applications have proved to be a popular option, many have said that a lot of modern people don’t have the time or opportunity to meet new people in the ‘conventional’ way. And even those that do don’t necessarily want to settle down.

‘Miss Tinder’, the author behind the Tinder in the City blog, said: “I think the main factor is timing.  A lot of people do not feel that they are in the right place for that kind of commitment – they are so accustomed to being single and enjoying that lifestyle.”

“Marriage is put on the back burner as it is also seen as losing a sense of independence and both genders wanting to be more financially secure and being successful in your chosen area of career first.”

She admitted the pitfalls of online dating, with its emphasis on looks and some sites turning out to be more geared to casual hook-ups then genuine attempts at finding love. Although she is a fan of popular dating platform Tinder, she also recognised the difficulty in its reliance on photos –– some of which are deceiving.

Her blog celebrates the joys and pains of single life in South West London, where she shares stories and advice.

“My worst date was on Valentine’s day. My date got so drunk, to the point that it was verging on aggressive, which is when I knew it was time to leave.  Only he did not want me to go, so without my knowing, he stuck his foot out from under the table to block my exit.  I stood up to leave, tripped over his foot and went flying head-first down the flight of stairs directly in front of our table and landed face down on the floor with my skirt over my head!”

“Dating in a Dash”

Another rising market in the dating sphere has been the rise of speed dating, a concept which has moved on from something a bit naff to now being seen as a viable option to meet a lot of people in a short amount of time. See it as the modern day version of an Austenian ball if you will. 

“The whole market is booming right now,” said Rob Ryall, founder of #1 searched speed dating event ‘DateinaDash’.

“This time last year there were 4,500 searches a month for ‘speed dating London’ in Google. Now it’s around the 8,000 mark!

“References in popular culture like TOWIE and Made in Chelsea have helped to break the stigma that we have been fighting since we started.”

He was inspired to create his own speed dating event after going to one in 2011 and realising that he could do it bigger and better. Fast forward a few years and he is happy to announce that DateinaDash is so successful that it even has fellow competitors hacking his website, pretending to be different people to gain information on his business and sending their hosts to his events to check out how it’s run.

Running his own speed dating events has also resulted in love for the former police officer himself, as he met his girlfriend of two years at one of his events in 2012.

“We hit it off straight away – so if any success stories have come out of DateinaDash it’s probably my own,” Mr Ryall said.

One night in Clapham

South West Londoner thought it’d put speed dating to the test and sent two single reporters, Rachel Jenkins and Naomi Agius, to test the waters at a DateinaDash event in Clapham.

They set off to trendy bar SO.UK on Clapham High Street to see what the event had to offer them. Both admitted that as first time speed daters, they were apprehensive about the whole thing.

Ms Jenkins said: “I didn’t know what to expect although I know people who had done it in the past and said it wasn’t the best thing they’d done. So I hadn’t got much confidence in it, and wasn’t expecting to actually meet anyone.”

The night proved a mixture of highs and lows. People started to arrive by 8pm and after registering, the women sat at the tables with the men changing places every four minutes. The speed dating took about an hour before filling in score cards with names on them to assign matches. If both people ticked ‘yes’ then they would be ‘matched’ and put into contact with each other. If one ticked ‘no’ then there would be no danger of going on another date with someone they didn’t click with.  There was also the option of choosing a ‘friend match’ instead of a ‘love match’.

Both reporters revealed that the general consensus from participators admitted the difficulty of meeting people, with quite a few of them coming from outside the UK to work and live in London.

“It’s strange because London is such a big city, you’d expect it to be easier to find someone to meet. But it’s actually hard, you walk past hundreds of people every day and yet you never know anything about them. It’s difficult to meet someone,” said one man during a date.

“A lot of them had the same story that they moved over here, and they’re lonely,” Ms Jenkins added.

“They weren’t just there to meet a potential girlfriend but to actually find a friend, which I must admit is a good way to make friendships.”

Some of the dates went better than others, with some dates consisting of four minutes of uncomfortable silence.

After the event finished, participators were free to continue to mingle or leave and it was then that our reporters chose to reveal the reason why they had come to the event and were free to ask people’s opinions of the night.

P.C. Consultant Alex Hill said: “I enjoy it. Speed dating means you can actually talk and meet people.”

He shared his frustrations with dating sites like Plenty of Fish, which focus too heavily on appearances and perfecting profiles.

The next day, both reporters were sent matches and offers to meet up again with some of the people they had met. Although they both said that it was unlikely that it would result in anything, Ms Agius added that she would consider doing it again with friends for fun.

Single = Loveless or Loving it?

It seems that the high level of single people in a given area does not constitute to half a population of either Bridget or Samantha Jones (or their male equivalents). People are single for all types of reasons, which can range from lack of finance or time to the pure enjoyment of not being committed to anyone. Some are looking to find ‘the one’ whilst others are happy to enjoy looking.

Either way we now live in a world full of choice.

Maybe next time I’m on the tube with my nose pressed into someone else’s armpit, I’ll remember that.

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