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Love after lockdown: Clapham speed dating scene heats up as restrictions thaw

By Tess Colley
July 28 2020, 15.10

A Clapham speed dating event sold 50% of tickets within days of going online.

As lockdown eases, south London based speed dating company Original Dating is getting in the mood for love again, with its Clapham function selling more tickets more quickly than any of the company’s other London events. 

Andrew Summersgill, managing director of Original Dating, said: “We’ve always organised lots of events in our home patch but it certainly seems like there’s some pent up demand for dating events in the area. 

“Although we’ve not yet started actively marketing events yet, we’re seeing a lot of traffic on the pages.”

Unlike the dating scene before lockdown, when Original Dating’s central London events were most popular, Mr Summersgill is expecting most interest to come from zones two and three where he says most single people live. 

clapham common tube
READY TO LOVE AGAIN: The Clapham speed dating event sold 50% of tickets within days of going online

Over lockdown, the company ran online speed dating events, but it would appear this was no substitute for the real thing. 

“We organised lots of Zoom based virtual events, ” Mr Summersgill said. “But it’s clear that people want to get out there again and start meeting face to face as soon as possible.”

This is supported by recent YouGov data which shows that only 9% of British people chatting on dating apps over lockdown took the plunge of going on a virtual date.

For Tooting resident David Thompson, 23, the lockdown initially put the breaks on his dating ambitions.

“At the start of lockdown dating felt like an unimportant consideration as everyone was just getting used to life during a pandemic,” he said.  

“However pretty soon I found that dating apps were as busy as usual.” 

He wasn’t wrong. According to the same YouGov data, during lockdown a quarter of those aged 18 to 24 were swiping more on dating apps than they did before.

Despite this, Mr Thompson didn’t go on any virtual dates during lockdown.

“I think it’s not necessarily that virtually hanging out isn’t good, but it’s something that’s easier to do when you already know the person. 

“I’m not sure how much of a full sense of what a person is like can be gained from a video call.”

A woman video calls a man - both are wearing face masks
LOVE LOCKED UP: Only 9% of British people chatting on dating apps over lockdown took the plunge of going on a virtual date. Data: YouGov

However, the return to ‘normal’ dating may still be a way off. 

The Original Dating events in Clapham’s Sugarcane bar and elsewhere will be adapting to meet new Covid secure regulation by enforcing the one metre plus social distancing rules by spacing out tables, limiting the number of attendees to 30 people, and ensuring there is plenty of hand sanitiser to use as speed daters move around the different tables.

Mr Thompson was unsurprised to hear the Clapham event was selling well.

“Young, busy people trying to fit in as many dates into the course of an evening as possible sounds fairly like Clapham to me. 

“I think it’s very possible that people will continue dating virtually and hopefully transition into in-person dating in the next few months.”

However, for those who have already rushed to book onto Clapham’s speed-dating event, it would seem that transition has already begun. 

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