Almost a year ago, while on TikTok, I was confronted by a video talking about the difficulty of making friends in London. It touched on the irony of this place, nearly 10 million people live here yet sometimes the hardest thing to do is meet new people and make friends here. It’s a feeling that’s universal around this city, and the video in front of me offered a solution: head down to the Old Coffee House pub in Soho after work on Tuesday, go to the top floor function room and meet someone.
They called it the London Drinking Club (LDC) and this was a weekly fixture at this venue since 2021.
Okay. Tuesday was the next day, so off I went. Popped in, grabbed a drink and headed up the stairs to find a function room where it was almost impossible to move around. There must have been about 60-70 people in this small room. Grab a name-tag, write down your name, stick it on and go and speak to someone. It was incredibly easy.
Through it I met all kinds of people; some had just moved to London, some had been living here for years. Some were students, others business owners. There were all kinds of people all over the place, and it made for great conversations all around.
I went back the next week, some now familiar faces along with new faces. Tuesday night had been transformed. Throughout the rest of the year it became a fun thing to do every now and then if I was at a loose end on a Tuesday night or wanted to meet someone new, I knew where to go.
There were people you would see every time there, one of them was, unsurprisingly, the one behind this whole idea, Bizzie Martin. This was the same girl I saw on the first TikTok I saw. Her consistent enthusiasm and attendance is commendable, it’s hard to find someone with such a strong social battery. I wanted to learn more, so last week I got her on for a call and we had a chat about the whole thing.
Making the Big City Feel Small
As I mentioned, the whole idea began in 2021 and was a pretty quick formulation after Bizzie arrived here.
I had come from a small village in Kent and was really lucky because my friends from home had also moved to London. I was like how do you make new friends as a twenty- something year old in a big new city. I remembered when I used to live in Paris. The first few months of living there were really lonely and there was just no new way of finding people to interact with, especially for free. I did go to one expat meet up and I met one of my best friends there, she’s still my best friend now. I never went again but it just fulfilled that function of needing to meet someone new.
It was one walk around the city when the initial idea jumped up, an idea to bring all her friends together for one evening, but each person had to bring a friend of their own. It was based around the idea that the best way to meet people is by meeting the friends of your friends. Relaying the idea to her dad, his response had a clarity and simplicity that was nothing but affirming: “That’s how pubs are formed.”
That’s how it began, one night at the Old Coffee House in Soho, Bizzie met with three of her friends, along with her own friend a friends of each of them.
It just worked really well, like everyone got on, it was great fun and everyone was in on the idea. It was just fun. The next week there were 16 of us, and then the third there were 32.
A roaring success, and soon the question arose that what made this work so well? Sure it’s great to be social and have a good time, but what made the idea so incredibly attractive?
Bizzie reflected on when she lived in her hometown in Kent. A small village, the joy of it was the sense of familiarity and belonging. Everyone knew everyone, for better or worse, and so it was easy to walk around and find someone you know. It felt small.
On the contrary, London is the best example of the opposite of that. 9 million people, 32 boroughs stretching 607 square miles. London is anything but big. Knowing this, Bizzie set on a mission to help make London feel at least that little bit smaller.
I love that idea of bumping into someone on the tube and going, oh hey I know you. It’s those kinds of moments that make London feel small.
Soon enough the LDC was formed, and almost 3 years on they occupy the same function-room above the same pub, with the same open invite to everyone. Talking about how the LDC is currently going, it’s clearly evident the enthusiasm hasn’t yet died.
Every week is in some way better than the one before. It’s been constantly growing, we obviously have weeks that are less busy than the one before, but I think the idea behind it is always evolving.
Different people bring different stories with them, I’ll admit every time I’ve gone I’ve always learned something new. Last week I had learned about the elongated process of buying a property, and where it can be shortened significantly, another time I learned about the emergence of using VR-headsets in the medical profession and how it can be used to help surgeons. Things I never thought I’d learn something about - there we go.
Bizzie noted it was also funny how the LDC community, aimed at bringing strangers together, had managed to build a community within itself. She had noted about 10 regular attendees who have formed their own sub-community within the group, and admitted beginning to notice a new batch of regulars along the way.
It wasn’t just Londoners attending this, funnily enough Bizzie mentioned that last summer there were also a lot of people travelling who would come along to just meet English people their age. She mentioned one group of Australians who came along one week, and then told all their other friends who were travelling Europe. Suddenly every week she was introduced to a new group of travelling Australians who had heard about this event every Tuesday.
I remember once meeting a band touring from Calgary. These kinds of interesting encounters aren’t infrequent apparently.
I have this friend who had just finished a shoot and she said she was bringing over the cast and crew to the LDC, it was hilarious. There were some famous people, but there was this guy called Jeff who had written some of the Rick and Morty episodes. He was just the nicest guy, so funny and cool. I loved it.
As mentioned, this event occurred every Tuesday, and I had to ask what it was that made it that day. Was it just arbitrary? Not exactly.
When I was thinking about it I thought what is the day of the week that most people have free. What is the perfect day of the week? But would actually consider doing something for it?
Tuesday felt like the best. What else happens other than clubs or work? Nothing really happens on a Tuesday. I thought it was the best free day and people tend to be in that mentality of like “yeah maybe I could do something today.”
Doing this led to the “happy accident” of the club building it’s own motto whenever a group photo is taken “See You Next Tuesday” which you might recognise for it’s secondary meaning.
Loneliness in London
As I mentioned before there’s an irony to places like London in that, despite the millions of people living here, it can be one of the loneliest places in the world. We agreed it’s not just London that suffers from this.
It’s definitely not restricted to London, people would feel like this moving to any other city in the world, even if it was somewhere new in your own country.
Bizzie said she was lucky coming to London as she already had friends here, but she had experienced this kind of loneliness herself before. Years ago she moved away to Paris to work as an Au-Pair, an experience that really put herself outside of her comfort zone in this regard. She mentioned how difficult the first three months were, noting she would occasionally call her dad and find out that this was the first time she had heard her own voice that day.
It was actually an expat meet-up event that helped remove this isolation, only attending once but meeting her best friend at this event. She knew first-hand the importance of what these events can do for people in cities like this.
London for many is a natural next-step. Once university finishes and grad-jobs begin, London is the place to be. Every year there’s a strong influx of people in their early twenties moving down to find opportunities and meet people their age. I did this exact thing myself at 23, and I know the move to London is incredibly exciting. But the loneliness factor can hit like a truck for even the most social person.
With all these people around, you are surrounded by social interaction. On the tube, outside the pub, at markets it’s ubiquitous. We talked about how, when you’re on your own and surrounded by this everywhere you go, it can be tough.
The thing that makes me more nervous to approach someone is when I see they’re in a group already and it feels like if I go in I’m going to be interrupting them, and I’ll be annoying. They’ll be chatting about something and I’ll be interrupting that by introducing myself.
While we agreed on this, we discussed the bit you don’t see with all these interactions. Yes, some of them may have been friends for years. But there’s another possibility that’s just as realistic, they may have met an hour before. Prior to that hour they were in the exact same boat as you, but one chance interaction changed that.
Bizzie talked about the enjoyment she gets in being able to facilitate that, and she is often reminded about it when people return to the LDC.
These girls came the other week and I recognised they hadn’t come in ages. They told me it’s amazing you remembered us because we only came once, but we’re back because it’s our one year friendship anniversary.
Another time she was scrolling through BeReal and saw a group of people she met individually through the LDC. When she left a comment, they reminded her that it was actually her who had brought them together.
That’s the most enjoyable thing creating those moments. You don’t know the effect it’s had but it could be defining. It’s just amazing to think about it like when you get reminded of it.
When there’s a place where the sole reason to be there to talk to strangers, this is bound to happen. For some it’s a great way to meet interesting people, learn new perspectives and hear some good stories. For others, these moments are defining for their experience living and settling into London.
Bizzie recognises the power this has for people, and so in the past when she’s received texts from people expressing how they feel lonely, she knows LDC can be the solution they need.
I’ve had messages in the past where people have said they’re just really lonely, and I’m like that is really hard, please come to the LDC. It’s a hard thing to experience but it’s really hard to hear too when someone says it. There’s nothing worse.
Just like how one expat meeting changed Bizzie’s entire experience in Paris, LDC has given people friendships and experiences that make them more comfortable in this giant city. It brings that comfort by making London that little bit smaller for someone, and that little change can make the difference between London feeling overwhelming and homely.
The Extent of the Transformation
While this weekly event can be transformative for the people who attend, I couldn’t ignore the effect this has on Bizzie herself. She has been running this week-in-week-out for almost 3 years now, attending almost every single one.
Of course, doing that every year is impossible, she said this herself because she likes to go on holidays and also gets ill. Luckily, she has friends and family who are able to facilitate in her absence.
But she says she has never gotten tired of running the LDC and says she still gets the same buzz she did the first time she hosted the event. She admitted prior to it, after a long day of work on a Tuesday, she can feel apprehensive about going, perhaps being too exhausted. But when she gets in the room, the energy levels go back up.
One thing Bizzie says she’s gained out of the whole experience is an ability to be stricter with her own boundaries. Sometimes if she isn’t feeling it so much as before, she’s happy to attend to help generate the conversation, and then put a hard stop for herself at 9pm. By that point, conversations are going and people are already getting to know each other.
When you’re on a mission to make London feel smaller, you’re bound to get recognition every so often. Surprising to me, she didn’t mention that she gets recognised so much from that group, but more from the TikTok she posted advertising the group. The same TikTok that got me and a whole load of others to get involved in.
This guy came up to me after a gig and I was standing outside Koko. He says “I think I’ve seen your Tik Tok Video” and I thought that was absolutely hilarious.
When I asked about what the future holds for this group, she admitted that while she’s thought about ideas for the future, she hasn’t had the time to commit to manifesting anything yet. Sounds reasonable when it’s consistently meeting its own target. She did mention some ideas.
There’s a girl who’s doing design work and people have asked about merch and stuff. This year is the year I’d like to make merch, and just putting it somewhere where it can be made to order. That’s a goal of mine.
One thing people have asked is if there’s ever opportunity to hold a Friday night or a weekend event. It’s definitely an idea she’s keen on trying out, specifically having a type of LDC coffee morning.
We’re not an alcoholic group people are able to drink whatever they want when they get here, but it’d be nice to be in a place where people don’t feel like they have to rely on alcohol to feel at ease.
While yes the name is the London Drinking Club and the event always takes place in a pub, Bizzie appreciates that people sometimes prefer to meet without feeling like they need alcohol. You don’t have to drink at LDC, but obviously you can’t ignore the fact that sometimes there’s a feeling to have to when meeting new people in a pub.
In this case, what would replace alcohol would be a hot drink and conversation cards. People are given a deep topic to explore together, which becomes a great way to get to know people in a different way. Best of all, it negates the dreaded small-talk.
While a great idea and one she seems very enthused about, Bizzie talked about the actual difficulty of hosting this as opposed to the usual LDC events.
The thing that is so great is that it’s in Soho, which is an excellent location for pretty much everyone. Whereas I was looking at cafés and there actually aren’t that many around in Soho that have the space and would allow that.
A logistical challenge for sure, but another great way for people to get to know each other, perhaps even bringing a new kind of audience along. The more events like these that are available, the easier it becomes to give London that small village feeling to people.
First of all a big thanks to Bizzie for allowing this interview to happen for another blog. I’m amazed at the social battery this girl possesses and, if this entire blog hadn’t made it clear enough, I think she’s doing an incredible and admirable job.
Should you want to learn more about the LDC, or are interested in attending yourself, get yourself onboard. It starts 7.15pm every Tuesday at the Old Coffee House in Soho, just off Carnaby Street. There’s an instagram @LondonDrinkingClub to find out even more.
Thank you also to yourself for reading this. If you think you have or know of an interesting story to tell, get in contact and let’s chat. I’m looking to make these posts a regular feature and would strongly encourage you to get on board if you think there’s something juicy to be talking about.