This month we are very excited to officially announce the launch of My Friend Charlie in Bristol, and introduce you to the newest member of the MFC team, Katy Willings. A former event manager at unique travel experiences experts, The Adventurists, Katy will be running all Bristol operations and events – find out more about her below.
Welcome Katy! What do you love about My Friend Charlie?
Thanks, it’s very exciting to be involved. I love the simplicity and honesty of the concept; just put good people together and let them enjoy themselves. The events and experiences enhance your social life, and your entire life, and if you happen to meet someone you’re attracted to, so much the better. I think it lowers the stakes and puts the fun and delight back into meeting new people. Also, there’s sometimes a kind of stigma to being single – as if you need to have a partner to do fun things and be out enjoying yourself. My Friend Charlie just turns that on its head; I can see my single friends having the social life that is the envy of all their coupled up friends thanks to My Friend Charlie.
Tell us a bit about your background and previous experience
I was a management consultant in London and then got the adventure bug as a customer of the Adventurists, doing their Rickshaw Run and Mongol Derby in quick succession ten years back. This was my first exposure to a company with an entrepreneurial spirit, and I moved to Bristol to work for them as a total fan-girl, and found Bristol to be full of more of the same; people making their living putting things out into the world just because they thought they were good ideas. I love this city and it has helped me develop from linear Oxbridge grad, to someone who is curious about just about anything and willing to build things from scratch.
What do you think of the dating industry in general?
Joyless, like so many other industries. In my experiences with online apps, everyone looked ‘fine’, and yet I wouldn’t strike up a conversation with these people, and after a few mediocre dates I definitely wouldn’t give up my evenings to meet them. It became just another thing I did at home, alone. People have become a commodity, which is such a sad irony because that’s exactly what they are not. Ease of access has somehow reduced the actual connection rate and quality. You just cannot see and feel the value in other people in that sterile medium. Also the algorithmic nature of it I find quite creepy, it feeds into so much that is wrong with society generally today – being exposed only to people just like you, based on automated criteria. Human connection is not like that in my experience. We don’t need clones of ourselves, we need to be able to listen to and learn from, and appreciate, people different from ourselves.
Your wise (smug, coupled up) friends and family will probably have told you at some point to “just enjoy your life and what you are doing, authentically, and you’ll meet like-minded people”. They are, of course, spot on, but that’s sometimes easier said than done. I think My Friend Charlie has systematised that wisdom, just enough; we’ll put on some barnstorming events and experiences, and attract those like-minded, and open-minded people. You just come and be yourself.
Tell us about the first MFC event in Bristol – why was Two Belly chosen as the ideal event venue?
Two Belly is a gem of a place; it has a strong identity, in that it’s all about craft beer and fine cheese, and Dom and Lara who own it know and love their produce to an extent which is infectious, so I know they will run a wonderful tasting event for us. It’s a great way to start a conversation, learning with experts and tasting. Craft beer is huge in Bristol, so to have two connoisseurs help us navigate the wheat from the chaff (I guess that should be hops) will be great.
At the same time, Two Belly is a plain white space, it’s not dressed up in the slightest, as it’s a shop first and foremost. For me this was really important for our opening event; absolutely everyone is welcome, it’s not an ‘exclusive’ bar. I’d hate folks to come to the launch and then have assumptions about the kind of people who My Friend Charlie wants to attract and cater for. That said, if conversation is flowing and people are enjoying themselves and each other, we can stay and drink world class beer and cider and eat delicious cheese until the pubs close, so it’s got all of the advantages of an intimate bar anyway. What’s not to love?
Can you tell us about what other exciting events you’ve got in store for our Bristol-based singles?
With pleasure! I want to show off some of the wonderful outdoors in and around the city, and also the artistic talents of its residents. The Bristol events will be loosely themed around the same four quadrants as in London; eat, drink, think and move. Picture paddle boarding in the harbour with a barbeque afterwards; a river cruise to a waterside pub with live music; an evening’s circus skills training; a pasta-making masterclass; a drawing class with a local artist. The most iconic date night in London has been axe-throwing, and I’d love to bring that west too. Plus lots of great bars and foodie events of course, I think it would be criminal not to showcase some of our more intimate and lesser known night spots.
Any advice for anyone looking to find a potential partner/who is dating?
Firstly, I’d say look for the value in other people – they might not be the love of your life, but they might well be worth your time anyway. No one person will be your “everything”, contrary to Celine Dion and others, so don’t project that onto people. Think about what you can give, as well as what you want to get. And don’t see your partner as your ticket out of singledom, the solution to your ‘problem’ of being single. See them for the person that they are; do you like them, do you have a good time together? You are 100 times better off being on your own and healthy and autonomous, than being with someone for the sake of ticking that box. If you are happy and confident on your own you have what it takes to be a wonderful partner to someone else, to truly enhance someone else’s life and by extension your own.
Secondly, just enjoy yourself! It’s my favourite thing, that sparkly feeling of walking into a room and saying “hi! What’s your story?”
Katy will be hosting MFC’s first singles event in Bristol at Two Belly on the 18th of July. Sign up and get tickets here.