London is a place full of curiosities, from things secreted away in vaults, to peculiar museums. But what if you have a very specialist interest, a niche hobby or even a personal problem that even your own circle of friends can’t begin to relate to?
Little communities of like-minded strangers with a common interest or persuasion are popping up all over the city. Here are a few of the most unusual, heartwarming and just plain eccentric get-togethers:
Everyone needs a good embrace now and then. But a group of people in London are finding warmth and affection through snuggling with a perfect stranger. Organiser Anna Fortes Mayer says her cuddle workshops are non-sexual, fun, relaxing and even claims health benefits due to the release of the hormone oxytocin — colloquially called the 'cuddle hormone'. Boundaries are set to keep everyone feeling at ease and there are strict rules around behaviour.
Are you thinking what we're thinking? Where in London could a group of 685 naturists roam free, away from the judging eye of the general public? Well, according to the Naturist London group, there are plenty of sheltered wide open spaces around the city to enjoy naked yoga, swimming and sunbathing.
So, is it legal? Organisers say: "Technically, it is not illegal to be naked in public in England, as long as you do not intend to cause offence," and that naturism has benefits to both the mind and body. To find out more, see the NSFW website.
Shyness Social Group
London can be a very lonely place if socialising doesn’t come naturally to you. Steve Light decided to do something about his feelings of social anxiety and isolation, creating a group to meet others in the same predicament. The oxymoron-titled Shyness Social Group meets up for drinks, dinners trips out and board game nights, in a no-pressure environment. "Don't worry — you don't have to talk if you don't want to," reassures Steve.
They say that trust, communication and respect are the building blocks for a healthy relationship, but in this case the building blocks are… well, just building blocks.
At Lego Dating, singles are paired off to create their own multi-coloured brick constructions and are switched around every hour to meet someone new. The noise and banter in the room increases throughout the evening, culminating in a lively party.
Laughter Friends use something called laughter yoga to learn to "laugh for no reason". They play childhood games like stuck in the mud, improvise and mess around until they’re rolling around on the floor.
Organisers say laughing can bring about health benefits such as relieving stress, boosting immunity, releasing endorphins and protecting the heart, so perhaps these jokers will end up having the last laugh.
North London Paranormal Investigations
If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighbourhood, who ya gonna call? North London Paranormal Investigations, apparently.
We're not sure whether there are proportionately more ghosts, werewolves or UFOs in the north of our great city but a team of "like-minded professionals" meet armed with cameras, thermometers and infra-red cameras to solve unexplained goings on and bumps in the night.
Yes that’s right, if you own this type of bug-eyed, wrinkly-headed mutt then London Pugs is for you. The group is a "place for people who are told on a daily basis that their dog is the dog from Men in Black".
Most meetings take place in south east London where pug lovers can meet for a cuppa and a stroll through the park, and discuss all things pug while their best friends gambol.
Vampires of London
Shhh! Don’t tell the North London Paranormal Investigators, but we’ve uncovered a group of "darkened souls who bear an interest in all things vampiric".
They meet monthly for an evening of "dark, vampiric pleasures" in darkened rooms with a DJ playing a choice selection of "darkly gothic/vampiric music, interwoven with veins of classical and baroque right through to soundtrack themes and elements of rock and metal". Expect tables draped with velvet, fresh roses, candles and pale make-up.
By Hannah Foulds