The first time Cathy Hinsley organised a singles night 18 months ago, her main worry was that the 60 people who turned up would be too shy or too out of dating practice to approach potential partners.
“I needn’t have worried,” she says. “By the end of the evening, you couldn’t move for 30 and 40 somethings snogging each other.”
Ah, sole ranger nights?
They may seem like something of a throwback in an age of internet dating but here in Sheffield, it seems, their popularity is on the rise. Singleteers are abandoning their laptops - and the bad grammar and out-of-date pictures of match-making websites - in favour of the old fashioned method of getting out there and trying a bit of who you fancy.
Now, next month sees the return of what was once the biggest such night in the city - the Singles Saturday at Bramall Lane. More than 250 men and women are expected to attend the evening - last held 1998 - with their best chat up lines in tow.
“There’s a real thirst for this again,” says Cathy, who is bringing back the legendary night as part of the Single Social events she runs in her spare time. “The uptake is increasing all the time. Internet dating takes so much effort for such little reward. On a singles night, even if you don’t meet the partner of your dreams - or even someone for a quick kiss - at least you have a great night out.”
Her evenings - informal affairs held everywhere from The Wig And Pen in Campo Lane to The Botanical in Ecclesall Road - have so far resulted in one marriage, a handful of engagements and countless relationships of a more, er, transient nature. “Trying to meet The One can be fun,” laughs the 38-year-old mother-of-one of Totley.
Attendees stretch from young lads in their 20s (“they love flirting with the older women”) to silver smoochers in their 70s. And Cathy herself - a PR executive - has even found true love. And lost it again. “I met him at karaoke in Kiveton,” she recalls. “But he dumped me last week.”
So she’s now focusing on playing cupid instead of copping off. She’s arranged for an old Josephine’s DJ to spin disks at the Bramall Lane night and has put pulling tips online for attendees.
“When you’ve dated the guys I have,” she laughs, “you know these plenty of people out there who need the help.”
STOP TALKING ABOUT YOUR EX, MAN!
CATHY Hinsley has put together tips for first daters on her Single Social website. They include...
Don’t talk about the ex. It doesn’t matter you spent a decade of your life together; it’s over, dude. It’s not okay to keep bringing them up.
Don’t talk about past dating experiences. No-one wants to hear your last partner whisked you to Paris for a first date moments after they’ve just ordered the second cheapest bottle of wine at Nonna’s.
Don’t talk about your problems. Everyone’s got their own - and they don’t want to hear about yours the first time you share noodles.
Don’t get smashed. Even if the date is really bad company, necking several pints isn’t acceptable.
Don’t be bad company. Engage with the conversation. Ask questions. Offer answers. Don’t brag. And be yourself. “Even if you’re an idiot,” says Cathy, “being yourself is the best policy.”
If all else fails, talk about the weather. We’re British - it’s what we do to break any given awkward silence.
The Single Social Extravaganza Party takes place at Bramall Lane September 7. Tickets £15. See www.singlesocial.co.uk