Why we're building London Girl in a different way
It was around a year ago that I was in a coffee shop just around the corner from the one I'm in now, writing down the following statement:
"It's not easy being a woman living in the city.
The rent is high, the wages are low, the rat race is getting faster, our friends are changing and we're trying to figure out why 'adulting' was not a lesson in school.
We want to love the city that we’ve chosen to call home, but it’s hard to find people that we can truly connect with, a collection of third places that we feel comfortable in and the secrets that make the city more than just a people trap.
Social media makes city girl life look easy. We see girls checking into fancy bars on Facebook, tweeting about their busy day and Instagramming the food, fashion and architecture. The unspoken truth, however, is that social media is built to show the best bits, not the real ones.
We don't need a show, a book, or a podcast on how hard it is to be a city girl. We need the City Girl Network."
It was for the 'About' page of this website – launched moments after I'd written the closing sentence.
At the time of writing that, we were only in Brighton, Berlin and Edinburgh. Now, we're in six more UK cities and recently launched in San Francisco. Dozens of people are helping us to grow both within our cities and expand the mission elsewhere.
It's a little insane to think that this whole thing started because I saw a girl that looked a little bit like me staring out to sea and I projected my feeling on loneliness onto her. My greatest regret is that I didn't speak to her; I didn't even see her face. But I like to think that she's a Brighton Girl.
Pretty much every time I talk to anyone about the City Girl Network, I've been met with the following: "you really need to make a London Girl" and/or "so, when's London Girl happening?!" My responses have always darting around the fact that we're not really ready yet – partly in terms of capacity, and partly because we've been brewing up a plan to build London Girl differently and were waiting until it was as 'right' as it could be.
It needs little explanation as to why London Girl has become a core part of business development conversations. London is a city that's full of culture and opportunities, yet stifled by loneliness and disconnection.
We're living in a time where we have a Loneliness Minister. We're regularly reminded of the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics findings that 16 to 24-year-olds feel more lonely than pensioners between the ages of 65 to 74. And the majority of stories around loneliness in young people are London based. I don't think any of us are surprised by that, really.
We've been tackling loneliness amongst women in cities, mostly in their 20s and 30s, for a few years. At least once a week, someone writes a post in one of our Facebook Groups saying either "I've just moved to the city and don't know anyone" or "I've lived in the city all of my life, my friends have either moved away or our personalities have distanced, and I feel alone". And every single time, there's at least 20 comments with girls raising their wave emojis to say "welcome to [City] Girl, we felt like that too".
It's rewarding to think that we're helping to solve these problem for someone. But it's also scary to think how many people we haven't reached who may be going through the isolation that city life can bring.
It's time to tackle loneliness in one of the loneliest city in the world. It's time to start building London Girl.
Typing that last sentence gave me a little excitable flutter of butterflies – it's H2 status is certainly well-deserved. I know that I can speak for both our COO, Imogen, and I that writing this blog post gives us great joy and relief. And a little bit of fear, too. Many have tried and failed to build networks that result in the genuine IRL friendships that the City Girl Network has been successful for in our other cities. But I have a good feeling about this.
London is a big city. So, we're building smaller London Girl communities across the different boroughs.
It's incredibly likely that London Girls don't work and live in the same place. The classic example would be a friend of mine who's story is all too familiar – she lives in Ealing, works in Notting Hill and socialises with her friends in Shoreditch. In some ways, it's amazing to live in such a vast city, but the reality can be very different: travelling is expensive, the general culture is fast-paced and seeing a familiar face is like playing a really long, drawn-out game of 'Where's Wally?'.
By splitting London into different communities, i.e. Clapham Girl, Shoreditch Girl, Ealing Girl etc., we're staying true to our mission: helping every girl feel at home in their city. In the case of my friend, she can get to know her neighbours over an Ealing Girl coffee on a Sunday, find the "I've had a terrible day, please meet me after work" friends at the Notting Hill Girl midweek drinks and scout out new areas to move to or find girls to go to gigs, gaming nights or dance classes within the areas that the various events are based.
We're letting London Girls shape these communities.
In the same way that we let our community managers for other cities make decisions over when, what and where their events are, we're giving London Girls as much control as possible over where their communities will be.
Until mid-November, the London Girl Facebook Group will be a hub for gathering ideas, making decisions and collaborating with any London Girl who's passionate about bringing this umbrella community to life.
We'll be officially launching London Girl, whatever it may look like and wherever it may begin, in mid-November in an event led by the London Girls and organised by us.
Do you know a London Girl looking for the friends, housemates, travel companions and business connections that they need to feel more at home in this enormous city?
Tell her she can find them with us.
Written by Pippa Moyle, Founder of the City Girl Network