Londoners in Need of a Hug Attend Cuddle Workshops

It was only a few months ago that we told you about this professional cuddler in New York who provides snuggles and cuddles for a fee. Now we’ve found out about an entire workshop that’s dedicated to the act of cuddling, this time in London. Organized by 36-year-old Anna Nathan and 42-year-old Neil Urquhart, the workshop takes place twice a month on Sundays and costs £29 (about $46). Participants at the cuddle workshop get to do just that – hold each other.

But it’s not just ‘ready-set-cuddle’ from beginning to end. There’s actually a process that’s followed during the four-hour sessions, for the participants to get acquainted before they can hold each other in full-on cuddles. And of course, there are rules as well. According to Anna, “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.” Some of the other rules include keeping a layer of clothing on at all times, placing your sexual energy aside, and the most important – no kissing. Attendants at the cuddle workshop come from various walks of life – ranging from a divorced 30-something badly in need of a hug, to a retired and lonely person. The room in which the classes are held is quite cozy, with green and red cushions scattered on the floor. However, the temperature is mostly cool, perhaps to encourage participants to keep their clothes on at all times.

Photo: Cuddle Workshop

Cuddle class begins with a series of exercises. First, everyone walks around the room in time to some music (mostly, the beat of ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’). They click their fingers as they walk, briefly touching their fingers to get to know each other. Then, they slowly start touching each other’s shoulders, feet, ears and finally, the hips. Students are generally hesitant at first, but nervous laughter soon breaks the ice. Afterward, the class is divided into pairs and then small groups, and guided through stroking each other all over their body. Thankfully, the torso and pelvic area are excluded. In the final exercise, the groups break up and everyone lies on the floor, touching and holding each other while still respecting the rules.

Photo: Cuddle Workshop

The whole concept sounds bizarre, especially to people who’ve never cuddled a stranger before. Bailey, a 20-year-old American student said after her first class, “At some point, I was like: wait, I am just cuddling someone I just met. In any other place this would be weird. But because we are coming to a workshop, it’s fine.” Although, she does admit that she finds it strange to see a workshop like this in London. “If I expected this place to be anywhere, it’s in California, with some hippies.” But for those who are quite experienced with cuddling, the activity is something they look forward to. Grace, a veteran cuddler, says, “I feel really relaxed. I likened it to taking ecstasy tablets. It reminds me of that experience.” One of the rules that participants are told of before they arrive is to make sure they aren’t wearing too much perfume or aftershave. Still, there’s no telling when you might have to cuddle with a stinker. Bailey says, “Some guy had a really freshly laundered shirt, and I was like, ‘that’s nice, that’s so comforting.’ But the next person, I was like, ‘noooo that’s not comforting, you could have tried better, come on!’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God, I hope I don’t smell’.”

 

As strict as the rules are at the cuddle workshop, it is inevitable that such a close proximity of contact could lead to attraction for more. However, Anna and Neil say that they keep a close watch on participants, and that they never had much trouble in the two years they have been doing this. “We’ve never had to separate people or pull them apart,” says Neil. The true aim behind the workshop is just to help people derive some comfort in a society where human contact has mostly gone digital. At the end of a session, returning to the real world outside could seem cold and come as a shock to some participants. To avoid that, the organizers like to soften the blow by arranging a dinner nearby for those who would like to go. Andrew, 42, says, “If I had to go straight to the street and public transport, I would feel kind of cold and alone. I want to hug everybody I see, if they are going my way or not.” Andrew has been to over 10 workshops so far. Clearly, the cuddle workshop is providing people with something they truly need and aren’t getting enough of in their daily lives.

Source: AFP


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