I remember pitching the idea of filming a workshop like this for London360 with my executive editor and colleagues and it immediately made a discussion point.
“What is a cuddle workshop? Why? Why would people do it? It’s weird? I’d be uncomfortable! What exactly happens?!” Those were the common things that I heard when explaining what it is.
So what is a cuddle workshop? To quote Ronseal, “It does exactly what it says on the tin.” A place where people from all walks of life come to talk, share their emotions and have the chance to engage in something plenty of us take for granted….human touch.
The workshop is run by Anna Nathan and Neil Urquhart. Anna composed a majority of the workshop exercises over the last 18 months and Neil then came on board to offer his support and help continually improve the classes within the last few months.
The workshops are gender balanced. In this particular one, there was 21 of us (I was the extra man, but I had the camera).
We arrived at the workshop early to set up. We were greeted with open arms (to be expected), drinks, biscuits, the works, and Anna and Neil had a way of making us feel at ease instantly.
As people began to arrive, there were some who had been to workshops before, and some first timers. Some looked nervous and others looked a bit more relaxed. Personally, I was anxious and excited at the same time. It was great to observe certain people to see their demeanour before the workshop and see how they would be after it.
Before the class starts, everyone involved has to sign a consent form. However, it must be noted that the workshops are (and now that I can speak from experience, SUPER FRIENDLY and NON SEXUAL), so the consent forms are just a precaution.
The workshop begins with a few exercises just to let everyone know who is who and discuss rules of the workshop; the most important being that you do not have to do anything if you do not want to. Respect for others is made a priority to everyone present to ensure a pleasant experience.
Before the actual workshop takes place, they are several ice breakers to just get better acquainted with everyone, this involved causally moving around the studio floor, firstly just walking, and then getting more creative by throwing in a few dance moves along the way until the music stopped (kind of like musical statues). Once the music had stopped, you then have to hold hands with two other people and make a statement about yourself.
Here is a small snippet of the warm up and ice breaking sessions in action.
Throughout the workshop, more exercises are done, each designed to bring closeness, comfort and confidence. The result ending in something like this…
Having experienced a cuddle workshop first hand, I can honestly say at first it was incredibly daunting, (even going there to just report on it), BUT, after less than half an hour there I was at incredible ease. People were incredibly friendly, the atmosphere was calm, warm and very secure. I’d recommend anybody who has the slightest bit of curiosity to just go for it and get involved because that feeling of shyness and being adament is exactly what these workshops tackle; a way of improving self esteem, confidence and general well being. It is a fun way to meet different people from all walks of life with at least one thing in common, and that is to spread love, unity and be at peace with themself and others.