Play Hard

Sick of using dating apps? NCL Dates could be the answer to finding love

The Newcastle dating agency is on a mission to make ‘old-school’ speed dating fashionable again.

Written by Rachael Nichol
Published 11.02.2023

Small talk, sex pests and catfishes are the three things that we dread the most when using online dating apps.

If only we could meet someone in a traditional, natural and romantic way like our older generation who met their soul mates at dances, work or on a blind date.

After years of hiding behind our phone screens swiping and judging people on their looks, it’s about time we finally pluck up the courage and meet someone in person for a real-life connection.

Well, our wish is NCL Dates command. The Newcastle dating agency was set up by Managing Director Ben (aka our very own local cupid) and is on a mission to make ‘old-school’ speed dating fashionable again.

But what makes this dating agency is there’s a range of single and double speeding events for all ages and sexualities, including straight or LGBT+ nights, and 18 to 25, 25 to 39, 40 to 59 and 60 plus nights, too.

Ahead of their busy Valentine’s Week that’s packed full of dating events, we caught up with the Managing Director of NCL Dates and psychology graduate, Ben Mellor to find out more about his agency.

HLN TOP TIP:  NCL Dates are kindly offering our readers an exclusive 10% discount by quoting code ‘HLN’ when booking their newly announced Doubles & Solo’s Speed Dating event in March (see below)


How is your dating agency different to dating apps?

It’s a way of meeting people in person, which I think many people crave after the pandemic. A lot of our daters have said they miss the old way of getting to know people face-to-face rather than endless text conversations that go nowhere and swiping through dating profiles where not everyone is honest all the time.

Why is the ‘old school’ way of dating better than online?

It just feels a lot more authentic. Running our events, we get the opportunity to see people make real connections and you can really tell when a couple are into each other, and that’s just not something you get through the phone.

Experts say up to 93% of communication is nonverbal so body language and tone of voice are very important in determining if you’re attracted to someone, and that’s only possible by getting yourself out there and meeting people the old-school way. Our events really take the hard work out of that.

How does speed dating work?

  1. Once you’re settled after a chat with our team and a drink in your hand, you’ll be asked to take a seat at your table
  2. You’ll then get around five minutes with each of your dates to get to know them and determine whether they’ve got your interest.
  3. You will have a sheet to take notes about your dates and you put a tick next to your date if you’d like to speak to them again.
  4. If you’ve ticked somebody and they’ve ticked you back then you’ve matched. We’ll exchange your contact details the following day, it’s then up to you to keep things going from there.


Have you had many success stories?

We’ve had a few people get in touch to say they’re still seeing someone months after they met at our events, there are a few people in relationships who met at our events too. We admit you might not meet the love of your life at our event but as long as you enjoyed meeting new people in a different and exciting way and had a good time, that’s still a win in our book.

You’ve recently reintroduced blind dates due to popular demand, how do these work?

  1. All you’ve got to do is fill out an application which takes about 10-15 minutes, to give us an idea as to who you are, your interests, values, priorities and what you’re looking for.
  2. That information then goes into a database that we use to handpick your blind date – using my academic background in relationships, attraction and compatibility – on whom we think you’d be most compatible with
  3. You’ll then be given a date, time and location to meet up
  4. Ten minutes before your date is due to start, we’ll send you your blind date’s number, so you can text them to find them in the venue.
  5. What happens next is up to you, but we’re always on-call during our blind dates to ensure the safety of our daters.

We hear lots of horror stories about blind dates, how do you make sure your clients are safe?

The safety of all our clients is of the utmost importance to us, we’d never want anyone to feel uncomfortable or unsafe at our events and thankfully we haven’t had any incidents before. We’ve always got trained staff members walking around the speed dating event to check that everyone is okay and our team is a call away at blind dates.

There’s always a female member of staff present and all the venues we work with are Ask for Angela and Angel Shot trained. There’s also door staff to ensure no one’s being too rowdy, but we’re happy to say they’ve never needed to step in.


Tell us more about your involvement with Northumbria Uni for ‘S.H.A.G week’

We’re working with Northumbria Uni’s Student Union to run a speed dating event as part of S.H.A.G (Sexual Health Awareness Guidance) week to help promote safe sex and break the stigma surrounding conversations about sexual health and relationships very soon.

The event will be open to all Northumbria students of any gender, relationship status and sexuality. Daters will be able to tick other daters in terms of whether they like them romantically or platonically, so this will be a good event to make friends at too. The event will feature stalls on a circuit of dates that encourage engagement with external and internal groups and agencies including NHS Newcroft Sexual health clinic.


Expect a unique cocktail menu with exclusive cocktails and drinks for NCL Dates events, private rooms and bar and plenty of singles ready to mingle.

Valentine’s Special: 40+yrs Speed Dates

Where: As you Like it, Newcastle

When: Sunday 12th February at 6:45pm


Valentine’s Special: LGBTQ+ Speed Dates

Where: Pumphrey’s, Newcastle

When: Wednesday 15th February at 6:30pm

Speed Dates 30’s (30-39yrs)

Where: Leave Me Alone, Lisa, Newcastle

When: Wednesday 8th March at 6:45pm



Young Professionals Speed Dating (21-29yrs)

Where: As You Like It, Newcastle

When: Thursday 9th March at 6:45pm


Double Speed Dates (18-25yrs)

Where: Bar Warwick, Newcastle

When: Friday 10th March at 8pm



Doubles & Solo’s Speed Dating: 23-33yrs

Where: TBC

When: Monday 13th March at 7pm

HLN TOP TIP:  NCL Dates are kindly offering our readers an exclusive 10% discount by quoting code ‘HLN’ when booking their newly announced Doubles & Solo’s Speed Dating event in March (see below)



LGBTQ+ Speed Dates (25-45yrs)

Where: Pumphrey’s, Newcastle

When: Tuesday 21st March at 6:45pm


If you want to try your luck at love on a blind date or to know about upcoming events, visit NCL Dates’ website and like and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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