A Short History of The Social Group
The history of The Social Group is the history of Social Networking. Years before modern-day internationally-known "social networks" even existed, this is where all things "social" in the modern sense of the word first began.
The Social Group IS the Social Network!
In the late 1980s, Englishman Andrew Haglington, a B.A. Environmental Studies graduate who often did work for environmental good causes and charities, was a mild-mannered family guy in the suburbs of the city of Sheffield, with ambitions to be a writer and artist, in between helping out in the family accountancy business and doing voluntary work as a ski instructor at Sheffield Ski Village in his spare time.
It was in 1991, after moving to live in Devon in South West England that tragedy struck. After Andrew Haglington deliberately let himself fall on a ski slope to avoid harm befalling people close to him, he was unfortunate enough to tumble all the way down the slope in a most dramatic fashion without his skis releasing, damaging his spine much more severely than he might have anticipated.
In 1993, things went from bad to worse. The serious back injury after the fall on the ski slope was followed by the now disabled Andrew Haglington being mysteriously poisoned. This led to him developing severe health problems which left his muscles weak, his mind in a daze, and him confined to bed in a fever. Left virtually unable to stand up or walk for much of the time, frequently taking over an hour to crawl upstairs to bed, with his physical body so utterly devastated, in such severe pain and immense suffering, many thought Andrew Haglington could not possibly survive to the end of the year, let alone have any chance of recovering.
Somehow he found the strength of will to survive and endure. But for quite a long time, life remained really difficult. Everything else was made worse by experiencing terrible loneliness and despair.
As it happened, it was hitting rock bottom that changed everything. It was Andrew Haglington's efforts to find friends and eventual realisation that he could not possibly be the only one finding it difficult to meet people that was to change not only his life but countless others.
Looking for a way to make friends and rebuild his life, in 1995 Andrew Haglington selected the word "socialising", shortened it to "social", and invented social networking.
Realising that society lacked some sort of a "socialising and connecting mechanism" by which people could interact and socialise, in a eureka moment, Andrew Haglington was stunned to realise that he had come up with something completely new.
Unchartered waters lay ahead. What was in his mind had never been done before. He realised what he had envisaged had such enormous potential that it might change everything.
It was slow going at first. In 1996 his groundbreaking concept was so far ahead of its time that he found he was spending almost all his time explaining what he meant by "social" in the new context, and his revolutionary ideas about using a printed magazine and the still very new internet to help people connect, socialise, interact, and make friends went right over most people's heads.
In part due to a lack of interest by shortsighted government and UK business, and in part due to his still severe health problems, it wasn't until 1997 that Andrew Haglington finally managed to establish an informal 'group of friends', aimed at tackling loneliness and isolation, and helping people come together to find friends.
The original DEVON SOCIAL GROUP was a sensation, with huge demand from people wanting to join to enjoy the social events, dining out, and party nights on offer. It was a great way to meet people, have fun, make friends, and find romance, and was such a success that it soon spread to other areas - followed by CORNWALL SOCIAL GROUP, SOMERSET SOCIAL GROUP, BRISTOL SOCIAL GROUP, and SOCIAL GROUP HOLIDAYS, the social media revolution was underway!
In 1999, Andrew Haglington met his future wife Cathy, who had worked for TSB bank for many years, and who was soon running the non-profit-making socialising and friendship organisation with him.
It was fortunate that Andrew met Cathy. 2000 was to be a year of dramatic change, and if not for Cathy's kindness and support, both Andrew and the group of friends might not have pulled through. In his personal life, Andrew was treated incredibly badly by someone who had been close to him and this affected him severely. When Andrew's still fragile health took a dive, Cathy stepped up and kept everything on an even keel, until eventually he felt able to be involved again.
Gradually, Andrew and Cathy found ways to move forward together. The couple found there were advantages to having a solid team of Organisers at the helm. It certainly helped to have both a male and female perspective. Naturally, plenty of mistakes were made - hardly surprising considering this was a brand new type of organisation and much of what we tried had never been done before. Gradually, what worked and what didn't became more obvious, and the organisation evolved.
Two years later, in the middle of a Social Group Holiday with travel companions from The Social Group, Andrew proposed to Cathy at beautiful Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, USA, and the couple married a few days later in a helicopter over Las Vegas, with a VIP limo taking them on to a reception with family and friends on the 50th floor of the Rio Hotel & Resort, followed by their accommodation being upgraded to a luxury rock star suite at the Hard Rock Hotel & Resort.
It was in 2002 that Andrew Haglington came up with the phrase "social enterprise", based in part on his love of Star Trek and in part on all things social and the need to establish the informal "group of friends" on a more professional basis. A respected local accountant offered useful advice on how to move forward, encouraging the couple to become "social entrepreneurs". In 2003, the limited company Social Group Enterprises Ltd was set up by Andrew Haglington and Cathy Haglington. The aim now was to generate enough income to at least cover running costs and salaries, while doing good work in society by bringing people together to connect, interact, and socialise.
The Social Group as a brand new social networking type of business was born.
Over many years since, the dedication and hard work of our expert team has made life better for so many - our efforts enabling many thousands of people to have fun, make friends, and enjoy a great social life! While our invention of social networking has been widely copied and has been said to have gone on to change the entire civilisation. We are pretty sure that many of you now use the word "social" on a daily basis - and that's all down to us!
So important were our early websites for Devon Social Group and Cornwall Social Group deemed to be that we were done the honour of them being preserved for posterity by The British Library in London.
Andrew Haglington kept coming up with new ideas and The Social Group was always at the forefront of the latest trends. Singles Speed Dating which started in New York as a way for elders in the Jewish community to encourage young Jewish men and women to find someone of their own faith was brought to the UK by Andrew and Cathy, and their unique version of it remained immensely popular for many years.
Along the way, through our efforts to help others via The Social Group, we enjoyed many good times and we also met many famous people. Hollywood actor Owen Wilson by the pool at the Hard Rock Hotel on another Social Group Holiday to Las Vegas. Live Aid singer Paul Young at a restaurant opening in Cornwall. Comedian Milton Jones at the Princess Theatre in Torquay Devon. TV presenter Keith Chegwin at an entertainment evening organised by business friends near Exeter. Some of rock bands Red Hot Chili Peppers and Guns N Roses in the pool with us on another holiday to Las Vegas, as well as a party with celebrities such as the Pussycat Dolls, Sarah Michelle Geller and Diana Ross.
2005 saw us take a message of "friends around the world", from Exmouth Devon to Exmouth Australia, in a remote north west corner of the outback, with us presenting a plaque from the Mayor of Exmouth Devon to the local council at a civic reception laid on for our group down under. Afterwards, we were honoured by a personal invite to the Western Australian Parliament in Perth courtesy of the then speaker of the Western Australian House Of Commons the Right Honourable Fred Reibling MP.
As the years went by, Andrew had times when he was less ill, with many people not even realising how tired and unwell he might be for days afterwards. Various aspects of ill health plagued him at different times, but overall he was less ill than he had been and there finally started to be times when he managed better. Strength of character and a determination that the "show must go on" ensured he kept going, frequently needing to put on a brave face to the public.
Both Andrew and Cathy had professional business backgrounds, which helped enormously, and they both had a love of food, music, and travel. As we shared our passions with others, good times were the result and many lives were nudged in the right direction.
It has been said in the press that Andrew Haglington did not go on to become an internet billionaire like other social media entrepreneurs and, of course, that would have been very nice. But it has to be said that against the odds and considering really horrible illness, that Andrew achieved so much is quite remarkable. With a good woman at his side, he has been able to make a huge difference to so many people.
The great recession of the early 21st century hit us before anyone else saw it coming. The sudden downturn for us started in 2007, as nerves cut in and people stopped spending. The next few years were very difficult to say the least, not helped by being treated pretty badly by certain individuals and various parts of the government, at the same time as suffering the loss of Andrew's father Brian Haglington to a most awful form of Alzheimer's in 2011.
It was a tough few years, with far too much stress and worry. Somehow we pulled through. Our work to help others and the encouragement people gave us helping to keep us going. Such a big thank you to all those who sent us Christmas Cards or messages of thanks and support, and to everyone who paid for a drink or a meal, or who made a donation however small to help pay for things. At times, some people were completely amazing, really wanting us to keep going so very much and not wanting to lose what we offer, our place at the heart of the community clearly much valued and admired by so many. Thank you to all of you.
Times moved on and improved, and it all became about needing to make a fresh start.
2012 saw a re-launch of The Social Group, with the completion of new web sites for local areas, new social media pages, and a brand new style Social Group Magazine, with us finally sorting out a more permanent way of printing and publishing this now double-size magazine twice a year.
All of this brought a fresh energy and impetus, with lots of new people joining and lots of ex-members deciding they liked what we had done so much that they re-joined. No-one wanted to miss out on the new discount offers and the much improved choice of dining out, parties, weekend breaks, and holidays.
By 2013 bookings for Social Group Holidays were on the up. The economy was definitely moving again and we were determined to keep our prominence in the market. A huge effort went into upgrading and expanding our services, doing a lot of research to make sure we were offering what customers wanted. At least now, people seemed to know what we meant when we used the word "social"!
In keeping with new tech, this website here was revamped and updated in 2015, bringing a fresh new look to The Social Group online.
With many new web pages and social media pages coming online all the time, our extensive network now spreads across the internet, giving us the ability to promote not just ourselves via this network, but also anything else we need to give a large amount of publicity to.
A reduced type of Social Group membership is now also available, for anyone across the whole of the UK or internationally. This includes being able to take part in UK Party Weekends and international Social Group Holidays. While we are currently looking for local area Social Group organisers to organise and host local area Social Events across the UK, with work being available in the form of taking on a Social Group franchise. Please get in touch if you are interested.
It's noticeable that times have changed. An ever demanding public seem to increasingly want more. We always point out that the product we offer takes time. It's not a quick fix solution to all your problems. In many ways, it's more substantial than that. People who stay with us and are patient can reap tremendous benefits. Making long lasting friendships can take time and require effort. Yet the rewards are there for those who recognise this and there's often a feeling of real friendship and cameraderie amongst those at the core of the group.
To thank those who have supported us, we've recently reduced prices for Members to renew and re-join, making things more affordable and even better value, with a generous loyalty discount for those who stay with us!
Looking ahead, there's lots more on the drawing board. A whole range of social events, meals, parties, activities, UK Weekends, and international Social Group Holidays on offer for members to look forward to, with many suggestions coming from Members, as well as from our many years of experience in running this for everyone. It ought to be lots of FUN!
We look forward to good times and good company with friends old and new!