Dungannon bank manager’s new turn as UK top dating guru

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A Dungannon mother turned dating guru has scooped a national award for firing cupid’s arrow.

Claire Hughes’ dating company Soiree Society won Best Upcoming Matchmaker in the UK at the annual European and UK Dating Awards 2016 in the company of TV hit show First Dates which also picked up a top gong.

Soiree Society was the only Northern Ireland entrant to be recognised at the glittering London ceremony which is dubbed the Oscars of the dating industry and attracts competition from companies all over the UK.

Claire, who’s 57 and happily married, turned to matchmaking after a successful career as a bank manager. She said she set up the company to keep the ancient art of romance alive and off the internet.

Claire’s clients are typically over the age of 30 and she has had many successful matches since she launched her venture - a success rate that was recognised at the dating awards.

“I am absolutely over the moon to win such a prestigious award within our industry”, she said. “Northern Ireland is such a small place and when I started my business I had a few raised eyebrows as to why a happily married person would want to get involved in the dating industry.

“I bring a fresh and modern approach to what is a centuries old tradition. People are starting to realise the downside of online dating sites, with many concerns around false profiles, security issues and the lack of privacy. People are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the ‘one size fits all’ approach of online dating. This means that matchmaking is becoming an increasingly attractive option.”

Claire conducted extensive research and found that many people who had come through the difficulties of separation, divorce or bereavement were completely daunted and outside their comfort zones with the modern dating process.

Her approach is confidential and tailor-made to each client to find the person who suits them best.

She describes it as a “bit like the work a recruitment company does to find the perfect candidate for a job vacancy”.