Loving and learning

Studying something you're enthusiastic about isn't just its own reward: it's a great opportunity to make friends too, as Nick Jackson discovers
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The Independent Online

In a world gone mad, evening classes brought them together, because when Adrian met Laura a love story began... And so they might have put it themselves, if they had not been warned off such clichés at the screenwriting class where they met.

Adrian Mackinder, 25, an internet content manager, and Laura Douglas, 23, who works in marketing, met at the London Academy of Radio, Film and TV. Laura was drawn to Adrian because of his enthusiasm for the course. "We just started talking and straight away I really thought, 'I want this guy in my life'," she says. "I was so interested in what he had to say." Adrian agrees that the course inspired them: "The passion comes out because it's something you care about. It makes you more attractive because you're more relaxed and confident." Laura and Adrian's passion for one another began to get in the way of their studies. "We paid less and less attention," admits Laura.

There is passion in other creative courses, like art, but it is spent more on the work. You might think a painting life class in Hampstead would be a hotbed of bohemian sensuality but you'd be wrong. As Hampstead School of Art student Lee Trott points out, "You see an artistic side of people, and this leads on to a whole set of new conversations. But you're quiet when you're working because you're concentrating." Working in a group is worthwhile though, says fellow student Oshvit Eizen. "It's hard to distinguish between the social and creative. You see other artists, and you're working with other artists."

Sharing enthusiasm attracts a lot of people to evening classes. Although Adrian had to take a course as part of his work for the Hotcourses website, he chose screenwriting because he was interested in it. Laura had done some screenwriting at university and felt it was time to do some more. "I'd been toying with the idea of a course for a while," says Laura. "I'd just come out of a massive relationship, but I wasn't looking for a boyfriend. I just wanted to do something I really cared about."

In dance classes this enthusiasm gets a very visible expression. Liesl Korb teaches flamenco at the Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute. No one would think of Hampstead Garden Suburb as a breeding ground for Latin lovers, and tonight most of the students are too tired from stamping the snow off their boots to come and stamp and strut on the dance floor. But most nights the joint's jumping. "In flamenco it's all about performance, about showing what you can do," Liesl says. "It is different from art and writing. You do a lot of dancing together. You may feel a fool at first but there's someone else doing the same thing. When people start out they're inhibited, but we do fun things so by the end they have all learnt to let go."

Adrian and Laura found that later, but they would not have got together without the after-class pub visit. "After the class a few of us went to the pub," says Laura. "By the end of the night I thought, 'Ooh, there's something here.'" Adrian remembers the moment: "On the tube on the way back we talked about coming out of our relationships, and there was a chemistry straight away. It was like Brief Encounter. I was Trevor Howard." Laura laughs, "and I was Celia Johnson."

Wendy Ellis is a student at the flamenco class, and at 66 is of a different generation from Laura and Adrian, but she enjoys the social side of classes and is looking forward to going to the Flamenco at Sadler's Wells with her fellow frolickers. Although she has only just started the course she has already got to know people quite well. "We talk in the class, exchanging comments. And we have a relaxed teacher so it's very laid-back."

Adrian and Laura have a trip of their own planned, to Prague. "It's still in the embryonic stage; we haven't met all each other's friends," says Adrian. "But it looks like it'll be for the duration."

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