“I went to Bongo’s Bingo for the first time and sabotaged myself for not winning £750”
Ever since I heard about Bongo’s Bingo about two years ago, I’ve been dying to try it. A combination of my two favorite things – cheesy tunes and the chance to make some money – mixed with the absolute chaos of being in a packed room with around 1,000 strangers singing at the top of their lungs, meant that I was absolutely in my element.
Filled with nervous excitement, I met my two friends outside Brixton Electric on Brixton Hill for the launch of the company’s new site in south London last Saturday (April 2). I had barely been able to talk about anything else all week, and the time had finally come. I retrieved my bingo papers and pen, and we took our place between a group of rowdy boys and a group of excitable girls.
Last time I went to a bingo hall, I made a fake call and was scolded by an incredibly angry (and rightly so) elderly woman in my rural Scottish hometown. My friend warned me to make sure it didn’t happen again, otherwise I was sure to have a nasty surprise. Facing the game, I was ready to win. From double ended dildos to Henry Hoovers and huge cash prizes of up to £750, it was certainly all up for grabs. Having only ever played bingo at an all-inclusive Spanish resort or a seedy Mecca Bingo bingo hall in Camden, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.
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It was the perfect mix of traditional bingo mixed with lots of amazing music, with everything from Neil Diamond to Sham Rock and Cascada. Something for everyone, indeed. Admittedly, after my fourth can of lager, my beer glasses had come out in full force and I had trouble finding some of the numbers on my sheet – but that was no one’s fault but mine.
Everyone was in high spirits, and the hosts and dancers, including “Bendy Wendy” from London, were in top form. One by one, the winners took to the stage to claim their prizes, which also included a cardboard cutout of David Attenborough, Coco Pops and a space hopper.
Almost every number called seemed to come with a silly song or anecdote, but that just meant the fun lasted even longer. After a little toilet break, when about 20 men started singing (I think it was something from the Sugababes but my memory is a little fuzzy), it was time to play for the final jackpot.
On the last spin, someone (definitely not me) spilled my rum and coke on my last bingo sheet, as we were playing – and I was left with just a few numbers left to tick off. Maybe it was self-sabotage, but either way I was convinced that if it hadn’t happened I would have been £750 richer by the end of the night. It wasn’t a life-changing sum, but it was enough to get me out of my overdraft.
The disappointment was short-lived, however, as we celebrated the success of the real winner, and I exchanged numbers and Instagram handles with new friends I made while dancing on the benches. Even though I didn’t win, I’ve never felt so happy and I’ve already booked to come back.
For me, what makes Bongo’s Bingo so great is its unique way of attracting people from all walks of life. Peering around the room I spotted hen parties, retirees, people dressed to perfection, fancy dress and people just out for a few casual drinks hoping to earn money for a few more drinks and a kebab later in the evening. After the night, I myself headed to my local Royal British Legion in Greenford for an 80s-themed event, which was far from the world of Brixton Hill – but just as chaotic.
I had a pretty tough week last week – but if there’s one thing for sure, Bongo’s Bingo managed to put a smile on my face. I will most definitely be back, in fact my roommates and I will be attending in June for my 25th birthday celebrations. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do. Bongos Bingo is well and truly back in London, with numerous weekly shows at the Steel Yard London Bridge and Clapham Grand, as well as the brand new Brixton Electric venue.
About Bongo Bingo
Award-winning rave experience Bongo’s Bingo was founded by Jonny Bongo and Joshua Burke in Liverpool in April 2015. What started with just two men has now become a national hit, with a dozen more hosts and even more dancers on UK scenes. every week.
Bongo’s Bingo is a mix of traditional bingo, mixed with lots of amazing music (ranging from Irish ballads to nerdy classics to aerial anthems), dancing, rave intervals, audience participation and countless magical moments. The demographics are really dynamic and varied and from 18 to 94 years old.
After launching in Liverpool, they then took Manchester and Leeds by storm, and post-pandemic, as well as having three locations in London, they are back in 40 locations across Britain. Before the pandemic, there were international tours and seasons in Ibiza, Dubai and Australia. Special guests so far include Kelis, Vengaboys, Nadine Coyle, B*Witched, S Club, 5ive, Atomic Kitten, East 17, Boyslife and many more.
A spokesperson for Bongos Bingo said: “At fairs you can win amazing prizes, from huge pink unicorns to mobility scooters, Disney Princess doll sets to Henry Hoovers – and big prizes in species.
“Bongo’s Bingo has driven the popularity of bingo in the UK and reinvented it for a new generation. There is also a fascinating sociological side to it all, as an incredibly diverse range of people come together not just to get away , but something deeper; there is a truly rare sense of togetherness, barriers falling and people completely lost in the moment.
“During the Covid-19 crisis in 2020, Bongo’s Bingo launched a live stream – a crazy mix of shows, Jim’s quizzes, celebrity calls, challenges and all manner of unscripted mayhem. Hosted on Twitch, the stream has seen over 28 million minutes of views.”
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I’m Sam, a reporter at MyLondon with a particular interest in legal and crime reporting. I started in September 2021, and am based in Ealing. You can follow my Facebook page here.
Three stories I’ve been working on over the past month that I’m particularly proud of are:
Coming from a small town in the Scottish countryside, my favorite thing about London is the amazing mix of people and exploring all the amazing independent pubs, restaurants and cafes the city has to offer.
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