It’s an easy reach to describe bingo/rave/dance party Bongo’s Bingo as not your granny’s bingo… but it’s also one that annoys me.
You see, for a good chunk of my early 20s, I went to the bingo. Growing up in a small town outside of Glasgow – and not being much of a fan of the drinking and clubbing in the next town over – we didn’t have a lot of options. Before we turned 18, my best friend and I hung out at the snooker club; afterwards, we went to the bingo. And sure, most of the regulars were pensioners who took it far more seriously than we did, but as long as we kept quiet and stayed out of trouble nobody minded. Besides, the drink was cheap.
But then I moved to Glasgow and boxed up my bingo dabbers where they stayed, forgotten, until the other week. It turns out those things don’t dry up: instead, the ink soaks through the sponge “dabby” bit and when you reach for it ten years later the whole thing disintegrates. So really, I was as much of a novice as anybody else at our table.
Welcome, then, to Bongo’s Bingo: not your hometown Friday night bingo.
So what is Bongo’s Bingo? Simply put, it’s a cross between a wildly irreverent game of bingo and club night; with rave interludes, glow sticks, cash prizes, shit prizes, lots of heckling, dance-offs, stripping sidekicks, a Greatest Showman megamix, Christmas singalongs – in May – and lots of very, very rude jokes. It also has the dubious honour of being the only night from which I’ve come home with a bra full of sweaty Coco Pops.
Founded in 2015 in Liverpool, you can now find Bongo’s Bingo popping up at venues across the UK, including regular slots at SWG3, Glasgow and Edinburgh’s Ocean Terminal. They’ve also taken the night to the likes of Australia, Ibiza, Amsterdam and even Dubai – although I suspect they tone down some of the bawdier bits of the night.
Although the first game’s not until 8, it’s a good thing to get down nice and early: the night is usually packed, and you want to make sure that you’re sitting with your mates. Charlotte and I hailed a couple of taxis from town and headed out to SWG3 with our #ItsBingoBitch crew (Jen, Kat, birthday girl Lindsey, Natalie and Roisin, with bonus Kirsty) with plenty of time to collect our bingo books and pens, decorate the table (Charlotte) and stock up on some cans of Hooch at the bar (Natalie and I).
A typical Bongo’s Bingo night consists of six games of bingo, split into two halves with an interval (read: rave) in between. Each game features three chances to win: first to a line; first to two lines; and first to a “house”. Unlike other games I’ve played, you can be sure that every number appears somewhere on the page – but the numbers come super fast (and super Scouse, thanks to our caller Micky Pickles) which makes for an interesting combination of concentration and falling over yourself laughing. Particularly when you’re late back into your seat after participating in a conga line, and your poor pal is having to check off four cards at once.
If you’re familiar with the game at all, you might be familiar with the special language of bingo calls – and yes, “legs 11”, “two little ducks”, “two fat ladies” and, er, 69 all make an appearance. But Bongo’s Bingo has its own special language too; and while there’s plenty of it I won’t repeat on a blog my mother reads I appreciated the number 7 as a tribute to one of Britain’s finest pop acts, and an Irish 33 as a prompt for an out-of-season singalong “Fairytale of New York”.
That’s all very nice, I hear you say, but what about the prizes? Well, they ranged from silly to serious (cash) by way of bottles of booze: a cardboard cutout of noted kitten enthusiast Philip Schofield, an entire set of Disney Princess dolls, the aforementioned box of Coco Pops (actually it was a new, sealed one, and not the one that mostly made it down my top when it was showered over the crowd) and escalating cash prizes. With all that excitement there were more than a few false calls (each greeted with a chorus of “Why You Lying”) and one very exciting dance-off, when two women whose numbers had both come up competed on-stage for the chance to win £200.
Sadly our group went home (mostly) empty-handed: Kirsty scored a bottle of Gordon’s gin, while I was a number 61 away from a pink fluffy unicorn (oh, and £150). Also: if there has ever been a Bongo’s Bingo moment more iconic than Charlotte’s face when she did not win a space hopper, I’d like to hear all about it. Apart from Charlotte’s face when some Coco Pops landed in her gin, that is.
You’ll notice that the photos in this post are not of the high quality that you have come to expect from Last Year’s Girl, and with good reason: when you’re having the time of your life (and the UV lights are on), photos are the last thing on your mind. Think of it as like seeing the Facebook photo album from somebody else’s night out: it always looks shit, you really had to be there.
And, guess what… you can! Bongo’s Bingo is BACK at SWG3 in Glasgow on 16th June and 20th July; and at Ocean Terminal in Edinburgh on 6th July. For more information, tickets and details of other Bongo’s Bingo nights across the UK and further afield, check out the website.
We were guests of Bongo’s Bingo for review purposes, but all views are my own and unbiased.