Bingo is very proud of its tradition. And rightly so. It has been one of the most popular and quintessentially British games for decades and its players are fervent supporters of keeping the game tied to its roots. However, in recent years bingo has drawn an unlikely crowd. While bingo is still associated with old, grandiose halls, mature and homely players and phrases like “tickety boo”, “legs eleven” and “two fat ladies”, a smattering of alternative bingo nights have sprung up across the country – and in some unlikely destinations in the world – which the old guard see as offenses against bingos established mores.
Created by two Aussie bingo-calling talents, Tom Major and Trevor Sinclair have transformed bingo from urbane sensibilities to bourbon frivolities. Bogan Bingo nights have popped up across London in recent years and have been a playground for number-loving revellers. Classic ‘80s pub rock tunes, air guitar competitions, bad haircuts and more denim and flannel than a Nirvana tribute gig, Bogan Bingo is an incongruous mix of bingo fanaticism and comedy routines. Be prepared for raucous singing, short denim shorts and a night of yelling “bloody bingo” at the top of your lungs. For the uninitiated, a bogan is the Australian equivalent to the British “chav”.
Underground Rebel Bingo Club
If your idea of bingo is traditional halls and a crowd circa 1924, then you have not been to Underground Rebel Bingo Club. This is bingo with balls. Held in secret locations all over the country, the Underground Rebel Bingo Club started following a drunken night among friends in Farringdon, London, and has transformed into one of the hippest, loudest and strangest events in many twentysomethings’ calendar. With over 400 people at each gathering, it is basically a massive party, with bingo held between live DJ sets. This hardcore covert bingo society has recently taken there bizarre mix of bingo and decadence to Ibiza, party capital of the world. Held at the Ibiza Rocks Bar, the game features bikini dancers, huge prizes, live DJ sets and more washable marker pens than the stationery section at WHS Smiths.
For the mathematically challenged, a current trend is to call songs instead of numbers. A musical twist on bingo, players have to identify the song, check it off their list and then call “bingo” when they have completed enough lines to win. While this sounds significantly more relaxed than both Bogan Bingo and URBC, the game can vary from small, intimate gatherings to huge, live-musicals where players mark off their cards listening to hip hop, ‘80s music and film soundtracks.
Many backpackers and travellers have come back with stories about bingo being played on long-haul bus trips in South America. Ranging from quiet, local affairs to three-hour-rambling-drunken sessions, bus bingo has proved very popular with unexpected backpackers who see it as a great way to waste some time on the road. Obviously, you need to have a basic grasp of the Spanish language otherwise you may end up yelling bingo every five minutes, or worse, not yelling at all. In addition, intrepid-bingo-lovers will have to get used to the fact that bus bingo is the entire card and not just a single row.
There are, of course, two sides to the coin. The traditionalists want bingo to retain its understated charm, where house-wives and the aged can relax, mingle with friends and gamble in a moderate and social way. This, in their minds, is the real bingo; where the game’s history and traditions are respected and upheld in civil surroundings. However, there are those who argue that bingo must evolve and that the days of centenarians, Antique Road Show watching players and archaic phrases must come to an end. These new shades of bingo bring new emphasis on fun, excitement and enthusiasm understood only in 21st century lingo, totally at odds with bingo’s atavistic upbringing. To them, bingo has been severely maligned. Regardless of their somewhat uninhibited intentions, the new guard has shown that bingo can be relevant to the adrenaline fuelled, gadget-loving, bacchanalian youth who would have scoffed at the mere mention of bingo a few years ago.
This article is brought to you by Pick Me Up Bingo.