Combining Bingo, pop, and wild humour, Bongo’s Bingo is a show like no other. What started out as a joke between two mates in Liverpool has become a UK sensation, with regular shows at major British cities and places as far as Ibiza, Dubai, Melbourne, and Sydney. Tickets to these events typically get sold out within 24 hours and some, like last June’s gig in Sydney, were gone within minutes.
With the events’ phenomenal success thus far, it’s hard to believe that the organisation is less than three years old. And while it may not be as huge as Exit Festival in Serbia or Secret Solstice in Reykjavik, Bongo’s Bingo holds its own as one of Europe’s rising sensational events.
A new twist on a classic game
Upon entry, guests are given Bingo cards, a pen, and a ticket for prize draws held after each of the seven Bingo rounds of the night. Venues are typically large and cavernous, with a lot of tables to accommodate the large crowd.
Co-founder Jonny Bongo, whose Northern Irish drawl and ruthless audience interactions form a huge part of the shows’ character, opens the rave. Part-DJ, part master of ceremonies, Bongo ensures that no two iterations of the event are ever quite the same.
The elements, however, are consistent. Confetti canons, people dancing on tables, and lots of booze are staples in any Bongo’s Bingo night. Bingo prizes escalate in size and quality as the night progresses, and can range from a box of coco pops and bottles of liquor to six-foot-tall teddy bears and adult toys. The most iconic and coveted prize of all is a giant pink fluffy unicorn.
In addition, Liverpool Echo specifies that special rules are often added to the game. For instance, anyone who makes a false call is subject to ridicule from everyone in attendance. For double calls, the winner is determined by an all out dance-off on stage. However, the event still follows the traditional mechanics of Bingo, wherein participants can play for a line, two lines, or a full house. Such specifics are explained for those who might be unaware of them, but these days, it’s hard to find anyone who is.
Although Bingo has been more commonly associated with the elderly, this usually sedate and slow-going British pastime has seen a marked resurgence in recent years through the rise of online versions. For instance, Foxy Television features increasingly interesting and quirky takes on the game, and has helped elevate the game to more mainstream interest, especially among young professionals and middle-aged people. The platform is known for its comedic twist on the classic pastime, injecting humour into videos that feature the game including dance segments, a talking fox, and plenty of cheeky jabs. The popular UK brand even enlisted Heather Graham to help increase brand awareness. The approach of Bongo’s Bingo is not too dissimilar, as they give the game a surprising and audacious new lease of life with the addition of rave parties, comedy, and guilty pleasure music.
Why it works
The amazing thing about these events is that people take it very seriously – everything from dancing on tables to daubing Bingo cards is done wholeheartedly. The party portions can be loud and intense, but it’s equally true that one can hear a pin drop when the guests are playing for coveted prizes.
The unique mix of Bingo, music, and comedy created by Bongo is a phenomenal success. “If you go and play Bingo in a traditional Bingo hall it’s boring, and especially if you don’t win it feels like a waste of time,” Bongo shares. “On the other end of the spectrum, if you go to a club night where it’s four hours, you can’t really talk to your mates, and it’s quite monotonous.” Bongo’s Bingo sits somewhere in the middle, with guests still being able to have a mad night out, dance, and enjoy a traditionally sedate activity. In this way, even if they play Bingo for four hours without winning a prize, guests still come home with memories of an incredible night out.
After the successful Bongo and The Beast, a Christmas panto season run, expect more tour events this 2018 in newer and bigger venues in a variety of global cities. If you’re looking to win a giant stuffed unicorn or at least have a wild night of Bingo, keep an eye out on the Bongo’s Bingo website for this year’s announcements.