Land-based bingo is enjoying something of a renaissance. Despite the popularity of online play, bricks-and-mortar bingo is very much back in fashion, especially with young people. Nightclubbing/bingo hybrid Bongo’s Bingo was one of the first companies to get the ball rolling as it were back in 2015.
Identifying a potential gap in the market, entrepreneurs Jonny Lacey and Joshua Burke unleashed their rave/bingo creation to the local student set around Liverpool. The rest as they say is history. Bongo’s Bingo plays to sold-out audiences around the world.
Inspired by the outrageous success of Bongo’s Bingo, countless companies have since sprung offering their own interpretations of Britain’s cherished game. These days you’ve got Revolution Bingo, Bingo Loco, Rock and Roll Bingo, Bogan Bingo…the list goes on. A lot of these are road-show type events that tour venues around the UK. T
Then you’ve got new bricks-and-mortar clubs such as Dabbers Social Bingo and Hijingo. Hijingo is the newer of the two having launched in 2021. And it’s really started turning heads, especially around the trendy reaches of Shoreditch. Describing itself as a ‘multi-sensory live entertainment experience’, this bold new venture offers something a little different to clubs such as Dabbers who, in our humble opinion, tries a little bit too hard to ‘get down with the kids’ (take a look at some of their reinvented bingo calls).
What is Hijingo?
Hijingo is kind of like an upmarket version of Bongo’s Bingo. While it also fuses elements of nightclubbing and bingo, you won’t come across cavorting drag queens or be subjected to 80s sing-a-longs. Instead, games are played out to a backdrop of light-shows, painfully-trendy music and high-tech motion graphics.
Located at Worship Street in Shoreditch, the venue is nothing short of eye-popping. The neon-lit interior, with its hanging banners and fluorescent signage has a bit of Blade Runner about it, not to mention Pachinko Parlour.
Hijingo was set up by the people behind Bounce and Puttshack – the popular indoor entertainment centre inspired by one of the most exciting trends in hospitality: competitive socialising.
How it Works
Once a table is booked for bingo, you’ll take your place at the Lucky Cat Bar. And it’s here that you’ll come across one of the staples of competitive socialising – high-quality food and drink. The first hint of this is the cocktail menu which comprises an assortment of exotic and in some cases unique cocktails. According to the website, they’re concocted by London’s best mixologists. Draught lagers and beers are available too as well as a decent wine list.
The food is Far-Eastern with Pan-Asian street food dishes from Korea, China and Vietnam. Dishes include handmade Truffle Spring Rolls, Tiger Tears Salmon, and vegan Aubergine ‘Wings’ Thematically, the cocktails and cuisine fit perfectly, appealing directly to the tastes of the trendy East-End.
While at the bar, an on-screen timer counts down until your table is free. Then it’s off to the arena via a dimly-lit passageway for the actual game. ‘Multi-sensory’ is a pretty accurate description of what awaits.
The arena itself is a remarkable 200-seat gaming hall with floor-to-ceiling flashing lights and giant LED screens. A pulsating, albeit eclectic, playlist of tunes roars through 3D cinematic speakers.
The actual bingo is played on plain wooden benches that initially seem a bit out of place among the colourful, highly-polished surroundings. But they’re deceptively ergonomic in bingo terms having been adapted for spillage-free play, with an upper ledge for your drinks and a lower ledge for the cards. Server buttons are also embedded in the benches allowing you to order drinks from where you sit. By all accounts though you probably won’t need to use them – staff are reportedly very attentive.
Before each game, Hijingo Bot cheerleaders in Daft Punk masks march onto the stage and perform an energetic and very well-illuminated routine. If you were expecting games to be overseen by a leering blazered-up bingo caller, you can think again. The numbers are instead boomed out by a virtual compère. In case you miss a call, multiple number boards are displayed on screens around the arena.
There are three levels to play with each level requiring a different pattern to win. Games last about 30 minutes each with prizes awarded per level in ascending order of value. Some of the giveaways include branded designer-clothes, pocket-size, foldable bikes and holidays in Europe.
If you manage to win something, you’ll be escorted to the stage by one of the Daf Punk girls where you’ll receive your prize so that you can share your joy with the rest of the audience. On the flip-side, should you make false call, you won’t be subjected to the kind of humorous humiliation dished out at Bongo’s Bingo events.
The site showcases a variety of packages with prices ranging from £11 pp for a single 30-minute game, to £18 pp for the six-game Hijingo Experience. However, the event is proving extremely popular and advanced bookings are recommended.
Hijingo was set up by Adam Breeden and James Gordon. The former is something of a pioneer when it comes to competitive socialising – the upcoming trend in hospitality that combines traditional pastimes such as bingo, crazy golf, pool and darts, with high-end food and drink services. Breeden has set up a variety of successful venues including Flight Club Darts, Puttshack and Bounce.
Co-founder James Gordon is the brains behind the now defunct clubbing/number daubing hybrid, Rebel Bingo. He’s also worked in events and broadcast television on both sides of the Atlantic on a collection of high-profile projects, among them Big Brother and Wife Swap. So he too has a big reputation in the entertainment sector.
The future’ is a phrase that immediately springs to mind when trying to describe Hijingo. We’re not just talking about the theming here either. Targeting younger patrons isn’t all that new when it comes to bricks and mortar bingo, nor is the emphasis on bingo as entertainment. Bongo’s Bingo, Dabbers and Clubingo have already got this down to a tee.
What sets Hijingo apart from its baying competitors is the environment in which a typical evening plays out. A great deal of thought and planning has clearly gone into concept and design. The venue is totally unique and in keeping with the sensibilities of young, fashionable urbanites.