Bongo, Burke and Bingo Balls
While online bingo continues evolve and grow in popularity, its offline counterpart has struggled with image problems for some time. For many, bingo halls are dilapidated playgrounds for the blue rinse brigade – a place for pensioners to congregate and set the world to rights while marking off their numbers with the aid of a rum and coke. Unfair? Well, maybe. To change these perceptions, bingo bosses continue to target younger audiences – eyes down for Jonny Bongo and Joshua Burke.
Bongo’s Bingo Begins
In 2016, event organisers Jonny Bongo and Joshua Burke were trying to find new ways of attracting Liverpool’s student crowd. To cut a rather long story short, they hit upon the idea of combining bingo with elements of rave and dance.
The first event, which they named Bongo’s Bingo, took place at the famed Camp and Furnace. Although rather low-key to begin, the event quickly grew in popularity – so much so that Bongo and Burke managed to secure the services of celebrities including David Hasselhoff, Jeremy Corbyn and, um, S Club.
What is Bongo’s Bingo?
Bongo’s Bingo is about as far removed as you can get from the subdued, smoke-filled halls of yesteryear. Its format has changed little since its inception three years ago. A typical night comprises several rounds of bingo interrupted by dance-offs, rave sessions (glow sticks provided) table-dancing, confetti cannons and Irish dancing.
The inimitable Jonny Bongo, who acts as bingo caller and MC, presides over the debauched chaos, handing out prizes ranging from cocoa pops to sex toys.
To lend proceedings a touch of class, Bongo is accompanied by cross-dressing acolytes Slutty Sue and Slutty Suzie, who bound around the stage in various stages of undress. Such is their verve and energy that one was recently involved in an incident with space hopper although the precise details of what occurred remain sketchy.
Uh, anyway, Bongo’s bingo calls are liberally sprinkled with sexual allurements to satisfy the youthful audience. But the event is certainly not for shrinking violets. Attendees are expected to take the game seriously and endure the sledge-hammer wit of Bongo the bingo caller should they make a false call.
Those who fall foul of his delicate sensibilities regarding the rules of bingo are subjected to playful abuse (bants) – there’s nothing quite like a spot of public humiliation to elevate a night’s entertainment to a different plain.
Why is Bongo’s Bingo So Popular?
The success of Bongo’s Bingo seems to support the theory that many young people have grown tired of typical club nights in favour of one-off ‘bonkers’ events. As Mr Bongo imparts:
“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 bit of a waste of time. 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. So we come in the middle; it’s still a mad night out, you’re dancing up on the tables, but…you’ve got an activity to do”
Bongo Bingo continues to attract audiences, not just in the UK but Europe as well, with locations such as Amsterdam, Paris and Ibiza playing host to this bizarre but compelling dance-bingo hybrid event. Whether or not it can rival the appeal of online bingo remains to be seen.