There can’t be many things the British love more than the seaside. Those week long holidays as a child when you’d be taken off to a rainy resort somewhere, never giving up hope that the hot sunny weather would come out!
And what’s the best thing to do when you’re enjoying a damp UK seaside holiday? Play bingo of course! For many years now, thousands have flocked to the amusement arcades on the beach front to spend their money on games of bingo.
But players will no longer find bingo heaven in Folkestone, as its bingo hall has recently closed down. There had been a bingo hall on the Dover Road site, most recently named ‘Seven Bingo’, since 1974.
But sadly the trend for going to the seaside to play in a bingo hall has declined in recent years. Mike Barnard, one of the owners of Seven Bingo since 2007, explained his reasons for the closure.
“One is the rates, the next is the number of people who have stopped coming. Finally, our lease is coming to an end and we decided a couple of weeks ago to not renew.”
Mr Barnard said that when the bingo hall first opened it attracted around 500 visitors every week, but in more recent times that figure had been closer to 200.
With those kind of statistics the decision between Mike and his business partner Peter Hargreaves was understandable, but what of Seven Bingo’s dedicated and loyal bingo players?
Regular player and bingo lover Kath Middleton, 65, said: “We’re a close-knit group, I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself now.”
She summed up the feelings of most Seven Bingo’s fans by saying that going out at least once a week to play bingo was more than just a hobby, but also a way of life. For a lot of the more elderly players it was often their only social evening where they would see friends.
It was ironic that the turnout was extremely high for the last ever game, with people filling the seats of the hall. Kath added: “Friday was quite sad as it was the last session but a lot of people came out of the woodwork for it. There were more than usual. If they’d come more regularly, it might be staying open. I wish the two gentlemen all the best.”
Despite the popularity of the last event and the optimism that if all games had been as well attended the hall might not have closed, Mr Barnard made a very realistic observation about the big problems facing bingo clubs across the country. “It had problems before we took it over because of the smoking ban but we had a good couple of years.”