Bongo's Bingo Sheffield: The best night out going is a table-dancing, crowd roaring evening of sheer bedlam
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Two years ago, co-founders Jonny Bongo and Josh Burke had the idea to revive the somewhat sedentary, cobwebby British pastime with louder tunes and the theatrics of going a darts championship, and have since conquered the UK. Nobody my age I’ve spoken to hasn’t heard of Bongo’s, and lots of people older than me recommended it in the first place.
If you don’t know what to expect – I certainly didn’t – Bongo’s starts at 7pm and ends at 11pm. The venue is made up of hundreds of sturdy tables and benches, a stage, and that’s it – the sheer silly energy people bring does the rest. Then the games begin.
Led by a countdown on projectors, a DJ/presenter duo and two divas whip the audience into a frenzy to get ready for a night of bedlam. Bongo’s has the energy of an uncontained primary school lunch time where someone’s put something in the squash.
After a quick run down of the rules, the madness starts. When I was younger I was told bingo halls were secretly home to fiercely competitive fuddies and old dears who, just as they are a number away from a full house or line, will throw down their pens, hissing and spitting as someone just one table away takes the win.
I thought it was a joke, but by god your senses sharpen when you’re hunting numbers to win the big prizes
– which, by the way, range from full size cut outs of David Attenborough, Henry Hoovers, cereal boxes, sex toys, or just hard cash. One girl won a box of Coco Pops – on a countdown, she ripped the bag open and threw the contents over the cheering crowd.
There’s no dancefloor to speak of – but notice I said those benches were sturdy. At the drop of a hat, in a moment of total group think, everyone – EVERYONE – in the room might clamber up onto their seats and the party begins.
Any single called-out number can lead to a song breaking out, and BAM the room is a sea of waving arms and bobbing heads again.
“Six and nine, number sixty-nine!” called the presenter. You had three seconds to find it on your sheet, before ‘Summer of 69’ by Bryan Adams starts, to cheers.
Number nine? Sweet Caroline; number five? 9 to 5; 17? Dancing Queen. The sheer spontaneous fun is intoxicating. In the best way possibly, by the end of the night every table is slick with spilled drinks, so no one can even play bingo anymore.
And, best of all – if you don't want to do it, don’t stress. I was so impressed with the inclusivity of the crowd and the opt-in vibe. All ages, all sensibilities, standing or sitting, you’re free to get involved as much as you want.
This isn’t your average night out, because it starts and ends at a reasonable hour and asks nothing of you but to enjoy yourself. This isn’t your nan’s bingo, and yet your nan would be welcome.
This was the best night out I’ve seen in years.