Bringing a Sense of Theatre to Bingo – the Merseyside Way

21st October 2021

Liverpool: it seems only fitting that the city, which was one of the first in the UK to embrace bingo in the early 20th century, should be at the heart of its rejuvenation over 100 years later. When the game first made its way over here from the United States, Liverpool was its natural arrival point in the country. This meant that some of the UK’s very first bingo halls were built here and many other buildings were also converted from other leisure uses to bring temples to the game that was sweeping the nation.

Of course, today, it’s a very different bingo scene that we find ourselves in. Like so many things, it’s the arrival of the internet that’s seen to that. So online bingo now offers a whole new range of ways to play and is attracting a whole new generation of players. For example, Slingo games at Betfair offer players the chance to enjoy a combination of the simplicity of bingo with the excitement of playing slots. This also introduces the chance to add bonus rounds and special features to the game.

But, rather than being bad news for the “live” game in Liverpool, it has given it a shot in the arm – thanks to the vision of two men, Jonny Lacey and Joshua Burke, from Southport. This is the pair who invented nightclub bingo as a way to get more customers into a venue in the Baltic Triangle on the quieter evenings of the week. They realised that the new generation of players who had started playing online could well be the perfect audience for an event that took traditional bingo and gave it a whole new twist.

The result has been an all-action theatrical event that couldn’t be further from the staid image of a bingo hall with callers solemnly reciting numbers to an audience hunched over their cards, dibbers at the ready.

Instead, it’s a heady mix of dance-offs, karaoke, wacky prizes like life-sized cutouts of celebrities and boxes of cereal, and a whole lot more fun besides. From its beginnings in Liverpool, their concept is now being franchised and run as special nights at clubs all over the UK, and even abroad. Its reputation for being a great night out has spread so quickly that tickets sell out fast and has even spawned several imitators. It’s also proved to be a big hit across the generations with everyone from club-loving 20-somethings to 80 and 90 year-olds coming to enjoy the fun – or so the founder’s Lacey and Burke proclaim.

This hasn’t been the city’s only bringing together of bingo and theatre. The magnificent and much-missed Pavilion Theatre in Lodge Lane combined being not only a working venue in the 1960s but also Liverpool’s grandest bingo hall – and was possibly the only bingo venue that also hosted an up-and-coming group called The Beatles back in the day. A bingo hall still stands on the original site of the Pavilion, but can’t nearly match its theatrical glory.

So who knows what the next exciting development in Liverpool’s bingo scene will be – but it certainly has a very strong heritage to build upon.