Bingo has been a popular pastime in England for hundreds of years, in one form or another.
The first bingo game was played on British soil as far back as the 1700’s, but throughout the 18th and 19th-century numbers clubs sprang up for people to play early versions of the game.
The 90-ball bingo game, the one most popular with players in the UK today, started to become very popular in the 1920’s and it has been a key part of British culture ever since.
Increasing numbers of bingo halls sprang up post-war to accommodate the growing craze. They were often in converted cinemas or theaters and had to be impressive to draw people in. As a Guardian article explains they were often decorated in a plush manner with wall to wall carpets making them comfier than people’s homes at the time.
Many of the venues and themes have remained unchanged to this day. The Grand Bingo Hall on Mitcham Road in Tooting is a fine example. Originally a cinema in the 1930’s, it was later converted to a hall but retains many of its original features.
Four Corinthian style pillars stand over the entrance canopy with the foyer featuring marble staircases, Gothic windows and chandeliers. After years of decline, it opened as the Granada Bingo Club in October 1976 and has remained a key part of the community ever since.
In a post by Secretldn, they even note it as being Sadiq Khan’s favorite building in the capital. And this is despite the huge number of other iconic buildings in the city, including the ones from out post on ‘London Landmarks’ he could have chosen. It’s a must visit for anyone wanting a glimpse into the bingo sub-culture.
Times are changing and the newer bingo halls being used must accommodate a modern-age player, both in terms of technology and what they hope to get out of their game. FoxyBingo details how chat games are now a big part of the community, with a new venue in Shoreditch designed with meeting new people and players in mind. A report by the London Standard discusses how it’ll have tables set up to ensure you rub shoulders with new players as well as a number of other interesting new formats.
A more traditional experience can be gained by visiting the London Palace in Elephant and Castle. It’s situated above a shopping center, but the escalators lead you into a bingo players heaven; a huge open plan room with a ceiling chandelier and sixties-inspired spiral carpet, catering for up to 2,000 players.
New technology is also playing a big part in the resurgence of bingo. The hall situated at 341-351 High Street in Stratford now features touch screen technology, so players no longer have to remember their dabbers or buy their bingo cards.
With such developments coming thick and fast in the world of bingo, it will be fascinating to see how it integrates with the grand spectacle of the old-style hall over the coming years. The blend of touchscreens and new twists will have to fit seamlessly with the grandeur and excitement conjured up by some of the older iconic London venues.