New Book Documents UK Bingo Clubs

Bingo has been a British tradition for decades. In the past the typical bingo players were working class women and pensioners. Today there is a whole new generation of younger players and things have changed at most bingo halls. In the 60’s many cinemas were remodeled into bingo palaces capable of seating over a thousand players for a single game. In Britain 90 ball bingo is the game of choice. 90 ball bingo is based on an Old Italian holiday game called Tombola that is still popular today at Christmastime.

Five years ago British photographer Michael Hess published a book titled Bingo and Social Club. Hess visited several bingo halls and took pictures of the buildings and players having a good time. In April 2013 the website PlayingBingo commissioned Hess to do a follow-up to his book. It has been around five years since Hess’s book was published. The original book documents the game of bingo in the UK and features a time that has already changed at bingo halls. Most of today’s bingo halls are a far cry from the elegant bingo palaces of the 60’s and 70’s.

Hess’s new project is titled “Bingo and Social Club Five Years On” and can be seen at Hess’s official website. The book consists of 88 photographs taken at 13 bingo halls. The featured bingo halls are located in Biggleswade, Bedworth, Coalville, Hinckley, Nuneaton, Rushden, Skegness, South Shields and Worksop. The collection of photos illustrated how some things have changed while others remain the same. Five years ago bingo players were allowed to smoke but a national smoking ban put an end to that practice. Today bingo clubs are smoke free which has attracted younger players that are nonsmokers.

Today’s players use sophisticated devices to play the game. Traditional paper bingo tickets are also available. Five years ago very few bingo clubs used electronic devices. Many major bingo operators have invested large sums of money on their bingo halls in an attempt to make them more attractive to young players. The investment seems to be paying off and many of the photos show groups of young women enjoying a good game of bingo. Players still claim their ‘lucky’ seats and callers still read the numbers to players often using clever ‘bingo lingo.’