Bongo’s Bingo at The Clapham Grand is practically an institution. This raucous night out has been entertaining crowds of 18 to 80-year-olds since 2015 – poor form from me now checking it out for the first time in 2023, eh? Having only played the traditional game decades ago in primary school and more recently during ‘the period that shall not be named’ over Zoom, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. All I’d heard was it is a lot of fun. Spoiler alert: it really was.
How does Bongo’s Bingo differ from regular bingo?
Bongo’s Bingo is billed as a barmy mix of traditional bingo, dance-offs, audience participation and raves. The world-touring bingo night took the sedate, low-energy game, and quite literally spun it on its head (I actually saw a reveller attempting a head spin on my visit…) The prizes are anything from giant pink unicorns and Henry Hoovers to cut-outs of celebrities and karaoke machines. It is pure escapism. Forget ageing before your time by playing bingo; this experience will take you back to childhood or uni calamities.
What to expect on the night
Bongo’s Bingo takes place at The Clapham Grand almost every Friday night and some Saturdays. From the moment we entered the iconic venue, we noticed that there were people of all ages, the bar was bustling, and shots were already flowing. The official start of Bongo’s Bingo kicks off with a countdown projected on stage, much like that for a show, and boy, were we in for a performance and a half. From seconds in, the strobe lights flashed, the music blared, and two men in lederhosen and wigs joined the host on stage (not in drag; and these lederhosen didn’t always stay on…) It seriously was a party from the get go.
For those like me who needed a refresher on the rules, the host ran through them at the beginning – plus some additional ones, specific to Bongo’s Bingo, like shouting “three” in an Irish accent anytime a number with a three comes up. It’s really easy to follow even after a few drinks.
There were five rounds of bingo on our visit, with the aim to get a horizontal line, two horizontal lines in one house (rectangle), or a full house. The prizes ranged from the likes of a bottle of Fireball, a David Attenborough cut out, and a space hopper to increments of £50 to £1,000, which increased as the games when on. All in all, there were 15 opportunities to win.
Now, I’m going to attempt to explain the absolute wildness that ensued between, and during, the actual bingo game over the course of about three hours. There were stripping men, a shower of Coco Pops, sing-alongs, Irish jigging (to B*Witched’s C’est La Vie and Fairytale Of New York no less), a whole rave interval with glow sticks, and so much more. It was unlike anything I’d ever expected at a bingo game, and I LOVED IT.
My fave parts of the evening were the dance breaks while the team verified bingo calls, and the sing-alongs; from Aladdin’s A Whole New World and Frozen’s Let It Go to celebrate the Disney Princess prize, to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing to demonstrate the karaoke machine up for grabs, the music genres were vast. Also, if you preemptively called bingo and were wrong, you’d be on the receiving end of a jovial but pointed song of Ceelo Green’s Forget You (though not the radio version) or Ludacris’ Move B***h.
You cannot go wrong with a night at Bongo’s Bingo. I haven’t heard one negative comment about the experience; it is just pure fun. I loved that the event catered for all ages, and all group types – mates, families, dates, stags, hens. Get your next game in the diary from now.