The rise and rise of Bongo's Bingo

Just how has bingo evolved to become a phenomenal global clubbing craze?

"We brought in a lot of different elements, like a rave, comedy, dancing, audience participation, loads of guilty pleasure music,” says Jonny Lacey (also known by his stage name, Jonny Bongo), co-founder of Bongo’s Bingo, one of Dubai’s most raucous new nights out. “But it is still, quintessentially, a bingo night.”

That’s right. Bingo. The game your nana plays on a Saturday night down int’ town. Except now, you can play it on a Thursday night at ON42. Complete with confetti, glow sticks and a soundtrack of absolute classics, from S Club 7 to Madonna and Oasis.

Trust us, you don’t know the meaning of “alternative night out” until you’ve chucked loo roll over to the next table, shouting the lyrics to Fairytale of New York, while standing on a wooden bench and desperately trying to win a cardboard cut-out of David Attenborough. We’re not making this up. It happened.

“I think people can be a bit bored with straightforward club nights and gigs where generally the same thing is happening throughout the night,” says Lacey. “People don’t know what to expect, each night is different which makes everyone’s experience unique.”

Since the night launched in the UK in 2015, the popularity of Bongo’s Bingo has skyrocketed. “[We] had to turn down Everton FC to do their staff night out,” he says. “It’s just bizarre… It started as two mates just having a laugh and seeing how things went, but the first show was sold out and we just went from strength to strength. We never expected to get a fraction of this reaction.”

Expect to be dancing on tables, singing along to almost every track and winning prizes from Coco Pops to a game of Twister to a ukulele. “I think that’s why the appeal is so broad because there’s zero pretension,” Lacey adds. “We often see 21-year-old goths dancing with nans on the benches! We didn’t want it to have a label, like a student night, so I’m glad everyone has bought into that.”

There are now shows all over the UK, in Ibiza and as far afield as Australia, and each night sells out so quickly you’ll be hard-pressed to get hold of a coveted ticket. “The response everywhere we go is really phenomenal,” Lacey says. “It’s crazy each and every time.” You need to experience it.
Dhs100. August date to be announced. ON42, Media One Hotel, Dubai Media City, (04 427 1000).

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