Bingo Detective: Bingo Halls in Britain


Whenever there is a mystery to be unraveled, there is only one person to call. That is right, you call the Ghost Bust…I mean the Bingo Detective.

If anyone has the slightest doubt, concern, intrigue, or fascination about anything related to Bingo, then the Bingo Detective is the man that will clear any doubt, disperse any concern, quell any intrigue, and stoke any fascination.

The topic of curiosity today takes us across the giant lake a.k.a. the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the good old land of England.

Bingo is such a jolly and social game that, of course, it is played all over the globe, but the question is what is it like? What are the people like, what is the scene like? So then, to start off the investigation, the official question is: “What are Bingo halls in Britain like?”

The British Bingo Experience

Bingo is a very popular pastime in England. The whole Bingo phenomenon hit British society around the 1960s, and this new fad brought with it its trademark giant concrete halls with blazing bright neon lights. Nowadays, most of these buildings are all old, run down, and even crumbling. Nonetheless, they still have a strong and steady crowd.

If you take a walk inside one of these iconic monoliths, you will see thousands of lives played out to the sounds of wacky bingo calls like “Two fat ladies”, blaring pop music, rousing karaoke songs, and the invigorating laughter of friends having a grand old time together amidst the decaying glamour.

One person decided to document this crazy little phenomenon. German photographer Michael Hess got his first glance of the wondrous world inside the Bingo halls in 2005 when out of curiosity he visited a cinema very close to his house that was transformed into one of England’s numerous Bingo halls.

He told The Independent, a British online periodical, that he was “instantly fascinated by the characters [in the Bingo halls.]” He was so enthralled by these so-called “characters” that the next time he went he took his camera.

Hess spent four years visiting more than 70 Bingo Halls strewn all across the UK. In these four years, he took remarkable monochrome photographs of bingo players. His work was so emblematic of the Bingo Halls in the UK that his photographic portraits were placed on display for a show at the Outside World Gallery in Shoreditch, London. This exhibition coincided with the launching of his book Bingo & Social Club, the same name that was used for the exhibition.

In the pictures one can witness the truest and most candid images of the Bingo halls. You can see players with their lucky charms and the giant neon signs; you can see hallmark people sitting in their same chairs day after day; you can see the giant halls with their iconic and memorable caller’s podiums; you can see the classic old-fashioned bars and the callers calling; you can see couples in their golden years simply spending time together with a drink and listening to music. The pictures are very representative and give their observers a very rich and poignant insight into the wondrous world of Bingo halls.

So that is what Bingo halls in England are like. Bingo is much more than a game for these people. It is a simple yet enchanting lifestyle that keeps them close to their loved one. Most people there don’t even care about the money; they just want to have a good time.

Until the next time that there is a case to be solved, the Bingo Detective is signing off.