“Bongo’s Bingo is no dignifying experience – and I mean this as high praise.”
I lost my Bongo’s Bingo virginity under the twinkling lights of SWG3 at the end of last year, and I could not wait for round two after The Glasgow Guardian was invited back. I am not competitive by nature (youngest child, shit at Monopoly). So, for a special game like Bongo’s Bingo, which requires nothing but luck, concentration, and booze, I am more than happy to participate. I was not expecting to win anything … never mind walk away with the £700 jackpot. It was the cherry on top of a top tier night out. I’d go back again and again even though the odds of another win are, dare I say, nonexistent.
Having been before, I (sort of) knew what to expect. SWG3 was transformed to what looks like a dinner hall with disco lights. The ground is so sticky it feels like you are walking on velcro. I don’t recommend wearing new white trainers. We were slightly late after discovering the Record Factory’s frose machine. Be less like us and turn up on time. If you want to maintain any level of concentration and chance of winning, the closer to the front you can sit, the better. A better view of the dancing, half-naked men is simply a bonus; don’t worry, two massive screens allow everyone in on the action.
The party starts as soon as you enter. Venoms (£10 a pop), felt-tips, and bingo booklets in hand, we began to play. The rules are simple when sober: one line, shout bingo, two lines in a house, shout bingo, full house, shout bingo. It’s surprising how complex this seems a few venoms deep. The fear of being sent back from the stage in front of 800 people after a false call has been a sporadic nightmare of mine – but I think everyone leaves their dignity at the door anyway. Bongo’s Bingo is no dignifying experience – and I mean this as high praise.
The music is an eclectic mix, from old school pop to 90s rave. The DJ and hosts ooze the charisma required to get the attention of 800 drunk Scots; it’s more than a game of bingo, it’s a full-blown performance. There’s a strip tease, there’s a cocopop shower, there’s dance-offs, and there’s those giant balls thrown into the crowd, reminiscent of The Singing Kettle’s 2004 tour. Alongside the five rounds of bingo, there are ample breaks for dancing on your surprisingly sturdy table, ordering yet another round of venoms, and explaining the rules of bingo to your word-slurring friend for the fifth time.
As the night went on, our group of seven, along with the rest of SWG3, were pretty well plastered. It came to the last round, with only the jackpot remaining to be won. My last three numbers were called, and I sprung up, making my way to the stage with my hands over my eyes. How did I pull that one off? Lucky, lucky bastard. I will forever be grateful that I didn’t have to dance to receive the cash, I’m not sure I had the capability; the entire thing is a total blur. I’ve since seen a very, very awkward video of myself on stage, High School Musical’s Breaking Free blaring.
However, no proper night out is complete until everyone is screeching Loch Lomond, grabbing onto each other’s shoulders and swaying a little more vigorously than the Bongo’s benches may allow. The DJ certainly knew his audience well.
For students, Bongo’s Bingo is a euphoric break from deadlines. Go in a big group to celebrate a special occasion, or use it as a somewhat decadent pres; although I’m not promising you’ll make it to another club if you do Bongo’s Bingo right. We will certainly be back, and with the £700 jackpot, I can buy 70 venoms. If you want to have a good time, all you need to do is show up.