A quiet night at the bingo

Ahead of Bongo’s XL 80s-themed bingo rave extravaganza, Sheffield’s host for the evening Chris Mac explains what to expect from this adrenaline-fueled mix of traditional bingo, dance-offs, rave intervals, special guests and countless magic moments.

First of all, how did you get into this job?
I’d been friends with one of the co-founders, Josh Burke, for a long time. I DJed at a big indie disco in Liverpool and we got to know each other through that. Bongo’s Bingo had been running for a couple of years and Josh messaged me out of the blue, asking if I’d consider being a host for the nights. It was really big in Liverpool by then, and I’d had plenty of stage experience through being in bands – although this is very different! – so I thought, f**k it, let’s give this a go. I’ve always enjoyed making people laugh and being on stages, so it seemed to fit. I’ve probably done about 200-plus shows now!

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Do you do anything to psyche yourself up before the shows?
In the early days I would drink quite enthusiastically, but not so much now. We’ve got a really good team who’ve got it all nailed on now, so I don’t feel like I need the Dutch Courage now. I might do a few warm-ups beforehand to get my heart racing.

Over the last three or four years, Bongo’s Bingo seems to have exploded. Why do you think the country has taken to it so well?
I think people want an experience with their nights out these days; Bongo’s is certainly an experience. Fundamentally, it’s three hours of relatively cheap, high-octane legal fun. There’s a bit of escapism in there as well and I think that now, post-Covid lockdowns, people are really looking to let their hair down and escape. There’s a broad appeal; it’s almost impossible to not get swept up in the atmosphere. When it comes to the end of the night, you’ll find pretty much everyone on their tables, hands in the air, with big smiles. It’s pretty special.

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You’re in Sheff next month with Bongo’s Bingo XL show, an 80s-themed special. What separates the XL shows from the regular BB events?
It’s the same bingo show – but on steroids. The production levels are massive, we’ve got some surprise 80s guests coming along, we’ve got enormous cash prizes. The usual capacity in Sheffield is 700, but at this, it’s going to be 2,200 people. So you’re tripling the atmosphere.

After 200-plus shows you must have a few wild stories to regale us with?
Yes, but not many are suitable for print! One of the first shows I ever did was in Sheffield and I remember playing ‘Time of my Life’ and trying to do the iconic dive into the crowd from the stage. Sadly, the crowd wasn’t quite as big as I thought, and I ended up going straight through to the deck. That was a bit of a bruiser. If any of the Sheffielders I jumped on are reading this, I can only apologise!

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What would you say to people who still haven’t been won over by the Bongo’s craze?
I’d say try it once. I guarantee you’ll find inner peace or love for the experience. It’s impossible not to feel the magic on the night.

Bongo’s Bingo biggest Sheffield show to date will be held over two nights on 23rd and 24th September at Magna. Tickets priced from £24 and available from the Bongo’s Bingo website.

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