Bongo’s Bingo has been taking the UK by storm and attracting an entirely new demographic of player with its mixture of traditional bingo, dance-offs, rave-like atmosphere and attractive prizes. The phenomenon began as a bingo rave night held in Liverpool in 2015 and today, there are Bongo’s Bingo nights held in more than 40 UK cities.
However, the organisers are showing no signs of slowing down. This year, there are plans to launch nights in even more locations including in the US, and the Bongo’s Bingo founders, Jonny “Bongo” Lacey and Joshua Burke, are hoping to sell one million tickets in 2023.
There are now more than 100 members of staff at the Bongo’s Bingo headquarters in Liverpool, plus a number of freelancers. Last year they organised 1,200 shows, including a record 170 in December, of which 156 sold out. 2023 started with 82 shows in January followed by 117 in February, many of which sold out. There are 122 shows planned for March, which have been selling extremely quickly, and according to Burke, they are already fielding inquiries about Christmas 2023.
Speaking about their recent success, Burke explained:
“We had our biggest December ever just gone, with 170 shows in total across the UK and also events like the alpine festivals we are special guests at. The demand for tickets in the build-up to Christmas was truly astounding, with many of our shows in key cities like Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London sold out by October and other locations like Lincoln, Wigan, Southampton, Norwich and Shrewsbury doing brilliantly too. And even the few shows which didn’t quite make it were all close to capacity. This is testament to the team effort from everyone at Bongo’s Bingo and the great relationships we have with all of the venues we host our shows at.”
In order to keep drawing in the crowds, the maximum ticket price for Bongo’s Bingo is £20 and often far less than this. The venues can hold between 400 to 1,500 people and according to Lacey, they came very close to selling one million tickets in 2022:
“Because we always aim high at Bongo’s Bingo we feel we can reach it this year. There’s a great team who host the actual shows, then there’s the office side and everyone else from the warehouse to the tech people. Everyone is highly valued in the company no matter what their role – it’s a big family.”
Lacey believes that demand was particularly high last year after two years of COVID. The shows deliver “some much needed escapism and a shared social experience”, which many people had been greatly missing during the pandemic. He also stressed that it was important to them that they keep their ticket prices as low as possible, especially considering the current economic climate and the raising popularity of online bingo sites.
Lacey and Burke have long been hoping to expand into the US. They have already launched and enjoyed success in a number of other countries, in particular those that are English-speaking. The first Bongo’s Bingo shows outside of the UK were in Australia, and they then expanded to Ibiza and Dubai. Speaking of the US, Burke said:
“Breaking America is a big part of our plans and 2023 is when we are going to make it happen. Jonny and the guys are very excited to take the concept there. Launching in the USA almost came to fruition just before the pandemic and now we are back on track.”
In order to enter the US, Burke and Lacey have been working to identify suitable venues and build business relationships with each venue’s management.
Meanwhile, back in the UK, last spring and summer saw the launch of an XL concept tour in the UK, with shows taking place in enormous venues in Manchester, Newcastle, Leicester and Sheffield. The two biggest shows so far were on consecutive days in August at Liverpool’s Exhibition Centre. Burke said that they had almost 4,000 people each night and that it was a “phenomenal” experience.
The pair will focus on adding more locations in order to hit their goal of one million tickets this year. Particularly exciting is the new purpose-build venue Content in Liverpool. In addition to being designed for these unique bingo raves, it will also host a number of concerts throughout the year. With a capacity of 2,000 people, an Adlib Audio sound system, three big screens, and a stage, it will is giving visitors a bingo show like nothing else on earth.