If there is a top five of positive consequences from the gruesome global pandemic that is Coronavirus, then increased community cohesion is right up there. And amongst those stories of generosity, personal hardship, community support and sadly, loss, bingo crops up so many times: from bingo callers delivering food, to Royals calling bingo. From drive-in bingo to boat bingo, from communities playing street bingo, to bingo communities helping people on the streets.
Bingo is certainly a great unifier, whether it is the simplicity of it, the familiarity with it, the ‘real time’ nature of it, the ease with which it can be shared, or its ability to engage different generations. For most people bingo has certainly demonstrated (in one of the strangest times in living memory) that it’s valuable to communities and a long way from its expiration date.
This ‘bingo’ factor is also something that has not been exclusive to the UK: the USA, Italy, Ireland and Spain have all experienced and reported on bingo. Not so much a case of ‘dancing in the streets”, but certainly bingo in the streets! And it is not just the game that is giving to communities and people, as while clubs in the UK were forced to close, along with all other leisure activities, the communities that exist around them (members and staff) used their community and bond to do some amazing things, not just for bingo fans, but for people full stop.
Bingo has always been about people; customers, communities and staff, but its longevity has perhaps led many to discount its modern-day currency.
Let’s celebrate bingo and community: bingo players, bingo callers, bingo staff, bingo clubs, bingo operators: in a word, the bingo spirit. There has never been a better time to put National Bingo Day in the calendar, as the real talent of bingo has been revealed for the greater good of us all.
Here are just a small selection of some of the amazing things bingo has brought to communities, many of which have continued past easing of restrictions.
Let BJ’s Entertain You!
As the UK went into full lockdown again on 5th November 2020, BJ’s Bingo were ready to step up and use what the team had learnt from Lockdown Mark I.
The first lockdown saw the BJ’s team asking themselves, how could they keep customers entertained and engaged? With the clubs closed and key staff working from home, it was Will Darbyshire-Clarke, Membership Manager, who was chosen to manage the brief first time round and Will who was first to hit the mic for Lockdown Mark II.
“As our venues closed, I grabbed my laptop, and the pull up banners and headed to my second office. The dining room table.” Will said. Having downloaded broadcasting software as part of activities for Lockdown I, Will and the team were ready to go onto their respective ‘virtual studios’ again.
“As we could stream live via Facebook in a professional and slick manner, we had to decide what kind of entertainment we would provide. Quizzes were already proving popular, and we just had to get bingo in there too”.
But it was Will’s Quiz Night that helped weekly broadcast totals reach a customer audience, online, of over 7,000 people, “The response from our customers was again phenomenal, with lot of online banter in the chat rooms. It was great to keep in touch with everyone and have fun too.” Said Will.
Each week staff members would pre-record a question of their choice and offer messages of support during the lockdown. “During the lockdown staff members would upload their video questions via a WhatsApp group and customers loved seeing familiar faces from our clubs each week” Will continued.
Customers would comment throughout the quiz with their answers for the chance to win BJ’s Bingo gift vouchers which they could use when the clubs reopen. Again, BJ’s Bingo invited customers to generate their bingo tickets at home using their mobile telephone number and a game of bingo was played between the quiz questions.
BJ’s Bingo will be delighted to welcome back customers who know they have vouchers waiting for them to spend. Will said, “The weekly broadcast brought people together again during the lockdown and while we hope not to be in that position again it is great to know that bingo’s community spirit can carry us all through and keep us going.”
BINGO and so much more…
Mecca bingo clubs across the country were leading the charge during lockdown, providing all kinds of support and doing all kinds of things to help their communities. Mecca Swansea were covering all bases in the town and you can read more about that on page 38 where we catch up with Kim Jones, who is In Profile this issue, but they were not the only Mecca club out there leading the charge on a wide range of fronts!
Mecca Bingo team members at clubs across the country have worked hard throughout each lockdown to bring bingo cheer to those who needed it most, by cooking and delivering free meals to local communities. The hard work of the team has resulted in cooking over 50,000 meals!
The milestone meal was served by West Bromwich MP, Shaun Bailey, made at Mecca Wednesbury Cross delivered to Open Heaven Church, Wednesbury. Shaun Bailey MP said: “It was great to be able to prepare the 50,000th meal at Mecca Bingo Wednesbury. The team have been phenomenal in the work they’ve done to support some of the most vulnerable over the last few months. I want to thank the team for everything they’ve done for local communities and for letting me come along and help.”
The total number of meals delivered so far during lockdowns is over 98,000.
To help manage activity Mecca designated their clubs in Wednesbury, Dagenham, Hartlepool, Southend, Swansea, Glasgow Forge and Knotty Ash (Liverpool) as Hub Clubs, providing a regional focus for community and support activity in addition to which other clubs were engaging locally.
Throughout lockdown, Mecca Bingo clubs across the country have been working hard to show their support for the hard-working frontline key workers, their amazing customers and the wider community in a number of ways:
- Creating community charity projects
- Supporting the homeless
- Telephoning customers to check if they needed anything
and having a bit of a chat
- Food for NHS workers
- Chocolate Easter egg give away – over 5,000 eggs
- Helping Rhino Food Delivery to the vulnerable
- Acting as community hubs, for drop, manage and collection of donations
- Community kitchens
- Free parking for NHS staff
In addition to this clubs have also celebrated customers’ milestone birthdays with surprise doorstep gifts and hosted over 100 bingo zoom sessions with regular customers, care homes and community groups: in Dagenham they even go the local Mayor in to call.
Love Island’s Chris Hughes joined in at Mecca Dagenham with food preparation and delivery, reported in The Sun and Mecca Bingo Chesterfield opened kitchens for homeless.
The Lines were buzzin’
Buzz Bingo were also on the phones, ringing round as part of their ‘Buzz Buddies’ initiative, a scheme to try and help their vulnerable and elderly customers feel less lonely. General managers were regularly calling customers to check how they were and make sure they were feeling okay: for many, visiting their local bingo club is their main way of socialising and staying connected.