Bingo & Social Club: How Michael Hess Exposed More Than Just a British Passion

(Source: The Guardian)

Bingo & Social Club: How Michael Hess Exposed More Than Just a British Passion

Bingo is widely known for its social nature, with a player base encompassing multiple generations. Manchester Evening News reported that there are an estimated 3 to 4 million bingo players in the UK and 100 million globally.

It was thought to have originated from an Italian lottery game in the 1500s, and from there, it spread all over Europe, USA, and the rest of the world. By the 1960s, it made its way to British gaming halls, as seen in Michael Hess’s book Bingo & Social Club.

The inspiration behind the photos

Curiosity was what inspired London-based photographer Michael Hess to take photos of what lies within bingo halls in the UK. Even with hundreds of halls filled with avid players at the time, not a lot of people actually knew what was going on inside, and his investment in taking a peek shows that even non-players take interest in the game. In an interview with Another Mag, Hess explains that he wanted to take pictures not only of the venue and games, but the people themselves, telling stories through candid snapshots.

(Source: Michael Hess Photography)

The Bingo Halls and Its Social Scene

Through the lens of his camera, Hess was able to capture not only the enthusiastic playing crowd but the lives of the people circa 2006-2009. He provided an insight to their social status based on what they wore, the kind of music they listened to, and even what type of gadgets they owned. His style of using 35 mm film in black and white give off a nostalgic feel to the photos besides showing his artistic capability. Being a spectator in the craze and a participant in over 70 venues allowed him to get hallmarked moments in the bingo industry.

(Source: Another Mag)

In the present day, however, things are no longer the same. Hess expressed his sympathy with the closing of bingo halls, sharing that a manager once told him that these halls were like “extensions of the player’s living rooms.” It has certainly been a place of fun, excitement, and comfort to the regulars who were used to this format. His photos have immortalised this era of bingo, as the game adapted and went with the demands of modern media, which is evident today.

(Source: Emaho Magazine)

The Continuing Evolution of Bingo in the Modern Era

Bingo has transcended the halls and has evolved along with the rise of technology in the past decade. Starting from electronic bingo, it crept onto television, online gaming websites, and mobile apps. The prevailing popularity and charm of the game inspired Foxy Television to stream bingo videos, which now allows everyone to be a part of the exhilarating gaming experience and pick up new tricks for future games. These videos can give players an insight as to how the different versions of bingo are played, since the variations include distinct rules that made it more interesting throughout the years.

Though the game continues to live on, there is still nothing like ‘the golden era’ of the game when bingo halls flourished. People of all backgrounds came together to have a good time whilst enjoying the game is what made the traditional format so special. This experience is something that can’t be replicated with today’s methods, but one that is canonised by the work of Michael Hess.

One thing’s for sure: The culture it helped to create in the UK is certainly still alive and well, and recent developments only reinforce its timeless status in the gaming world.