How did Bongo’s Bingo start?

The Birth of a Bingo Phenomenon

May 2, 2024

Picture this if you can: it’s early 2015, the bingo dark ages, a world void of Bongo’s Bingo. A world without fluffy unicorns and highly reflective disco ball helmets. A world without hope. 


1. Who Invented Bongo's Bingo?

Enter founders Joshua Burke and Jonny Lacey, already Liverpool nightlife legends in their own rights. Jonny was the mastermind behind his beloved weekly pub quiz at The Shipping Forecast and a radio presenter, whilst Josh was busy promoting underground club nights across the city.  Both were already blessed with uniquely creative minds to create an unforgettable night out – but they were itching to shake things up with something immersive and new.

Their idea was filtered through the essence of Jonny’s wild pub quiz and the word of mouth success of Josh’s underground events, blending a unique DNA together - and Bongo’s Bingo was born, debuting in April 2015. Despite only practicing for an hour before opening with an antiquated bingo machine, the event had hundreds of people queuing around the block, creating mayhem in the best possible way. They were definitely onto something as word of mouth spread.




2. The Early Days

The early shows were a wild ride, with little to no expectations of what to expect. Little bit of history here for you - two of the OG prizes were a signed Shaggy CD and a Fray Bentos pie (bring ‘em back - am I right?)

In its first year our Liverpool events were a true sensation which quickly spread to other cities, leading to expansion to Manchester and Leeds in less than a year. In those formative days, the original show team traveled from venue to venue, hosting five shows a week across the North West, crammed into Josh’s car. The demand for our shows was skyrocketing across the UK, prompting the need for more hosts and dancers. Enter Micky Pickles and Rich Furnesswho joined as new hosts as demand grew exponentially, establishing their own loyal crowds in each region.

The Bongo’s Bingo family grew and new locations rapidly emerged. Glasgow in December 2016, London, February 2017; that was the year the rest of the world started to take notice, as we traveled overseas to Spain’s party capital Ibiza for our debut season in the summer, crossing the continent to Dubai and jetting across the world to Australia. By 2018, 25 UK locations were hosting weekly sold out shows.




3. Success in the Press

The global success caught major media attention. Our event featured on countless broadcast, print and online stories, (even the Wall Street Journal) and there the  fascination with this modern pop culture phenomenon grew. Tales of magic, mayhem, and pure escapism have captivated audiences, with traditional bingo transformed into an electrifying experience. Bongo’s Bingo truly offers a one-of-a-kind experience that continues to stand out in the entertainment landscape.




4. Breaking Records & Special Guests

By 2019 we were breaking records, hosting the first ever XL shows in Manchester Central which saw close to 9k people in attendance over 3 shows. Quickly followed by six sold out shows with superstar special guest Kelis in Liverpool attended by 1.5k people per show. And by 2020, we were operating regular sold out shows in around 35 locations.

Kelis is one of many legendary special guests having graced our stages, including Blue, Vengaboys, B*Witched, S Club, 5ive, Natasha Bedingfield, Nadine Coyle, and Craig David, bringing iconic performances to the shows.




5. A National Lockdown

However, the journey has not been without its challenges. In March 2020, when the government announced the national lockdown. Like all events, we faced the heartbreaking task of shuttering our doors for the foreseeable.

To combat the lockdown blues, Jonny Bongo devised a plan to bring the magic of Bongo’s Bingo directly to your living rooms via live stream on Twitch. This virtual experience featured show highlights, Jimmy Sweets’ infamous quiz, celebrity appearances, questionable dares, and all the spontaneous chaos of the live shows. The stream quickly captured the attention of millions worldwide, leading to huge collaborations with WKD, Southern Comfort, LADbible, and PrettyLittleThing.



6. Freedom Day 

As restrictions slowly began to lift and socially distanced outdoor events were permitted, we wasted no time in returning to the stage. On Monday, July 19th, Jonny Bongo proudly hosted the first post-pandemic, full-capacity Bongo’s Bingo event at his very own venue, CONTENT in Liverpool, signaling the team's triumphant return.



7. What's yet to come

The rest isn’t even history, as we continue to reach major milestones to this day, approaching our 10th anniversary next spring. We’re beyond thrilled with the success of 4 sold out shows in NYC - yes, we finally broke America! There’s so much more to come.

Our team is immensely proud to have reinvented the way people like to party. Week in, week out, we get to watch people immerse themselves in the pure joy of our shows and fall in love with the beautiful game of Bongo’s Bingo. And that’s the greatest gift of all.

Still don’t believe the hype? Find out for yourself. Get your tickets here.

Friends of Bongo's Bingo