Bongo’s Bingo UK Aims For 1M Tickets Sold In 2023
Bongo’s Bingo is a phenomenon, “a crazy mix of traditional bingo, dance-offs, rave intervals, audience participation and countless magical moments,” in the founders’ own words. What started as a Bingo rave night in Liverpool, England, in 2015, has evolved into a popular brand taking over venues in more than 40 UK cities and beyond. This year will add even more locations in and out the UK, including the first U.S. event, and Bongo’s Bingo co-founders Jonny “Bongo” Lacey and Joshua Burke have set their sights on a million tickets sold in 2023.
The company remains based in Liverpool and employs a team of more than 100 staff, plus freelancers, who are looking back on their busiest year yet. 2022 saw 1,200 Bongo’s Bingo shows in total, including a record December with 170 shows, 156 of which sold out. For January Bongo’s Bingo has 82 shows scheduled on track to sell out all within a week, February sees 117 shows, likely sell out by end of January, plus 122 shows in March, selling “at the fastest rate to date,” according to Burke, who said people were already inquiring about tickets for the Christmas season 2023.
“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,” he said, “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.”
The current maximum price for a standard ticket is £20 ($24) plus booking fee and many shows are cheaper. Venues range from 400 to 1,500 capacity. According to Lacey, the team came “pretty close to one million tickets in 2022” already. He said, “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.”
He continued, “the demand for tickets last year truly was astounding, especially after two years of COVID – I feel it’s mainly because people trust us, they absolutely love what we do and most importantly it brings everyone some much needed escapism and a shared social experience away from normality. We’ve got our ticket prices low which is really important, especially given it’s a tricky time for many people right now.”
It has been Lacey’s and Burke’s long-held ambition to bring Bongo’s Bingo to the US. Burke said, “We’ve had great success abroad, notably in other English-speaking countries or with big UK audiences – in the early days we were in Australia a lot, then seasons in Ibiza and we have been back in Dubai for the last year which has been brilliant. 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.”
Expansion, to Burke and Lacey, means identifying which venues will work well for the show concept; developing strong business relationships with each location’s team; and ultimately making each one a brilliant customer experience.
Spring and summer last year saw an XL concept tour across the UK, with shows in huge venues across Manchester, Newcastle, Leicester, Sheffield and the two biggest Bongo’s Bingo shows to date: back-to-back dates in August at the Exhibition Centre in Liverpool. According to Burke, “We had close to 4,000 people each night and everything scaled up so well, the venue looked fantastic and the crowds were brilliant. But I really had to take a quiet moment on that opening Friday and literally pinch myself – it was phenomenal to experience it, Jonny and I having started this over 7 years ago, and most importantly we had amazing feedback from our customers.”
Adding more locations will help with the goal of selling one million tickets in 2023, including a purpose-build venue in Liverpool called Content, based in Cains Brewery Village. Aside from hosting Bingo raves, it will be used for a series of live music shows throughout the year with headline touring artists. The 2,000-standing cap venue has an Adlib Audio sound system, three big screens and a recently fitted stage, which will help expand Content’s use beyond Bongo’s Bingo shows.