Worksop: Photographer captures beauty of bingo

Playing bingo
Playing bingo

Step inside the traditional bingo hall. A place to while away the hours, have a good old chin wag and hopefully win a few bob.

Worksop, Creswell and Mansfield bingo halls feature in the latest project by photographer Michael Hess.

Strand Bingo & Social Club, Mansfield

Strand Bingo & Social Club, Mansfield

He was commissioned by website PlayingBingo.co.uk to capture the culture behind these four walls and lift the hood on the popular game.

These atmospheric snapshots provide a photographic trip into a typical session at bingo halls across the UK.

Across 13 clubs and 88 photographs, Hess has created an evocative and visually appealing record of one week in April 2013.

It comes five years after he shot the bulk of the photos for his book Bingo And Social Club which featured bingo halls in Biggleswade, Bedworth, Coalville, Hinckley, Nuneaton, Rushden, Skegness, South Shields and Worksop.

Top Ten Bingo, Newcastle Avenue, Worksop

Top Ten Bingo, Newcastle Avenue, Worksop

This new series features photos of Top Ten Bingo on Newcastle Avenue, Worksop, Regors Bongo and Social Club in Creswell and The Strand Bingo and Social Club in Shirebrook near Mansfield.

Michael said he had wanted to photograph Top Ten and The Strand for the first book, but had not been allowed in.

“I wanted to photograph these two beautiful halls for the book but their managers didn’t give me permission,” he said.

“Since then, The Strand has closed down, and has remained empty for 18 months. Everything’s still in there as it was.”

“The Top Ten Bingo is still open but it’s a shame it’s not featured in the book because it really is a neon light heaven.”

The collection of images highlight both the things that have changed in five years and how things have stayed the same.

Five years ago the players sat smoking while they played, but since the smoking ban they no longer can.

Today players use electronic bingo devices which did not feature back then.

And a younger audience appears to show the game’s attempts to reach out beyond its traditional audience, sitting next to the familiar faces of the older generation.

“Michael successfully manages to get under the skin of the game and create an engaging and unique view with his work,” said David Lloyd, founder and curator at PlayingBingo.co.uk.

“There is little in the way of documentary photography at the country’s many halls, and with the loss of many already, it’s a way of life that in some cases has long gone.”

But it is not all doom and gloom. The photos show camaraderie, a sense of community, entertainment and smiles.

A night at the bingo is a break away from home in a safe and welcoming environment.

Michael has also kept a strong focus on the buildings themselves, the details and structure that go into giving halls a unique vibe of their own.