The Big Bingo Show at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern is one of London’s best weekly nights out. It’s crazy, like bat shit crazy and huge fun and each week draws a lively crowd. Dave Cross spoke to host Timberlina to find out more about the games and those marvellous prizes.
Hi Timberlina, for those who have never been can you describe or sum up the Big Bingo Show at the RVT?
The Big Bingo Show is a meticulously rehearsed riot of highly perfected shambolic hilarity combining rock ’n’ roll, rants, spontaneous dance routines, sing-alongs, ridiculous prizes and so much more.
The word bingo concurs up images of ladies of a certain age… what kind of people does it attract?
Well Dave… It feels a bit like the too cool for school naughty crowd, or the Rebel Alliance. That’s the beauty of a Monday night, it attracts a deliciously mixed crowd of fiercely loyal regulars, newbies, nurses, creative types, high class hookers, students, hipsters, International PR gurus, birthday parties, bears, clubbers, civil servants, canoodling couples, geological economists, fashion designers, Mr Rubber UK, kids and their grans and occasionally bemused cricket fans – oh and there’s a group from Sainsbury’s who come occasionally. And of course people who have come especially from all over the world. It’s a melting pot of humanity!
Can you give us a bit of history?
It started back in the old days, when there were no iPhones and everything was in black and white. The RVT had just started opening up again in the week, so that’s 2007ish? I was doing the door on Thursdays at Nathaniel DeVille’s Vauxhallville when the then proprietor Paul asked me if I’d have a go at doing this bingo night on Mondays. Frankly the amazing DJ Hey Baylen and I had no idea what we were doing but then something clicked. In the early days we would draw as many as six people, but now it’s a thriving, well oiled machine of merry mayhem.
Are there any nights that stand out in that time, good or bad or just bonkers?
Bonkers mainly. It’s the excitement of the unknown and what the audience brings that still makes it thrilling; you just never know who’s going to show up or what will happen. Comedian and actor Liz Carr loves bingo and brought the Silent Witness cast down (I seem to recall Amelia Fox winning something). Vanessa Feltz dropped in another time and Richard O’Brien is also a fan. A certain Amy Lamé once cooked a three course vegetarian meal live on stage while I called the numbers. And once a delicious bear brought a Heston Blumenthal Christmas pudding which we shoved in the microwave and shared with everyone in the audience. It’s not short on love is Big Bingo Show.
Talk us through the running order and the way things ‘usually’ go on a ‘typical’ night?
Doors open at 7pm. It’s very relaxed early on. Somewhere around 8pm Hey Baylen will show up and things get hotter. I emerge from my deep transcendental meditation at around 8.30pm to go round selling tickets and mingle with the audience. Then the show starts at 9pm. There are three rounds, or ‘Acts’ if you will; an ‘action’ round, a ‘sing-along round and then the very exciting, nail biting and knicker gripping finalé ‘speed round’, introduced by Maria Carey – which reminds me there are other guests who may or may not turn up over the course of the evening.
We know you give some really quite good cash prizes… but you also have a reputation for more unusual prizes, can you talk us through some of your favourites?
Glow in the Dark Jesus. What more could you want? Seriously though, as a keen environmentalist myself one has to keep a delicate balance between protecting the planet and sourcing the most obnoxiously cheap, kitsch prizes. It is for this reason I use an independent £1 shop at a secret location. The prizes are carbon-neutral because whilst they are made by small hands in far off lands Baylen or I will have walked, cycled or rollerbladed to get to the Tavern. Sometimes there may be hand made goods and punters will up-cycle unwanted toot or bring souvenirs. Right now it’s furry toilet seat season.
So if someone wants to come down this Monday, what do they need to know?
We’re at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern every Monday night except bank holidays. Doors open at 7pm, show at 9pm and you’re welcome to bring your own food. There’s a darling range of soft drinks, aperitifs and drink specials served by the attentive bar staff. It’s free entry, pay-to-play for just £1 a round and if you’re bringing a group, you might want to book by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively you can find us on Twitter @TheBigBingoShow Insta #thebigbingoshow and Facebook.
And is there anything else we need to know?
If you want some real Monday motivation, to put the crazy world on hold, then come set yourself free and have the time of your life playing Bingo.