The world inside the bingo halls of Britain

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The Independent Culture

At 1 o’clock every day 600 bingo halls open their doors to customers across the UK.

The bingo phenomenon, which arrived in this country in the Sixties, brought with it the huge, concrete and neon halls, now, often crumbling, which grace our high streets.



Inside these gambling monoliths the lives of thousands are played out daily: tables littered with lucky charms; halls filled with slot machines; pop music blaring; calls of “Two fat ladies” or “Legs 11”; and karaoke, amid the decaying glamour.



German photographer Michael Hess got his first glimpse of the world inside a bingo hall in 2005 when out of curiosity he visited a cinema-turned-bingo-hall near his house.



“I was instantly fascinated by the characters [in the bingo hall.] So, the next time I visited I took my camera,” he said.



He spent four years visiting more than 70 bingo halls across the UK, taking striking monochrome portraits of bingo players.



The fruits of his labour go on show today at the Outside World Gallery in Shoreditch, London. The exhibition coincides with the launch of his book of the same name, Bingo & Social Club.



Snippets of dialogue and found objects will compliment the images at the exhibition, set to a soundtrack of overheard conversations, bingo calls and authentic music.

Bingo & Social Club is at the Outside World Gallery in London from now until 9 November. A book of the same name has been published by Dewi Lewis Publishing, £19.99

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