Review: Dabbers Social Bingo Hackney ★★★★
Dabbers opens its second bingo venue in Hackney, promising to bring cheeky calls, disco balls, big laughs and plenty of prizes to Mare Street!
Header photo credit: Alla Bogdanovic. Rest are our own.
After four years of bonkers bingo fun at their Houndsditch venue, Dabbers have taken over the former Hackney Attic space (above the Hackney Picturehouse) for their second location. Right across the road from the Hackney Empire, Dabbers Social Bingo Hackney is a fun new addition to Mare Street – and promises to entertain with its trademark twist on a night at the bingo.
On our visit, just before the doors opened to the public, comedian Sikisa Barnes was our host and guide through a riotous evening of eyes-down fun and millennial sing-alongs. We would’ve happily heard a bit more of Sikisa’s stand-up, to be honest, but these gigs are all about keeping the night running smoothly – and she did an amazing job herding a room full of jaded journos, and really knew how to get the party started!
Balls were plucked from a very snazzy machine (like something out of Willy Wonka’s factory) by house callers The Dabbettes, and guest caller Jerry Bakewell. Jerry was a real trooper, doling out his inimitable line in groansome jokes between some quite incredible variations on the standard ‘two little ducks’ bingo call patter.
The bingo itself is played semi-seriously: there are prizes to be won, and it’s competitive stuff – with on-stage tiebreakers which might alarm the shyer players – though the accuracy of the calling possibly wouldn’t pass muster down your local Buzz Bingo Hall! But then, Dabbers doesn’t bill itself as a quiet night of concerted number spotting – there is an emphasis on letting your hear down, aided by a quirky cocktail list and infectious tunes. The final game we play is a round of musical bingo, which has the audience on their feet singing, dancing, and keeping maybe a quarter of an eye on the bingo cards!
We took regular bingo player Patricia Hamilton with us, for her valuable insight into the game. when she wasn’t busy dabbing and collecting winnings (of course she won!), we were keen to hear what she thought of this out-out spin on her regular pastime.
I enjoyed the dancing, the music was contemporary, the atmosphere was great and the cocktails are fab! If you want a night of fun excitement and wonderful cocktails, venture out to Dabbers Hackney.— Patricia Hamilton, regular bingo player (and winner)
Dabbers Hackney prides itself on the social nature of its offering, and on its commitment to inclusivity. Responsive to the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, it has announced a Dabbers Social Bingo Club, exclusive to Hackney, which will run every Tuesday with “all the glitz, sass and flamboyancy of Dabbers Bingo extravaganzas” but offering discounted entry and half-price drinks. There’s still some work to be done on inclusivity though – on arrival there was no apparent lift access (though we believe it does exist – it should just be clearly signposted), no non- or low alcohol drinks on our menu, and no mention of Halal food options. Exactly how accommodating Dabbers Hackney would be for, say, a blind patron or someone with limited mobility – the space being tightly packed for its 85 seats – remains to be tested.
Benefit of the doubt, though, is deserved. The people behind this venture seem to really care about creating a great night out, and the programme looks set to add another lively night-spot to East London’s going-out scene. ‘Sunday’s a Drag’ will be hosted by Kate Butch, promising a “celebration of all things drag” with “top London DJs and sensational Drag Queens”. Meanwhile, Saturday will see ‘Bow Bells Bingo’ providing a proper East London bingo experience, complete with cockney rhyming slan calls!
Oh, and there’s food too! You wouldn’t expect bingo-hall food to be the star attraction, and it isn’t – but it is tasty and will help soak up those cocktails!
A great night out that will surely be a hit with groups of friends, work do’s, hen parties and even adventurous bingo regulars!
I am Joint Editor at To Do List. I like: nice pubs, film marathons, not doing real marathons, bad comedy, plays/musicals with shorter second halves, and the Oxford comma.