A spectacular new bingo show is launching in London this March. Opening their doors in Shoreditch, Hijingo is a world’s first sensational bingo experience with its show produced by world-class talent who have previously created stage shows for the likes of global superstars Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, and more recently Skepta’s Dystopia987 immersive Rave of the Future event.
G: What inspired you to open up Hijingo?
A: I first looked at the bingo space 13 years ago, and at that point couldn’t see how to unlock the product for a younger cooler audience. It was only when I saw the range of pop-ups that have emerged that I could see how you could turn up the volume on the experience. I could also see the flaws of the pop-up experiences because they do not have a dedicated venue, infrastructure and customer journey to facilitate the ultimate bingo game show.
However, it was only when I met James Gordon that I felt I was able to partner with somebody to help bring about our collective visions, in the space where he has a vast amount of knowledge and experience. Bringing together all of my experience and creating new concepts and all of James’ history with Bingo has been a perfect collaboration.
J: I’ve been running pop up bingo events for nearly 15 years. I started them in a church hall in Clerkenwell and graduated to the Macbeth in Hoxton before taking on a bingo world championship at Shoreditch’s Village underground. From there my bingo went global and I’ve hosted hundreds of massive bingo events in NY, Miami, Lisbon, Madrid, Beijing, Preston.
I had a few dead ends and false starts, and then got talking online to my pal Ollie who ran ‘wiff waff brothers’ in warehouses in Hackney back in the day (he is now an integral part of bounce) and he said ‘come and talk to us’. I was in China, and i saw a sign that said ‘whoever comes are the right people’, I flew back and set out my master plan which was a pure, committed bingo club; no Cabaret, no comedy…100% pure bingo just with added hi-jinks, called “Hijinxo”… but that didn’t catch on so Hijingo was born.
G: There are so many unique bars in Shoreditch, (some are operated by your company), how do you manage to reinvent yourself and create new concepts?
A: I look for three things, an activity which everyone can engage with which is universally fun but can then be housed in a relatively small space and be enjoyed with food and beverage. It’s really as simple as that. I am somebody that can’t help but always look at the next concept opportunity, of which there are many to come.
J: Personally, I’m a bingo guy. This will be Hackney’s only bingo hall since they shut the one on Hackney Road. Shoreditch needs a proper bingo club. London needs a proper bingo club. I’m 100% focused on making this the tip-top bingo experience available on planet Earth. Our first club is on Worship Street. It’s next to Junkyard Golf, Flight Club Darts, a video gaming place this is like the Las Vegas strip of er… having fun!
G: In your opinion, what are a few key things that make bars successful? What is the secret sauce?
A: The secret sauce is really understanding the level of detail you have to go into to bring together a vast array of elements that make up the customer journey and the operational infrastructure that is required. To deliver an excellent overall experience. This is what business is all about the detail, Discipline, and creativity.
G: How do you select the menu for the Hijingo? What is your signature dish or drink that everyone has to try?
J: Once people get involved with Hijingo, they fall in love with it. We’ve got top food and cocktail people and once they were on board, they took the brand and made it their own. The food is delicious. The drinks are delicious. Thai Beef Salad is my favourite cocktail, literally unlike anything I’ve ever had, and the Korean fried chicken burger with pickles and cheese is like perfectly familiar wonderful comfort food but with explosive and unexpected flavours that make me go crazy for them.
G: Why did you choose Shoreditch for the Hijingo?
J: Shoreditch launched my bingo career onto the world stage in 2007. Both me and Shoreditch have evolved since then, we’ve changed. Some people miss the old Shoreditch, but to me there’s no doubt that it has stood the test of time this is the premium place to come and enjoy London. It’s fun, it’s still creative, it’s daring, it’s easy to get to, there are loads of awesome bars and cafes and things to do.
A: Shoreditch has done us proud before, it’s a phenomenal part of town that although as gentrified and excluded many of its early inhabitants, it has matured into the new centre ground for entertainment in London, something Shoreditch should be very proud about.
G: Running venues in Shoreditch should be quite an experience, what’s the funniest / strangest thing that happened while running the business?
J: There was an old warehouse on curtain road, it was owned by Miquitas dad, I can’t remember his name or the name of the building, but it was a sort of groovy arty super hip space. I did a bingo event in there for some fashion brand, the organiser said, ‘don’t make it too edgy’. One of the prizes was a battery powered speaker. There was a free bar. In the middle of the bingo there was a power cut, total darkness and total chaos ensued. We fired up the speaker and the frenzied crowd demanded more bingo, it became a bacchanalian scene of snogging and madness in the pitch black. They were out of control. I always thought ‘if bingo can do this in a power cut, imagine if i buys some disco lights.
There was also the time in the church hall that can be referred to as ‘naked night’. I don’t know how much more detail you need on that.
G: What are your future plans?
A: Future plans include more Hijingos in the pipeline, significant US expansion with all other brands, as well as further new concepts. Watch this space.
J: The head of Mecca bingo once said to me “it will be easier for me to write you a check for 250million to buy a small chain of bingo clubs, than for me to give you 250k to start one up”. But now I’m like, no Mecca Bingo, I’m gonna buy YOU!!
And I may or may not be on WhatsApp terms with some Las Vegas Casino bosses, I couldn’t possibly comment.