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Sarah Ainslie’s Bingo Portraits

December 11, 2016
by the gentle author

Ever since the Mecca Bingo Hall closed in Hackney Rd last year, pending demolition and redevelopment into luxury flats, a bus has departed most nights at five-thirty from the nearest street corner picking up the former clientele from Bethnal Green and delivering them to the Mecca Bingo Hall in Camden Town. Last Sunday, Contributing Photographer Sarah Ainslie & I joined the merry throng on the bus for the trip across town to bring you the first instalment in this series of portraits of the Bingo stalwarts of Bethnal Green.

Joyce Allen

“I’ve been playing Bingo since I was nineteen and now I’m eighty-nine”

Julia Ettridge

“Joyce and I lost our husbands in 1995, and we have been coming to Bingo together every week since”


“I’m eighty-one, I went to school in Hoxton and I’ve lived in London all my life. I have survived cancer and I live alone but my son and daughter give me money to go Bingo once a week, I look forward to it.”

Josephine & Bob Williams

“We’ve been married fifty years and we’ve always gone to bingo together.”

Josephine Williams

“It hasn’t made me rich but it hasn’t made me poor either!”

Rose & Sharon Davis

“It’s disgusting that they shut the Bingo hall in Bethnal Green. It was on our doorstep and you could always guarantee there’d be someone you knew to talk with, it was our community. It’s sad. We called it home.” – Sharon Davis

Anne Liddiard

“If I win I’m satisfied but, if I don’t win, I’m also satisfied because I’ve had a night out with friends”

Susan Liddiard

“I started playing Bingo when I was sixteen and I’m sixty-three now. Four generations of our family went to Mecca Bingo. The men went to the British Lion and the women went to Bingo, then the women joined the men afterwards in the pub and they all went home at closing time.”

Photographs copyright © Sarah Ainslie

You may like to see these other portraits by Sarah Ainslie

Sarah Ainslie’s Holland Estate Portraits

Sarah Ainslie’s Parmiter’s Portraits

Sarah Ainslie’s  Wardrobe Portraits

Sarah Ainslie’s Somali Portraits

Sarah Ainslie’s Boundary Estate Cooking Portraits

The development proposed to replace the Bingo Hall in the Hackney Rd

6 Responses leave one →
  1. December 11, 2016

    The new development looks ghastly, I hope it will not be built. I was never a fan of Bingo, but I know how many people love it, and for many it is a bright spot in a cold and lonely week. I used to organise a weekly Bingo session at a local care home, and it was very popular. People need to be able to go somewhere and meet up socially, and it seems that these spaces in London are becoming rarer and rarer. Valerie

  2. Malcolm permalink
    December 11, 2016

    Great pictures.
    And the great social cleansing program continues to hollow out communities and destroy the social eco-systems that have been part of local life for centuries.
    How much longer will the East End of London exist as a vibrant part of the City?

    The proposed carbuncle looks like it was designed by an idiot. It is almost comical in its stupidity and ugliness. Only an architect could find anything beautiful or creative in such a hopeless pile of junk.

  3. December 11, 2016

    Thanks for this. Sarah’s photographs are marvellous. I recognise a few of the faces!

  4. Ann Meacher permalink
    December 11, 2016

    What a hideous replacement for such a community amenity. The only good thing about this are Sarah Ainslie’s photographs. Many thanks

  5. Shawdian permalink
    December 11, 2016

    The development proposed is HORRIFIC
    it is shameful if that goes ahead. Poor London

  6. Ros permalink
    December 11, 2016

    Lovely photos! And yes, the proposed new building looks just ghastly. Yuck. It is so miserable to see people with such spirit, which shines out from the photos, being pushed out.

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