Three UK Bingo Halls Ideal for Theatre Use

The bingo industry has saved many architectural gems in the UK. When cinemas faced declining numbers after the golden age of Hollywood ended in the thirties, it was bingo that filled them with customers once again. Yet these halls are now becoming multi-purpose spaces, used for parties and other games as well as the aforementioned pastime. So what UK bingo halls would be ideal as a stage? Below, we go through a list of current and former halls that would be great for theatre. 

Spanish City, Whitley Bay

Like many of the buildings on this list, bingo is taking on a new life and undergoing a resurgence in popularity. In the past, it was a hobby confined to halls and played by a select few. With the introduction of online bingo, many people have found a more convenient form of entertainment that they can play at home or on the move. This has attracted a new audience, who are now learning online and then venturing to physical locations. With new and increased choices of game types, bingo is hot property. 

Like bingo, Whitley Bay’s Spanish City has had its ups and downs. It started as a makeshift stage area for traveling toreadors. Thus, it became known as Spanish City and gradually morphed into a funfair and carnival ground. With a huge dome at the center, it became the place to go for ballroom dancing before being converted into a bingo hall in the post-war period. 

A long run of gradual disrepair came to an end in 2018 when it reopened as a multipurpose venue. Packed with eateries and tea rooms, it also has an event space that puts on musical acts and comedy nights. However, its grand appearance is crying out for regular theatre, and with 360-degree seating overlooking the floor, it would be ideal for experimental theatre.

The Former Granada Cinema, Wandsworth, London

Few bingo halls have an interior as lavish as the former Granada Cinema in Wandsworth, London. Before you even enter, its neo-classical facade is an imposing figure with columns reaching to the sky. Inside, it is extremely lavish with balustrades and ornamentations that would not look out of place in a cathedral. All the bingo action takes place on the floor, and chairs cascade down into an amphitheater bowl. Of course, this shape is ideal for theatre use and the setting makes it all the more likely.

The building is Grade 1 listed, so it will be preserved forever more. It had its heyday in the thirties but also faced closure. In 1973 it closed its doors for three years before reopening as a bingo hall. 

Dreamland Cinema, Margate

The Dreamland Cinema in Margate is an art deco gem that punctuates the coastal town’s skyline with a dash of style and angular panache. When it opened in 1935, it was considered to be a super cinema housing 2050 people. Based on expressionist architecture, it became the blueprint for many Odean cinemas later built across the country. 

Dreamland’s site did formerly house a theatre, and throughout its history, it has had sporadic periods where it has operated as a cinema, bingo hall, and arts venue. The large saloon bar on the ground floor was converted into a theatre in 1975. While it didn’t take off, a new spur of theatergoers and the right productions could see it come back to life in this fantastic building. 

There are many more, and much smaller bingo halls may also fit the bill. If you have a production, contact the building owners to see how you may be able to utilize their fantastic spaces. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *