Eyes Down! The Story of Bingo

Wed Jan 30, 9-10pm, BBC4

Startlingly, more British people play bingo than watch professional football. So the idea that the world of fat ladies and Mecca dobbers is some sort of relic of the working class, post-war north couldn’t be more wrong. Sure, as this ‘Timeshift’ documentary acknowledges, bingo is currently in a period of transition. But then it’s always been embattled: assailed by snobbery, constrained by regulation, co-opted by criminals, aggressively opposed by high and low moralists alike. The tales we hear in this film explain its cockroach-like resilience. Its apparent mindlessness is its trump card, enabling it to be simultaneously competitive and sociable. It’s also arguably empowered women by providing safe, welcoming venues for socially marginalised housewives. And finally, it’s fun: it was invented during World War II to take soldiers’ minds off the horrors they were experiencing, but proved infinitely maleable as the years went by. An interesting and cheery dose of social history.

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