Cultural Bingo - March 1970

Submitted by root on Tue, 11/22/2016 - 11:39

"Bingo a moronic activity"

"......... the encouragement of large numbers of people to sit vacantly gaping at a numbered card in the usual vain expectation of totally undeserved reward is a questionable activity"  Lord goodman Chairman of The Arts  Council

Cultural Bingo was a game invented by Bill Harpe; the idea was simple, the audience played bingo but won not only prizes but also a 'cultural' activity'. 

How It Worked

The Games

The audience seated with bingo cardsThe room was set up as for bingo - and the audience arrived expecting to play bingo.  They were given bingo cards.  The audience had, at the start, no idea how the show would work. 

Once seated they were facing a stage with a backdrop of numbers and on the left a bingo caller. John Gorman bingo calling

Above the audience seated with their books of bingo cards; right John Gorman being the bingo caller.

The first game of 15 numbers was played and a small prize won.

In the second game, also of 15 numbers, as each number was called a performer appeared.  This was an appetizer of what was to come - each event was very short - no more than 30 second and with fast exits and entrances. The caller introduced each performer by name.

For the third game of 15 numbers - each performer gave a solo performance chosen so as to be not too long; or with strong dramatic impact.

Alan Bird performing a dramatic solo  William Farrell perming a soloRicky Noyce reading poetryBen Cruft giving a solo performance on the violin

Above Alan Bird, William Farrell, .Ricky Noyce and Ben Cruft  giving solo performances

Game 4 - 30 numbers - from this point on the Caller had control of the game.  So it was for the Caller to decide whether to go  for a single line or a full house, depending on how the numbers fell.  This game introduced  duets - so two numbers were called in quick succession and two performers took the stage. They could choose with to perform together or sequentially.

Duet between dancer Louise Emerson and drummer Tony VillarelleOpera singer Sylvia Capolte and pianist Jean Longworth  duet

Above drummer Tony Villarelle dueting with dancer Louise Emerson,  and singer Sylvia Capolte  dueting with pianist Christine Malvern. Below  poet Dave Calder  dueting with pianist Christine Malvern; Alan Bird and Barbara Harkin performing together and dancers Louise Emerson and Aca Frankenhaeuser performing together.

Poet  Dave Calder  dueting with pianist Christine MalvernPerformers Alan Bird and Barbara Harkin duetingDancers Louise Emerson and Anca Frankenhaeuser performing together

Game 5  A second game of  30 numbers  - called so as to have trios, quartets or quintets. The performers had to 'pass on' from one to another so as to create a visual and/or sound chain. 

The linking of performaces as described in Game 5 above and game 6 below is not easily shown in photos - so the photos selected here merely indicate the presence on stage of 3/4/5 people - not their interactions.

Five performers on stage togetherRicki Noyce (poetry) Alan Bird (drama) and

Above a quartet and trio of performers take the stage

Game 6  Game of 45 numbers . Passing on, as before , but all pieces had to be performed at speeds, rhythms, volumes, which were different from how they were normally performed.  With different  'attack or 'qualities' of movement.  It was intended  that all the material of each piece should be performed but not from beginning to end , but in some new arrangement.

A trio of a dancer, violinist and trombonist performing in front of paintingsA quartet of performers take the stage Left first a trio  of a dancer, Ben Cruft on the violin and a trombonist and then a quartet of  Barbara  Harkin perfoming as Major Barbara, Pat Haggerty singing and playing , the poet Jean Longworth and someone who is  obscured performing together.

The final game had 75 numbers. First played for 1 or 2 lines. As in the previous games performers 'passed on' from one to another but in this section they did it by ending the sequence;  and then touching another performer or performers, who then started sections or sequences from their pieces.  The other difference was that performers  could use each others material but also had to perform their own. 

After games for 1/2 lines they then played a full house of 75 numbers. It was the callers responisibility to set the right pace as from this point on there were no breaks until someone called House.

Bill intended that the previous games would build up a sense of community among the performers since the effect of the earlier scenes depended upon the performers doing not only their own material but their sensitivity , awareness, towards the work of the other performers.

The final sequence was therefore an image of culture when confronted by the reality of Bingo. to quote from Bill's briefing to the performers

"Culture might:-

1) Go down like a battle ship, with performers all sinking very slowely into the floor  as they perform their material ; and slowely crawling together at the end to make a living pile of bodies

2) Enter into battle with Bingo, with each performer performing their pieces well and strongly

3) Stoically accept the situation, each performer continuing quietly and seriously to perform their material

Below are photos of the stage during the last game - very full of performers and art works

The last game with the stage full of performersThe final game with multiple performers on stage The last game with the stage full of players


Alongside the performances it was also necessary to have in in place  all the activities which make up the game of Bingo.  So the cards which were made  at The Blackie.   Someone to check the cards when people called  'House'.  The prizes.  And of course the Bingo caller.

Someone waving a winning carda winning card being checkedA card found wanting


Above someone claiming to have a winning line, a winning card being checked and left found wanting


The prizes


Right the prizes, below someone collecting their prize and Josh Hamilton seated beside his winnings



Someone colecting their prize Josh Hamiliton seated beside his prize

The audience for the show was very mixed ranging from people who regularly played Bingo to those who had never previously done so.  And they came with very different expectations - some came to play bingo and some to a piece of theatre.  The audience also ranged across the age groups.

The audienceMembers of the audienceProfessor and Fanchon Frolich

 Above and right pictures of the audience.

Cultural bingo ran for three evenings and we had three different bingo callers.  John Gorman from 'The Scaffold' , Adrian Henri - Liverpool poet and painter, and Peter Moloney.

John Gorman Bingo calling on the Thursday night Peter  Moloney Bingo Calling on the Saturday night


Left John Gorman and Peter Moloney as the bingo callers on the First  and last night respectively



The Credits

Cultural Bingo was a joint promotion by The Liverpool Festival, The Bluecoats Arts Forum and the Great Georges Project.


Bingo Callers:   John Gorman ( Thursday);  Adrian Henri (Friday) and Peter Moloney (Saturday)

Performers:  Alan Bird (drama);  Martin Brems (mime);  Dave Calder (poetry); Christopher Cabot (poetry/drama); Sylvia Capote (song); Ben Cruft (violin); Louise Emerson (dance); William Farrell ( dance); Anca Frankenhauser (dance); Pat Haggerty (songs/guitar); Barbara Harkin (drama);  Jean Longworth (poetry);  Christine Malvern (piano); Ann Nolan (dance); Rikki Noyce (poetry); Angus Pickles (guitar); Glen Sharp (dance); Tony Villarella (drums);

Paintings : students from liverpool College of Art

Film :  Macbeth directed by Orsen Welles


Eddie Barker, Paul Brown, Steve Ellis, Steve Lake, James Macritchie and Don McKie

Environment and Production

David Bassi; Sue Bates; Brenda Battle; Martin Brems; Tom Burke; Julia Fieldman; Percy Gaskell; Ed George; Barbara Harkin; Bill Harpe; Wendy Harpe; Pauline hughes; Viv Layzell; Con Lester; Jean Longworth; John McPherson; Christine malvern; Dave Mount; Nick Morgan; Frieda Nyahoe; Sarah Pinfold; David Rickus; Les roberts; Mavis Scholfield; Margaret Sidney; Carolyn Turton; Janet Unwin; Lynn Webster; and assisted by 13 boys from St. Kevin's School Kirkby

Devised and Directed : Bill Harpe

Thanks to

Mr Bill Wylkie (West Coast Amusemnts Ltd.) ; E.A Clare & Son (Mecca Bingo Casino, Liverpool);  Frank Pike; Alan Swerdlow; Di Davies; Rebecca Howard (Hemdale Ltd.); Sheila Malham (Bluecoat Arts Forum); Annettte Morrieau (The Arts Counbcil); Cliff Bevan (H.O.Dickenson Ltd.); Barbara  (Liverpool College of Art)