Hoxton bingo players devastated at club’s closure
PUBLISHED: 17:38 02 June 2015 | UPDATED: 11:10 04 June 2015
Bingo players in Hoxton are heartbroken at the closure of their club which they say is like a “family”.
The former art deco cinema, dating back to the 1930s, has been operating as a bingo hall for more than half a century and draws hundreds of members.
But club managers said the hall, in Hackney Road, was facing closure in two weeks as it had been “struggling for some time.”
Corporate lawyer, Arunima Misra, who is a wheelchair user in her twenties, joined the hall after her relationship ended.
She said: “The closing of Mecca Bingo is not just tearing down a building; it is devastating friendships and leaving irreparable collateral damage in its wake.
“Being a wheelchair user myself, my mobility is restricted, so having somewhere I can go and feel comfortable on my own is just as priceless as calling out a full house.”
Joyce Allen, 88, one of the longest-serving members of the club, has frequented the building for 71 years, remembering it as a cinema.
Having met her best friends Julia and Sheila of 20 years at the hall, Mrs Allen said the trio have supported each other through bereavements and bouts of breast cancer – all by playing bingo.
She said: “I think it is so popular because it’s a friendly club, it’s like a family. I have two very good friends that go there and we are on our own. It’s taken the heart out of Hackney Road.”
Pauline Hills, 66, added that the club was like a “lifeline” to elderly members who otherwise had nowhere to go and no family.
MP Meg Hillier who recently called numbers at the club, said: “I am shocked to hear of the sudden closure of the Mecca Bingo Hall on Hackney Road, which has served the local community for more than fifty years. Local residents have contacted me, very upset at what is happening.
“It’s a friendly social meeting place for people, particularly older people.”
Mecca Hackney is planned to close on June 16, having been the first purpose-built cinema to be transformed into a bingo hall in the country, in 1961.
A spokesperson for Mecca Bingo said Hackney Road had been underperforming for some time.
She said: “When the landlord approached us with a deal to surrender our lease early, it made sound commercial sense for us to seriously consider this offer, given that it will enable us to increase our investment in the rest of our estate.
She said the company was trying to organise transport for customers to neighbouring clubs and will be organising a welcome party for them at Mecca Camden.
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