Dawn's retro bingo will combat Chichester loneliness

Dawn GracieDawn Gracie
Dawn Gracie
Chichester vintage entertainer Dawn Gracie is determined to do something about the genuine prospect of loneliness and isolation in the dark winter months ahead.

She is launching live retro bingo at Oaklands Pavilion, home of Chichester Rugby Club in Oaklands Park. The first night will on October 9; thereafter she hopes to run it every other week: “And I have spoken about maybe doing something in the daytime for people of a certain age that might not be able to get out in the evenings.”

Whatever happens, Dawn is going to make sure she will be offering something. If we all get locked down again, Dawn will be switching her bingo sessions to Zoom.

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“I feel very passionately about mental health, about the thought of loneliness. I want people to see human faces. I want people to connect. I want people to have that important connection with each other.

“I admit bingo is something I have wanted to do for years. I have got such happy memories of bingo from when I was young. I remember playing it in my grandparents’ front room and absolutely loving it. I always remembered my love of bingo and it had been in my mind for years, and when lockdown stopped things, I thought that as soon as we were allowed to, we should do this.

“I couldn’t start up my Cabaret Club because for that you have got at least 12 people back stage and socially distancing would be very difficult. I wanted to do something where people could feel safe and would be in their bubbles of six.Pre-lockdown I had done a few cabarets in the Oaklands Pavilion and it is a lovely big space.”

Dawn got in touch with the catering guy, and it turned out food was possible: “They were already doing Sunday roasts and I went along and checked. I wanted to test the system to see if I was comfortable eating there, and I definitely was. So they came up with a menu for us. I am taking bookings of people in pods of six. The venue has been thoroughly checked. They had a consultant in to advise them. The tables and chairs will be marked out and you won’t be able to move the chairs. And I will be doing track and trace on the lead booker.

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“I am going to call it retro bingo as I will be singing songs and I will be doing quizzes as well. You won’t be able to get up and dance, and singing along won’t be permitted. You have got to think of everything. To prevent the spray of breath, I have got a system where people will use one of those funny little hand clapper things if they get a line or whatever. There will be all sorts of measures in place to be completely COVID-compliant, and the food on offer will be table service strictly. We are even going to have chicken bingo wings!

“Each venue has to be measured specifically for social distancing, and the tables will be two metres apart. We can have 13 tables of six people, and we won’t be mixing the tables. If someone is booking a table they will have to fill it. I have set a minimum of four. It will be £10 per person.” Details and booking on https://www.dawnsvintagedo.com

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