Dance, sing, bingo: Drag Race UK royalty stun fans at Mecca Luton

Our reporter went to experience the craziness for herself
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Bright lights, big wigs and dance breaks were promised at Mecca Luton’s drag night at the weekend. And it did not disappoint.

I was lucky enough to be invited to their Boots Down Bingo night - a whole evening of sickening entertainment with great prizes to be won.

Arriving with my three friends, I was greeted by events manager, Emma Baker. I was told to expect Las Vegas when I went up the stairs, and actually, it was not far off. It’s clear where the £2,500,000 investment went: mirrored ceilings, sports screens, slot machines, new furniture and what my guest, Owen Bennett, described as “the best smoking area ever”. I get why Mecca calls this location its ‘flagship’.

Me and with Baga Chipz (left), Ophelia B and Alexis Saint-Pete. Picture: Owen BennettMe and with Baga Chipz (left), Ophelia B and Alexis Saint-Pete. Picture: Owen Bennett
Me and with Baga Chipz (left), Ophelia B and Alexis Saint-Pete. Picture: Owen Bennett

We arrived during the main game, the hall began to fill up with groups of women in their glad rags, work friends on nights out (like the easyJet crew I met), and regular bingo-goers.

I met friends who had travelled from Norfolk for the event, but the majority of the guests were people from Luton and Dunstable and slightly further afield. It was a whirlwind getting in line for the meet and greet, which seemed to happen just as the kitchen closed. It would have been helpful to have a poster explaining when and why the kitchen would close early.

I ordered some grub and met Baga Chipz, Ophelia Balls and Alexis Saint-Pete. Miss Chipz, finalist on season one of Drag Race UK, was quick to tell me that I should mention how stunning she looked. I can confidently say that she was stunning with her big, ginger wig.

Sue Nanton, a Luton nurse, came with her friend, Emma Burns. Sue said: “It’s my first time here. I’m so excited, I've never been to bingo before. There’s a nice atmosphere here.” Kim Pratchett and Hayley Matthews from Houghton Regis and Dunstable said they’d never seen the bingo hall so full, and were eager to win the Paris trip.

People had a great time at the event. Picture: Owen BennettPeople had a great time at the event. Picture: Owen Bennett
People had a great time at the event. Picture: Owen Bennett

Before the first act graced the stage, the drinks were flowing. Over 420 tickets were sold before the event, and people stayed on after the main game session, making the hall packed. Bingo caller Kat Anderson encouraged people to budge up and make use of all the seats. It was my first time seeing security guards in a bingo hall, too.

The loudest roar of the night came after the topless kitchen staff dragged more tables into the hall. They made an appearance later as the ‘shot boys’ for the night. Ruby Runsummon said that what she really wanted was for the topless waiters to be fake tanned and in Calvin Klein underwear, “to really do it properly”.

People waited as the bingo books were handed out, £5 each, on top of the drag ticket price. After arriving at 8.30pm, the bingo number hadn’t begun to be called until 10.20pm, and I overheard some complaining about the organisation of the night. I was also itching for the bingo to begin.

As soon as host Ophelia B, took to the stage, the night was in full swing. My advice for anyone going to a drag bingo night is: Prepare to get up, dance and have a joke told at your expense.

A claxon sounded as the numbers were read, dabbers were dropped and everyone was up, dancing to Cotton Eye Joe, Fast Food Song and the Macarena. At one point, there was a conga line of at least 25 people hopping around the hall.

In the first game, two people yelled ‘Bingo’ at the same time and went head-to-head in a lap dance battle. This night was definitely not for children or the fainthearted. I was half hoping not to win, as I was dreading having to go on the stage.

Between games, there was some more waiting – maybe drinking alcohol would have made these breaks go by faster.

I was perked right back up again when Alexis Saint-Pete, from the most recent season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, gave it her all as she lipsynced to Britney Spears. I was even lucky enough to have her dance on me. I was cheering so loud that my throat began to hurt, but the laughing continued despite my injury.

Baga Chipz, finalist on season one of Drag Race UK, sang a dirty rendition of Whole Again, while wearing a Kerry Katona-inspired ensemble. There were more outfit changes and we got settled into the second game of bingo. John Cole-Morgan, from Leighton Buzzard, said: “It’s the highlight of my 2024 so far.”

The prizes included a giant teddy bear, a case of Coke Zero, Henry Hoover, dinner plates, a hair dryer, and a coffee machine.

There were more outfit changes, and Anita Smoke, a London-based queen, danced and prowled across the tables. Baga and Alexis did a few more numbers before another break. Some people began to leave, as midnight approached. Alexis said: “It has been chaotic as I love it to be. There are so many single boys with shots, I am trying to find them again.”

My friend, Jonny, was devastated to have been only one number away from bagging the biggest prize of the evening: a trip for two to Paris.

YMCA closed the show, with everyone dancing along to those iconic lyrics. Macie Emery and Ethan Molloy from Hemel Hempstead said: “It was the best night ever. It’s so amazing to see LGBTQ+ events in the area.”

It was quite the night, I thought as I left Skimpot Road in the early hours of the morning. In my opinion, if you’re an avid bingo player and you want a serious game with no talking, you’ll be disappointed. The night was designed to get people up, let their hair down and laugh. And I did all three.

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