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Legs Eleven! Inside the cavernous auditorium at Aylesbury’s Gala bingo hall

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Gala Bingo on the High Street feels like it has been a part of the town landscape forever.

The familiar high frontage of the Aylesbury building stands out between its neighbours and for many people it is a regular and extremely important place to visit.

On weekdays and evenings patrons fill the cavernous auditorium to try their luck with different versions of the game.

Regular Val Small has enjoyed two holidays thanks to her victories.

Mrs Small, who walks to the bingo hall two or three times a week from her home in Churchill Court, said: “I’ve been coming for 18 years, before my husband died we used to come together.

“Now I usually come on my own. But I know a lot of people here.

“I sit on my own when I’m playing, so that I can concentrate on the game, but I socialise afterwards.

“It’s somewhere nice to come, it’s safe, I have a drink, meet friends and hopefully win some money sometimes.”

Mrs Small has twice won a jackpot of £500.

The first time she put it towards a visit to America where her two sons live, and the second time she paid for a holiday to Benidorm with her daughter and grandchildren.

She said: “This is a very important place for me. I would be a bit lost without it. I’m so happy here, I hope it never closes.

“I spend about £45 a week, it’s my hobby, I don’t smoke or drink, it’s my pleasure.”

The bingo hall is a bit like Dr Who’s tardis in that it looks quite narrow from the frontage on the High Street, but inside it goes back a very long way and even has an upstairs.

General manager Tracy Perkins said the building originally opened in 1925 as The Grand Pavilion Cinema.

It was taken over by the Granada Theatres chain in November 1946 and renamed simply Granada a year later.

The Granada closed in 1972 and the premises was converted into a Granada Bingo Club.

Gala Bingo took over in May 1991.

Now open seven days a week, including six evenings, 820 people can be seated at tables downstairs.

The welcoming main foyer is filled with a selection of fruit slot machines and the eye catching carpet is the expected busy swirly pattern like the ones seen in Vegas casinos.

The main auditorium is big, airy and very colourful.

Food and drink is available and can be eaten at the game tables, which can seat four.

Mrs Perkins, who lives in Winslow, said: “Our busiest sessions are Sunday evenings, Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons and evenings.

“We have quite a mixture of clients. In the afternoons we attract slightly older people, those who are not working, probably retired, and we have a lot of regulars.

“In the evenings we get a more mixed clientele with younger people from 18-years-old right up to 90. Both men and women come.

“I think the sociable aspect of it is what makes it so popular.

“A lot of people come here and make friends.

“If they live alone they come here and say hello to people, winning some money is by the way.”

The Main Event is one of the most popular ways to play and costs just £5.

There are 10 games with six cards per game in the booklet, and you can win a prize for being the first to complete one line, two lines or the full house.

Other games include a special ticket with a top prize of £20,000 if it is called in 40 or less numbers.

 

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