Isolation Bingo With The Town Heroes
If you are reading this a year from now, I hope things are better. The state of the world in May 2020 is, as I grow tired of hearing, uncertain, and unprecedented. I really hope the new normal is old news by then. For now, we are in the middle of a pandemic, and a lot of things are strange in the world today. We have been waiting for businesses to reopen and are holding our collective breath as we fear the second or maybe even a third wave of COVID-19. The days of going to the mall for hours to hang with your friends seem like a distant memory, and city officials are scrambling to find ways to entertain the masses from a safe distance. That’s when The Town Heroes took action.
Helping people, entertaining people, and a little bingo on the side.
On the East Coast of Canada, there are Bingo games all the time, or at least there used to be. We also love to play cards, and a kitchen party is hard to beat. But we all grew up knowing someone in the family who played BINGO every week.
Amid all the boredom, musicians are entertaining their fans with online concerts. There is even a Facebook Group called the Ultimate Online Nova Scotia Kitchen Party (COVID19 Edition). Many musicians are entertaining their fans within this group, for free. It is one of many ways the musicians of the world are making sure their fans do not forget about them while in quarantine or self-isolation. I found a live concert from Scotland a few weeks ago, by a few of the members of Drums & Roses. They played covers of songs, adding in bagpipes and drums to songs most people would recognize. It was something I am thrilled I got to watch.
When the world was just learning about the coronavirus, now also known as COVID-19, Mike Ryan announced he was sick. Mike and Bruce Gillis are the original duo in a band called The Town Heroes, which I have had the pleasure of seeing play live at a local cafe called The Tipsy Muse. They have since added two members to their band, but for smaller shows. Bruce & Mike often play their music as the original duo. They had talked about hosting an online bingo game before but didn’t have the time to put it together. With Mike being sick and Bruce having a bingo set, they found the time to start a bingo game online. The Town Heroes came up with a unique idea to entertain the people from the comfort of their own living rooms.
Bruce started calling Isolation Bingo from his home. The band emailed bingo cards to fans who wanted to play for free, and they started gaining momentum. Since they started, Mike has recovered, and they take turns hosting on Tuesdays and Fridays every week, except for the week when Nova Scotia made the news. My home of Nova Scotia is having a hard time since this all started, with a lot of awful news involving many people. There has been too much loss, and it was wise of The Town Heroes to take a break out of respect for the families who were grieving.
The Town Heroes had been accepting donations a few weeks after starting isolation bingo, splitting the proceeds with Feed Nova Scotia. After tragedy struck their home province, 100% of the donations raised right after the tragedy went directly to the families affected by the mass shootings in Nova Scotia. They did this a few times and after sending $3,000 to the families; they wanted to keep helping people in need. The Town Heroes then began collecting for Feed Nova Scotia again, splitting the donations between the band and the charity. They have raised over $3,000 for Feed Nova Scotia and want to present them with another large cheque when they reach $4,000. They have already donated $2,000 and will do this again when they raise enough to match their first donation.
The Town Heroes are doing outstanding work during these unprecedented, uncertain times.
You are probably wondering what the catch is, or why people tune in twice a week to play bingo over the internet. The chat is always fun to take part in and watch. Mike and Bruce are natural entertainers, making up stories and trying their hardest not to swear every time, and failing miserably for our entertainment. (This bingo is NSFW, folks)! They usually have to assign themselves time outs for swearing, and the banter is a welcome sound for people from home, who are away. When it started, it was just Friday night bingo, playing for the full card.
Then they added Tuesdays for one line, and Mike sings in between the numbers that Bruce calls. The debate is on for what to call the Tuesday Bingo. Mike wants to call it Daubers & Ditties, while Bruce insists it should be Tuney Tuesday. The discussion over this continues on a weekly basis.
Friday evenings they play for a full card, like when they first started, but it has grown since it began. Local businesses got involved, and when Bruce started calling a full card while assigning random numbers to bottles of hot sauce, well, the antics just escalated. The first night they set this up, all the numbers on the hot sauce bottles got called in the game, and Bruce tried all seven sauces on chicken from a favorite restaurant. It is a restaurant from Truro, called Old Road BBQ, and sometimes the owner sends them wings for bingo night on Fridays. Bruce gambles with the hot sauce, and Mike plays songs when he hosts isolation bingo on Tuesdays. When one hosts, the other is on speakerphone, and there is a picture of him on display during the game for people to see.
The owner of Old Road BBQ has also started a community of restaurants to provide free food for frontline healthcare workers. You can find more information at cookingforcanada.com.
Helping people, entertaining people, and a little bingo on the side. Add in the excitement of banter and a chance of hot sauce, and you can count on a lot of laughter from all participants. The only rules are that they do not allow the players to lie about winning bingo. If you have ever been to a bingo hall, you know people do not put up with that at all. It is the same in isolation bingo, even though it sometimes happens. Bruce has all the cards and a secret code assigned to each card so that when someone claims to win, he will verify the card, just like they do at the bingo hall.
Bingo players are encouraged to take pictures of their game night setups, and share them on social media, with the hashtag #IsolationBingo. We are also encouraged to participate in the ongoing dialogue through the chat, and more importantly, to make sure we type into the chat when we are set. In bingo, you are set when you are one number away from winning, and yelling BINGO! It seemed strange to me that people didn’t know what being set meant until I realized that there are people from all over the world playing Isolation Bingo with me.
There are prizes, too! They do offer digital downloads of their music if you are not playing in Nova Scotia. Prizes range from alcohol, to gift cards, and whatever else people donate to be given to the one who types BINGO! in the chat with their super-secret bingo card code. This past Friday night, a dozen one-clawed lobsters went out to a player from Cape Breton.
If you think the hot sauce was enough of a challenge, Bruce was into the BeanBoozled Jelly Belly Jelly Beans too, this week. Flavours range from pleasant to awful, and the numbers called on the letter B were the ones assigned to having to eat one jelly bean. Bruce ate several on Friday night and the reactions were all live during the game. It is just as hilarious as you imagine it to be.
The Town Heroes are doing outstanding work during these unprecedented, uncertain times. It is something that I am grateful to take part in and to share about in this article. If you check it out, you will see what I mean. They host Isolation Bingo on The Town Heroes Facebook page every Tuesday and Friday at 7:30 p.m. Atlantic Standard Time. If you show up early, the timer on the stove is on display on Fridays counting down the minutes and seconds until Isolation Bingo starts. Send The Town Heroes a message on Facebook if you want a card, and maybe I’ll see you at Isolation Bingo while it is ongoing.