Bingo! Angela Christofilou captures recreation and tradition at a Lancashire church

In the wake of Covid, the Church Bingo series calls for community events to be restarted to offer a recreational and social space for those who need them most.

11 December 2023


A cup of tea, a plate of biscuits, and a spot of bingo with your closest mates. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? In her series Church Bingo the photographer Angela Christofilou sheds light on a group of bingo lovers who once congregated at a Lancashire church. Not only showing the unique world of the long-standing recreation, the series celebrates the beauty of life’s simple yet joyful moments. Now, the series has been turned into a photobook by Pendle Press, a publisher that platforms stories from the North of England and earlier this year brought Nik Hartley’s heart-warming photographs of a Lancashire youth club to print.

The project arose back in 2019, when Angela – who has both Greek and English heritage – was visiting her nan in Heywood Lancashire. After her nan mentioned being a regular at a bingo club at her local church, Angela and her mum, who was in town visiting from Athens, decided to tag along. Angela initially didn’t intend to photograph, in fact, she thought she might join in with the game. But upon arrival, she found herself compelled to shoot. “The vibrant atmosphere and energy of the community inspired me to take photographs,” Angela says. “Although the game was a regular community event, it was more than just numbers on a card; it was a snapshot of a cultural tradition and communal bonding.”


Angela Christofilou: Church Bingo (Copyright © Angela Christofilou, 2019)

Due to the spontaneity of the shoot, the 28 images have an authentic, off-the-cuff feel to them. Trying to be as “unobtrusive” as possible, Angela lent into the natural light of the hall, which she says helped to “set the tone”: the beige colours and low light from the blind-covered windows create a muted palette that contrasts with the palpable warmth of the people and relationships on show. “I focussed on the participants, with the simple hall backdrop highlighting their interactions and the essence of the game.” Players are shown chatting away, sat at a long table waiting for the game to start; a digital number randomiser glows red, its operator sat proudly behind; and an array of chocolates and homeware are all labelled, ready to be snapped up.

A particular image that stands out to Angela is one of her nan and two friends taking a break, making a cup of tea and grabbing a few biscuits. Framed by the hatch that opens into the kitchen, the image has a satisfying composition, each figure at a different stage of the tea-making process. Depicting what Angela describes as a “very simple, yet very British moment”, the image fittingly won an award in British Journal of Photography’s Portrait of Britain 2022 and was displayed across the UK on screens and billboards, a fact that made Angela’s nan “very proud”.

The series gained new relevance in 2020, when the Covid lockdowns put an end to such gatherings. “This halt was especially poignant, considering the effort community members, like Janet and her late husband Karl who passed away during the pandemic, put into these games,” Angela says. “It wasn’t solely about bingo, it symbolised community building and provided a haven of joy in a town with limited recreational activities.” Through the series, Angela wants people to recognise how important such gatherings are, especially for elderly individuals who often rely on such events to keep loneliness at bay. In the wake of Covid, she hopes such exposure will push people to again start organising local recreational events, bringing communities together once more.

Now, Angela is preparing for Church Bingo to be displayed at a public exhibition in Heywood’s first outdoor gallery.

GalleryAngela Christofilou: Church Bingo (Copyright © Angela Christofilou, 2019)

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Angela Christofilou: Church Bingo (Copyright © Angela Christofilou, 2019)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English Literature and History, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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