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Babs and Bingo: A Match Made in Heaven

The doyenne of postcard sauciness is the ideal candidate for British Bingo

Barbara Windsor is the face of Jackpotjoy, one of the UK’s leading bingo websites online. And she’s perfect for it. A little too old (sorry Babs) to be a baby boomer, she straddles (ooh! saucy!) the gap between the blue-rinse brigade who populated the bingo halls of Britain during their Autumn years in the 80s and 90s, and the teenagers of the sixties cultural revolution. Rather like an older sister or a young aunt, she sort of gets it – at least enough to be allowed in – but has one affectionate eye on the old-guard. She got her kit off in 1969, but it wasn’t at Woodstock. It was in front of Sid James.

Here she is in the latest ad for Jackpotjoy:

Barbara, it’s safe to say, was always good for a laugh. Likewise: bingo. The game first emerged in Britain during the post-war years. The low-stakes nature of the game perfectly suited Britons of the austere fifties. While the government rationed their food, bingo halls rationed their risk impulse. The crucial difference between them, for a nation all too aware of the growing prosperity and reward-based individualism developing across the Atlantic, was that bingo offered the chance of besting your peers. Bingo held the alluring promise of something more for a battered, deprived nation.

Just as with bingo, so did British comedy. When the Carry On films began in 1958, in all their innuendo-laden earnest, they carried the promise of so much more than they ever delivered. Cultural historians make much of the seismic shift in attitudes towards sex that took place during the sixties, and the marked contrast between those war-born babies and their war-torn parents. Little attention is given to the role played by those elder siblings.

The Carry On franchise became passé in whatever blink of an eye it took for society to go from accepting the appearance of bikini-clad women on their screens as a consequence of this new, permissive culture to deriding it as nothing more than the out-moded lechery of yet another male-dominated industry. Barbara Windsor’s famously pinged-off bra in 1969’s Carry on Camping had barely hit the ground by the time a sketch in the third episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus laid waste to such patently ridiculous ‘nudge nudge, wink wink’ comedy that same year.

Which brings us back to bingo. In its new incarnation as a web phenomenon, it has adapted itself to a new audience and new technology. Just like dear old Babs!