Successful Northampton bingo manager publishes autobiography about the hobby

Titled 'There's No Balls in Bingo' the book covers 40 years of bingo industry changes

By Max Pearson
Tuesday, 14th December 2021, 8:51 am
The cover image was inspired by one of Julian's daughters

A successful bingo manager from Northampton has shared his decades of experience in his first autobiography about the hobby.

The book, which is published by Austin Macauley, marks a more than 40-year globetrotting bingo career that saw some of its highest achievements occur in Northampton.

Julian Cotterell said that he began his career as a doorman at a small bingo hall in Chester, where his parents served as Mayor and Mayoress, before his potential was spotted by a higher-up.

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Over time, Julian built his career one club at a time, until he found himself the general manager of many bingo clubs in the North of England, which he claims saw revenue rise by as much as ten times under his leadership.

He said: "I had eleven bingo clubs in the North of England, which I ran for ten years.

"We generated a lot of extra business, which set me up nicely to go over there for the next stage of my career."

Next on the horizon was the exciting land of South Africa, where Julian says he soon launched the country's first ever regulated bingo hall.

In October 1998, Julian says he picked the first legal bingo number ever called in South Africa at his club in Pretoria.

But the benefits were not just for Julian, as the new club offered a huge opportunity for new jobs in the area.

Julian said: "It was a stipulation as part of the licence that we would only employ people who didn't have a job already, because unemployment there was so great.

"Before we'd even started advertising, four hundred people had showed up for the jobs.

"We hired 120 young people who had never worked before or weren't working at the time.

"We showed them what a bingo ticket was, because they'd never seen one. We even showed them what a biro pen was. They hadn't seen that either.

"It was a massive learning exercise to teach people these things that they had never experienced before."

Having made it big in South Africa, Julian returned to the UK where he took over managing the Beacon Club in Weedon Road, Northampton.

The father-of-two said: "I saw attendances rise from six and a half thousand, to nine thousand people per week between 2000 and 2007, when the club was sold.

"People feel there's a huge value for money in bingo. They would come all the way from Wellingborough and beyond because the prizes were so phenomenal."

Some years later, Julian says he and his wife Erica, whom he met in South Africa, travelled to Spain to care for his elderly mother. She sadly passed away at the age of 98, in 2019.

But, by a seemingly cruel twist of fate, it was not long after this that Covid-19 locked down Spain, leaving the couple shut-up for months with not very much to do.

Julian said: "With lockdown we had two months of severe restrictions. We only had one hour a day to go anywhere and, like my wife said, 'there's only so much gardening you can do."

Julian then began dictating his transcript which, after many months, was published on November 30 2021.

If all goes well with this one, Julian said his next project will be a book of children's stories.