Nova Scotia

With everyone stuck at home, this Nova Scotia band brings you isolation bingo

The Halifax-based alt-rock band Town Heroes have found a new way to bring people together for some laughs and bingo during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Halifax-based Town Heroes runs Facebook Live events that attract hundreds

Bruce Gillis, right, is the bingo caller and fellow Town Heroes bandmate Mike Ryan is on the iPad. (Submitted by Town Heroes)

The Town Heroes, a Halifax-based alt-rock band, have found a new way to bring people together for some laughs and bingo during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What started as a small online game of bingo with a few dozen cards has grown to a weekly session that draws thousands of players and viewers.

Drummer Bruce Gillis, who calls the game, says he and Mike Ryan, who sings and plays guitar for the band, had an idea last year to do an online bingo game, but never got around to making it a reality.

Once COVID-19 picked up steam, Gillis says he and Ryan put a message out on social media to see if there was interest.

"Then COVID came creeping in and everyone's isolated, so I thought what better time," Gillis said. 

The game is played on Facebook Live through the Town Heroes Facebook page. People message the band for a card, and anyone can watch online. Winners write "bingo" in the comments section and their card is then verified.

The Town Heroes band members are, from left, Tori Campbell, Aaron Green, Bruce Gillis and Mike Ryan. (Submitted by Town Heroes)

The band hasn't been able to play shows because of orders put in place by public health officials around public gatherings and the closure of bars.

Ryan says his role is to provide colour commentary on Cape Breton stats and facts while he sits in his own home.

"Me and Bruce kind of typically argue back and forth about a few things here and there," Ryan says. "So it's all part of how a typical bingo game should be run, in our eyes anyway."

Aside from a few technical glitches, both agree the game works well and has kept people entertained. Gillis says a lot of people are cooped up at home and are anxious.

"There's a lot of people that are health-care workers who have written saying it's nice to have an hour to get your mind off all that," Gillis says.

The bandmates, who grew up on Cape Breton Island, say they think the success is due to people looking for entertainment and perhaps some nostalgia. Ryan says the friendly aspect of bingo, which during non-COVID-19 times is played in halls across the island, has sparked an interest with the young and old alike.

"I think just a sense of community is really needed now because we have lost the physical aspect of that," Ryan says. "We have the ability to do that with the technology that exists."

Tonight, beginning at 7:30, the Town Heroes will welcome 350 players to take in the game, with many hundreds more tuning in.

During previous events, the band has given out CDs to the winners and "vintage" Sobeys and Co-op bags. This week's prize is tickets to see them perform this summer in Truro, N.S., with the Arkells.

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