After running a taxi firm in Shropshire in the 1990s, James Masson had no idea how dramatically his life would change – but one gifted psychic did
Haworth’s Prize Bingo is an unmissable presence on Dale Street in Blackpool.
Sitting next to the infamous Higgit’s £1 burger bar, the traditional bingo is also no stranger to fame, with the attraction featured several times on Channel 5’s reality TV program ‘Blackpool Lights’.
The entire premises is an Aladdin’s Cave with thousands of gifts that span the walls and catch the attention of all those who enter.
Dating back to the 1960s, the bingo is a traditional one which it reminds its player of with plenty of banners about that read ‘Blackpool’s last traditional Prize Bingo’ and ‘It’s just like bingo used to be’.
It even has a 1970s random number generator still in its possession which doesn’t involve the use of a computer.
The machine is basically a vacuum cleaner with ping pong balls and is only one of two still in used in bingo in the UK.
The tube simply blows the numbered balls up , one number is called and then put into a grid system so that the bingo caller can check if a line or win is valid.
There is then a lever for the balls to be released and then the whole thing is reset.
This system has been used flawlessly for 50 years with it owners never need to upgrade to anything more elaborate.
The bingo is still named after its previous owner Alan Haworth who worked hard to give the attraction its excellent reputation.
Its current owner, James Masson, is now upholding its great legacy by welcoming and entertaining guests however he never dreamt in a million years that his career would have taken the path that is has.
In the 1990s, James lived in Shropshire and ran a taxi firm for around 20 years. He had an interest in magic a performed occasionally when he came to meet The Endresz family who have called Blackpool Tower Circus home for six generations.
James received a call from the director and the producer of the circus asking if he could help out at the circus to which he jumped at the chance.
“I’ve always loved Blackpool.” James told LancsLive.
“I’ve always wanted to live in Blackpool so I came up and spoke to them and started at the circus as a manager and then went into ring master duties which was, wow, amazing.
“Very nerve wracking because I’d never done anything quite on that scale before and that was for seven years.
“I will always be very grateful to the Endresz family for giving me that opportunity because the circus is very inclusive and its member have usually been a part of the circus for generations, so I’ve very privileged to have done what I’ve done.
“I’ve very happy that where I am now is still in sight of the tower which is nice.”
Even though James couldn’t have predicted the path his life would take one woman did, though he had no idea what she was talking about at the time.
When James was still living further down South, a psychic named Paula told him that she could see him dressed in a coat and tails with a microphone.
James added: “I had no idea what she was talking about, I wasn’t a singer or anything like that and I thought she was wrong.
“She said she could also see me with a cricket bat and I’m not a sporty person at all, I don’t even watch it.
“It was only two weeks later I was given my grandad’s old cricket bat and I remembered what she’d said.
“I forgot all about what else she said until I realised when I took on my ring master duties the clothes I was wearing. Very spooky.
“I know a lot of psychics can do a lot of guesswork but she went very specific with details to the point where I didn’t realise at the time, I thought it wasn’t true. I only came to realise afterwards.”
When James was in Blackpool he became friends with the former proprietor of Haworth’s bingo when he passed away suddenly.
There was a fear that the bingo was going to be lost so James decided to take over however was only able to open on May 17 of this year due to the pandemic.
James said: “It’s a wonderful challenge, before when I was performing at the circus I was in the circus ring 11 meters in front of 1,350 people three times a day and now my stage is two foot square and I’m in front of 70 people.
“But it’s just as exciting it really is, every day. It is slightly more pressure as at the circus, I had a cast of 60 members and world class artists from all over the world to back me up, here it’s just me so I if make a mistake I kinda look stupid.
Many other bingos do offer ‘one wins’ however James stresses that these are usually a tub of bubbles or a teddy and you have to save your wins to get bigger prizes.
Everything you see on the walls in Haworth’s you can take home with just one win.
The thousands of items range from toys, towels and bedding, lamps, hair straighteners, watches, clocks homewares, pictures frames and much more.
James puts a lot of effort into sourcing products and also pick ones that his customers will love.
He added: “It’s getting harder to do this, everything is shooting up in price.
“Not everything we have is to my taste but it’s not about me. Anything with a bit of bling on it sells really well and the silver horses, in the garage we can have 40 silver horses and they’ll fly out in a week! Very popular.
“We have very practical items such as laundry detergent, tea bags and toilet rolls that people really love and appreciate.
“Although it’s getting harder we’re still here and we’re still doing it as we have been doing for years and I think that’s the fascination with it.
“Literally people come in and say how much are the prizes and I say everything is one win and they look at something an say ‘well how much is that’ and I say ‘one win!’ and they just can’t believe it.”
To find out more about Haworth’s ‘one win’ Prize Bingo, please visit the website here.