Thursday, July 29, 2010

Forever Butlins!

My parents were professional ballroom dancers and worked from the late 50's to the early 70's for Butlins Holiday camps as Redcoats. For the Americans reading this Butlins is just a working class version of Kellermans in Dirty Dancing but without Patrick Swayze.
My memories have just come flooding back to this time in my life as an old family friend from the Butlin years,Rocky Mason has just set up a Facebook page entitled FOREVER BUTLINS  The aim is to get all the memories and photos together as a tribute to this bygone era. Rocky was also one of the original Redcoats and was entertainments manager at Filey when I was growing up. I used to spend all my time on the camp along with his daughter Sam Mason who herself became one of the youngest Redcoats to tread the boards at 14 years old. It's a tremendous idea as there are thousands of ex Redcoats, some famous, some infamous but all characters in their own right and all of us have our own special memories and photos. This type of holiday is a dying breed now but in it's day this was THE solution to keeping the whole family happy. It was the Redcoats job to keep all the Campers, as they were called then, happy and entertained. Their day was savagely long starting with breakfast with the Campers at one of the two sittings (the buffet concept never kicked in until many years later) then would come the activities, the Knobbly Knees contest, the Donkey derby, the obligatory activities around the outside pool which always resorted with at least one Redcoat being thrown in the pool. Good clean fun! This whole holiday concept was immortalized in the 80's in the TV show Hi-Di-Hi, whilst based in a rival camp, was Butlins through and through. I do not think there was a Redcaoat alive or indeed a Camper that did not watch this and identify with most of the story lines. My parents Anita and Cappy were exactly like the snooty dance couple - the ballroom dancers always thought they were head and shoulders above the other entertainment's staff!
Evenings were the best times at Butlins where after dinner the shows would start and the ballrooms would open. This gave the Redcoats a chance to shine and show off their acts in the hope of being discovered. Lots did! All the Campers would put there kids to bed in the chalets and go back to the theatre to watch the show. Patrols would be sent out to see if there was any babies crying - yes really they were left alone - and if so the patrol would head back to the theatre and a big display board would light up with 'Baby crying in chalet no 465'! Hilarious to think about that happening now but again this was a different era. After the shows everyone would go to one of the usually 2 ballrooms to join in an evening of dancing and fun and games. The Glamorous Granny competition was the stuff of legend and the title was always highly fought over. Again it was the Redcoats job to make sure everybody joined in with the fun and should some shrinking violet be standing in a corner on their own they would be persistent in getting them up on the dance floor.
The night would always end with a rousing chorus of the 'Goodnight campers see you in the morning 'song  followed by the National Anthem. Good times!
Please, if you have ever spent a holiday at Butlins worked at one of the camps join the Forever Butlins Facebook site share your memories with the group. You might finally be able to put a long forgotten name to the Redcoat face in your old holiday photos.


  1. This is one of your best posts yet! Lovin' it!

  2. I love this post and would love to see more photos. Just had time to read your blog and it is coming along so well! Saw the gardening and just sending a reminder that the summer is tick tocking away and you must do the summer grilling party!


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