Sunday, December 14, 2008


I used to love the 80’s comedy show, "Hi-De-Hi". Set in the fictional Maplins holiday camp of the 1950s, it bore more than a striking resemblance to many British holiday camps of years gone by. One of my favourite characters was chief Yellowcoat Gladys Pugh who woke unsuspecting campers with the immortal words, “Morning Campers! Hi-De-Hi!”. Billy Butlin opened Britain’s first ever holiday camp in Skegness in 1936 and despite some early teething troubles, the venture was an immediate success. The aim was to offer cheap and cheerful family holidays in luxury chalet accommodation that ordinary working families could afford, complete with all singing, all dancing Redcoat entertainers to attend to their every need. Meanwhile Butlin’s rival Sir Fred Pontin opened his first holiday camp at Brean Sands in Somerset in 1946 to meet the demand for family holidays from soldiers returning from World War II, offering families a low cost, chalet holiday with entertainment from Bluecoats entertainers. Some of Britain's most famous entertainers and comedians including the likes of Des O'Connor and Shane Ritchie, started their lives as Bluecoat and Redcoat entertainers at the famous holiday camps.

However today’s holiday camps are unrecognisable from those of years gone by, having done much to ditch their “Hi-De-Hi leaking chalets” and “knobbly knees contests” image with many having undergone massive refurbishments. Despite the credit crunch, business is booming at Britain’s holiday camps which have now turned into a billion pound a year industry as they enjoy a mini revival. Many Brits particularly those with families are choosing to holiday at home both to save money and to avoid the inevitable airport queues. More and more people are concerned at the impact of flying on the environment and the increasing number of airport security delays. So the likes of Butlins and Pontins have become more popular than ever, with bookings rising by as much as 8% in the past five years alone. Even the unreliable British weather is not a problem anymore as many camps boast indoor pools, restaurants and entertainment centres. There are also kids clubs to look after the children, whilst the adults enjoy the top quality entertainment and variety acts on offer. Many holiday camps are also offering themed entertainment weekends out of season to attract groups of single adults too, with many choosing to hold their stag and hen weekends there. There really is something for everyone at today’s holiday camps making holidaying in the U.K. an even more attractive proposition.


A Brit in Tennessee said...

Oh this brings back memories....
I used to work at the Lytham-St-Annes, Pontins when I was on my school summer break.
My job was to run the pony and donkey rides along the beach front, and mostly to try and stop the donkeys from rolling over in the sand with unsuspecting holiday go-ers on their backs.
On one occasion, the donkeys got loose and thoroughly destroyed the sand traps, on the old Lytham-St_Annes golf course, just before the English open was to start.
We had so many laughs at that holiday camp, a lifetime of wonderful memories, for little or no money !

Naomi said...

I know it well Brit in Tennessee! They still have the donkey rides but are now imposing weight restrictions on who rides them as there are so many obese children in this country. I'm sure you had a lot of fun working at the holiday camp. Thanks for stopping by. Hope you'll call in again.