I am sure I am not alone in this, but until a weekend ago I had never been to a Butlins, or any kind of holiday camp for that matter. But when the opportunity came up to join a group of friends at an adult only ‘80s music weekender we all thought “why not?”.
Why not indeed. It was Bognor Regis, so close, it was inexpensive so a cheap weekend away, and the line up was full of the pop icons of my early adult years: Paul Young, Hazel Dean, Sonia, Katrina and, headlining, Jason Donovan. I admit to having danced my socks off to most of the line-up in an assortment of gay bars and clubs across the south east in my early 20s and beyond, well perhaps not Jason, but in those days he was on the gay scene persona non grata, an unfortunate situation that led to a court case and the eventual demise of a much loved magazine.
I had no idea what to expect but I was in for a real treat. Okay, there were things that I thought could be better, the range of food options was pretty limited, not bad, just limited and there was a definite lack of healthy options or ethnic foods for that matter, that is if you discount pizzas and a token chicken tikka massala. I ate a lot of chips to be honest, and as a treat a lot of chips went down very well.
I ate a lot of chips to be honest, and as a treat a lot of chips went down very well
The music was fun, some better than others. Jason Donovan had the audience whipped up pretty fast and delivered all his hits, Katrina was okay, but limited by her lack of hits and Hazel Dean was passable, which was disappointing. Paul Young’s voice is not what it was but his set was entertaining enough but it was Sonia who won our hearts with a fabulous set of hits delivered with energy and sincerity, and her voice is as good as ever.
The real winning factor though was the atmosphere, a true sense of fun, no aggression, affable drunkenness and good manners all around. The staff are immaculate and their smiles seem genuine rather that forced and nothing seems to be too much trouble. The signage and maps are pretty useless though and navigating the huge site was tough. And their app is pretty damned useless and needs work.
I even went swimming, or should I say wallowing, swimming through a sea of inflatable toys is pretty tough. And I took my first trip down a flume, an ambiguous experience that combined speed, excitement and the feeling of being flushed down an enormous lavatory. Would I return? Well not to the flume but definitely to a Butlins music weekender.