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Glamorous Grandmother Competition Back

Click here to view a poem written by Glamorous Grandmother entrant, Joan Hartwell

Information, photo & article kindly submitted by Ron Stanway - General Manager, Entertainment & Promotions for the Butlin Group 1974 to 1990 and Competition Producer 1968 to 1990

Glamorous Grandmother CompetitionIn 1955, Billy Butlin (later to become Sir Billy) visited the USA and during his trip he met the famous film star, Marlene Dietrich. He could not believe that this very glamorous lady was also a grandmother.

Upon his return to England, he instructed Lt. Col. Basil Brown, Director of Entertainment, to incorporate a weekly competition at all the main Holiday Centres and Hotels, with each weekly winner invited to a FOC weekend holiday during the autumn to take part in either a Northern or Southern Area Final. At the Area Final, by a process of eliminating heats, each was reduced to 10 ladies who then went forward to the Grand Final of 20. The popularity of the competition was enormous and the larger holiday centres could have in excess of 100 competitors a week.

As the Butlin empire increased with the addition of Bognor, Minehead and Barry Island, plus the hotels at Llandudno and Scarborough, the number of sites running the competition was now 14. The Area Finals attracted something like 125 competitors at each and this stage of the competition rapidly became a club; a chance to meet old friends. Ladies entered year after year just to return to an Area Final; to get through to the Grand Final was a bonus. Ladies who were possibly defeated in a weekly heat would re-book, sometimes several times a season, until they qualified for that all important `reunion'. Throughout the 70's and 80's the competition enjoyed over 10,000 entries per year.

Other holiday camp organisations, introduced the competition into their weekly programmes but Butlin's had that all important prefix to the title `of Great Britain'. Many ladies entered all three competitions but Butlin's with their vastly superior prize money at the final, always had the edge.

Following the 1995 Final, the Butlin Marketing Department felt that the title was out of tune and renamed it the `Super Gran Competition'. The old rule that any lady winning the title was not allowed to enter again was now void as it was a new title. Several of the previous title winners came back anxious to rejoin their old friends.

With an entry of 10,000 plus per year it was a puzzle as to why they wanted to change the title. It was made even more surprising when the Butlin brochure was printed and showed, "SUPER GRAN COMPETITION. To find the most Glamorous Grandmother". So, nothing had changed but the title had lost its attraction and two years later following the 1997 final the competition was scrapped.

With the purchase of the Butlin Hotels by Grand Hotels Ltd in 1999, the idea was muted to resurrect the original competition and Ron Stanway, former General Manager, Entertainment & Promotions for Butlin's, who was now retired but who had run the Butlin competitions for 24 years, was asked to set-up the competition again.

Throughout the summer seasons 2000 & 2001, at the six Grand Hotels, twice weekly heats were held from May to the end of September and, just like the old days, the weekly winners were invited to attend either a Northern or Southern Area Final depending on their home address. Once again these were reduced down to a Final of 20, which took place both years at the Grand Hotel Scarborough.

Many of the regulars have returned and will enjoy the reunion type atmosphere at the Area Finals. No less than six former title winners are entered again. The 2000/1 winner, Mrs Linda Goodinson (51) from Sheffield, was not permitted to enter the 2002 competition (Grand Hotels imposed just a one year ban on their winners) but she will be eligible for the 2002/3 competition if a new source can be found as Grand Hotels discontinued the competition after the 2001/2 Final. Linda was guest of honour at the 2001/2 Area Finals and Grand Final.

The weekly entries in the 2001/2 year's competition numbered nearly 3000; considerably less than the days when the holiday camps were involved but, bearing in mind the size of the hotels by comparison, still a very good response.

Some ladies have been in this competition for 25 plus years and many of these have never reached the Final. Still they come back and the standard of dress is quite remarkable.

At the last Grand Final, Sue Arnold wrote in The Guardian, "likening the finalists to little old ladies is to describe Michael Schumacher as a Sunday driver".

Many of those who have come back to enter again are of course 10 or 15 years older but the consensus of opinion from these ladies is 'YOU HAVE GIVEN US A NEW LEASE OF LIFE'.

Stella Airey, with Billy Butlin
The very first Glamorous Grandmother winner, Stella Airey, with Billy Butlin in 1955
Photo reproduced with permission

Stella Airey (above with Billy Butlin) was the very first winner of the Glamorous Grandmother Competition. In her mid forties Stella entered a competition - just for fun - at Butlins in 'Skeggy.' She beat the competition easily in this preliminary round and then went on to beat all the other grannies in the finals at the Butlin's Hotel near Brighton.

Additional information on Stella Airey, including some more photos from the competition, can be found at http://www.leicesteroverseas.com/Stella_Airey.htm

Past Title Winners

Butlins, Most Glamorous Grandmother of Great Britain Competition.

1955 Stella Airey, Leicester 1956 Joyce Wheeler, N. Ireland 1957 Emily Williams,  Dublin
1958 Bertha Griffiths 1959 Iris James 1960 LynnPage,  Doncaster
1961 Daphne Jones,  Sandwich, Kent 1962 Jessie Gilpin, Chelmsford 1963 Mary Salus, Islington, London
1964 Grey Clelland, Bristol 1965 Stella Munday,  London 1966 Peggy Banaghan, Macclesfield
1967 Rose Woosnam, Chelmsford 1968 Mary Clarke, Coppull, Lancs 1969 Maisie Dunn, Chingford
1970 Doreen Moore, Liverpool 1971 Dallas Hadfield, Chesterfield 1972 Mabeth Wagstaff, Leeds
1973 Corinne Mooney, Scotland 1974 Patricia D'Amico, Blackpool 1975 Mary Page, Sutton Coldfield
1976 Jean Jaconello, Weybridge 1977 Pamela Burnell, Cardiff 1978 Patricia Stables, Brigg
1979 Verona Sampson, Coventry 1980 Judith Bardwell,Chingford 1981 Lilian Close, St Annes, Lancs
1982 Wendy Peters,  Harrogate 1983 Patricia Mitchell, Plymouth 1984 Julie Kesby, Southampton
1985 Susan Brown, Coalville, Leics 1986 Susan Aspinall, London 1987 Alice Foster, Chorley, Lancs
1988 Margaret Boyd, Darwen, Lancs 1989 Victoria Dickson, Bristol 1990 Ann Starkey, Sevenoaks, Kent
1991 Patricia Moller, West Molesley 1992 Joyce Whitfield, Wallasey 1993 Diane Chinn, Bristol
1994 Annetta Smith, Bury 1995 Vivien Kain, Gateshead    

Butlin's Super Gran Competition

1996 Ida Foster, West Bromwich 1997 Joan Harrison, Lytham St Annes

1998/1999 No Competition.

Grand Hotels, The Most Glamorous Grandmother of Great Britain

2000/1 Linda Goodinson, Sheffield 2001/2 Sylvia Jackson, Bolton, Lancs

(Grand Hotels dated their winners with the year of the reign following the Final, not the previous year when the weekly heats were held)

Glamorous Grandmother Images

Click on each image for a larger view

1988 Brochure Cover
1988 Brochure Cover
1988 Grand Finals
1988 Grand Finals 1988 Grand Finals
1988 Checklist
1988 Checklist
1968 Winner Mary Clarke
1968 Winner Mary Clarke
1975 Winner Mary Page
1975 Winner Mary Page
1985 Winner Susan Brown
1985 Winner Susan Brown