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Butlin's Skegness – 'Our True Intent is All for Your Delight' by Brett Shaw Back

Now…let me think back…

I remember Butlin's being an extremely colourful place. The multi-coloured chalet lines were always a great sight for me; being there as a child was like being transported to another world.

The fun fair, located at the north end of the camp was fantastic and definitely one of the highlights of my visit. I have fond memories of being a youngster and loving the Vintage Cars, the Peter Pan Railway, the Little Big Coaster and other toddler rides located in the indoor part of the fun fair. On the last day of our holiday, a Friday, my older brother would always take me on the 'big rides' like the Dodgems, Big Wheel, Merry Mixer, Waltzer, Tempest and Mexican Hat.

As a youngster I remember going to the Gaiety theatre with my mum. I don't remember a great deal, aside from queuing outside. But, I do remember Redcoats performing the song 'Tomorrow' from the show 'Annie' on the Friday night before we were due to leave on the Saturday.

As I got older, my days at Butlin's were happily filled with time spent in the amusement arcades like Harrisons, which was at the south end of the camp next to the crazy golf course, and the Showboat. I loved playing arcade games like Space Harrier, Paper Boy, Outrun, Space Invaders, Asteroids and the High-Low card game.

Although it was fun in the day, things seemed to come to life at night. Young people bustled in the arcades like bees buzzing 'round a honey pot. If not in the arcades I would be in the cinema watching a movie or in one of the discos. I loved and still do love music. I had a many a great time in one of the ballrooms listening to music and break dancing or just hanging-out. It was during these times where I would often make friends with kids from other cities.

The Scalextric room was also great fun - I had many hours of enjoyment playing on the different tracks, as well as the tanks. They also stocked Tamiya radio controlled cars and models which were and still are a hobby of mine.

Wow! I could not believe it when I first saw the miniature motorbikes, located near the crazy golf course. 50p a go - I think I must have spent half my pocket money on them. Riding BMX bikes in the mid 1980s was also another love of mine.

My brother and I were also massive snooker fans, so we enjoyed the Edinburgh Games room. A few times during our holiday we would have a few frames of snooker and I could pretend to be Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins. Every season they also had a guy there doing snooker trick shots, which was great.

During my stay I would always ensure that I utilised the full breadth of the camp, so enjoyed the boating lake, the beach and the indoor swimming pool. I never really used the swimming pool much, as I have never been a great fan of water, but do remember it having large square cut-outs so you could see into the pool from the foyer.

And, if that was not enough there was also the fun of the monorail, which I absolutely loved. It was like something from outer space. I enjoyed the chairlifts which were slightly scarier than the monorail, but they always gave you a good aerial view of the camp.

While I was doing all this my mum would be playing bingo every afternoon in one of ballrooms, buying what are now the 'saucy sea-side postcards', shopping, watching a show or just reading and relaxing or escorting me around when I was younger.

I have many fond memories of my mum and I returning from a show or night out and buying a polystyrene carton of seafood or a takeaway and walking back to our chalet down the main walkway. Although it was still relatively warm at night there was a slight breeze which turned the evening slightly cooler.

Walking south down the campsite I remember lights from the takeaways shimmering silver streaks on the surface of the water on the tiered stone fountains, and the light from the sign 'Our True Intent is All For Your Delight' on the Tower building reflecting on to the surface of the south swimming pool in neon red lights, as we passed by.

In the air I could smell chips and fish, steak and kidney pie, grits and the sugar from Coca-cola cartons. I could hear the sound of 1980s pop music, laughter and chatter, the whizz and ping of arcade machines and a voice saying, 'Step right up', while the voices of kids pleaded with their parents to let them stay out just 5 minutes more. The further south we walked, the quieter the sounds of Butlin's became. Back at the chalet I had my takeaway to enjoy, and I always felt over-stimulated from my day’s excitement, but nicely tired as well - ready to do it all again tomorrow.

I loved everything about Butlin's at Skegness, and a week there was never enough for me; I always looked forward to going back the following year. 14 years of fantastic holidays have made a huge imprint on my heart - Butlin's will always be a very special place to me.

1986 was the last time I went, I was 14. After that it gradually slipped from my mind as I got older and focused on other things. However, when I was about 25, I was prompted to remember, as my brother started taking his son. My brother would say how overtime it had changed so much – no monorail, no chairlift, fun fair had moved south, old chalet lines demolished, TV rooms gone etc. I felt quite sad at hearing such news. However, now 39, I only recently discovered the Butlin's Memories website, which is an absolute treasure-trove for us retro Butlin’s campers. It immediately took me back – igniting all the old thoughts, feelings and images.

Anyway, less about the past, what about the future? After 25 years, and a lot of research into how much the camp had changed, I returned back to Butlin’s Skegness in 2012, with my son and partner. To be honest, I was probably as excited as my son. That said, I was not jumping up and down on back seat of the car like he was, but I can certainly identify with the feelings. The camp was very different to when I was there in 1986 – non recognisable in most respects - but what do you expect with a 25 year gap and millions of pounds of investment?

But, my son absolutely loved it. The Skyline Pavilion was a hive of activity – character shows like Mike the Knight, Billy Bear, Bob the Builder, Pingu and photo experiences, Redcoat performances, restaurants, arcades, bowling and cinemas.

The puppet theatre was also a great hit with him. He enjoyed the fun fair and Bob the Builders Yard, and one of his most favourite activities was Splash World. There was so much to see and do, you can't fit it all in.

Geographically, it's not the Butlin's that I remember, but it certainly had the same Butlin's feel as it's always had. Walking to and from the attractions felt the same as it always did, and returning back to the apartment after a fun day out with my son on my shoulders, felt exactly the same as it did for me and my mum walking home after a tired day at the amusements over 25 years ago. It's great to be able to pass such experiences on to my son, so he can have the same great times that I enjoyed - I look forward to many more great Butlin's holidays with my family.

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