If you thought Butlins still stood for knobbly knees and donkey derbies, you might be in for a shock viewing "Resort", a new series by the photographer Anna Fox.
Charting two years in the life of the company's Bognor Regis holiday camp – one of three such resorts left in the country – Fox reveals the changes that she claims have transformed the chain. Following a series of rolling multi-million-pound makeovers, "It's trying to rebrand into something more middle-class, which I object to," says the photographer, referring to its bowling alleys, spas, and high-spec hotel rooms.
It's all a world away from the original set-up envisioned by canny entrepreneur Billy Butlin 75 years ago, to provide working-class families with an all-inclusive package of accommodation, food and spoon-fed entertainment –a colourful escape from a world of hard graft, yet also familiar: "It was a home away from home, so people didn't feel outside their comfort zone," says Fox.
And now? "Shooting the series was like being on a film set. Everyone knew they were part of it – and for me that reflected the fabricated world you walk into."
While its gentrification has revitalised an ailing brand, with profits last year rising by more than 50 per cent, Fox claims there are now "fewer community-spirited events". Ah, bathing-beauty contests of old, where have you gone?
The series is at James Hyman Photography, London W1 ( jameshymanphotography.com), from 12 October to 12 November; Anna Fox: RESORT, a joint commission between the Bognor Regis Butlin's and Pallant House, will be on at The Pallant House Gallery until 2 October 2011 www.pallant.org.ukReuse content