From hi-de-hi to lah-di-dah: Butlins goes upmarket

In a blaze of publicity, and a flurry of adjectives such as sophisticated and contemporary, the company launched what it called its first resort hotel at Bognor Regis on the Sussex coast.

The Shoreline Hotel is as far away as it is possible to get from the 1950s image of Butlins - a mix of draughty wooden sleeping chalets, works-canteen style dining rooms, and those ever-smiling jollity enforcers, the Redcoats, crying Hi-de-hi! and Wake Up Campers!

The £10m Shoreline, reminiscent of a cruise liner in shape, offers king-size beds and wide-screen televisions, as well as all-day check-in, room service, an English bistro restaurant, a cocktail bar, landscaped gardens, and leisure space.

Those staying in the hotel's Nelson's Staterooms - the top-of-the-range accommodation - get fluffy bathrobes and slippers, reserved parking spaces, and balconies with sea views, complete with a telescope, while for the children there are funky bunk beds and separate television and games consoles.

And hey, there's more. Floor-to-ceiling windows with central window opening and balcony rail. Ensuite bathroom with shower, bath and heated towel rail. Tea and coffee making facilities, hairdryer and safe. Internal phone. Travel cot available (free of charge if requested at time of booking).

The Shoreline, says the promotional material, combines style with all the fun of Butlins at affordable rates - starting at £79 per night for a family of four. And it has to be said that the hotel itself looks bright and airy and a world away from the traditional image: the flavour aimed at is Manhattan, or the Côte d'Azur.

But it's still Butlins. And it's still Bognor, come to that. Can the firm really succeed in climbing Mount Cool? The people running it think so. "It isn't going to happen overnight, but we believe a perception change is already starting to work, and this is showing through in our bookings," said John Dunford, a director of Bourne Leisure, the company that now owns Butlins. "The days of knobbly knees competitions and wake-up calls at 5am are long, long behind us."

From nine holiday camps at its height in the 1950s, Butlins now has three holiday resorts, at Bognor, Minehead and Skegness, with a total of 4,500 apartments: a million guests a year pass through them. It plans to replicate the Bognor Shoreline at its other two locations.

"There's already a new generation coming to Butlins," Mr Dunford said. "If we make what we are offering to families contemporary, people will come."

But it may still be a battle to alter the way the brand is regarded, as it became one of the defining images of a whole era: the first example of the mass organised holiday experience by the British working class.

Torremolinos and the Spanish package tour were not even dreamt about when Billy Butlin opened his first holiday camp at Skegness in 1936. The experience of living in the chalets - no bigger than modern garden sheds - and of being bossed around by the Redcoats and their sing-songs and glamorous granny competitions is as much a part of the memory of the 1950s as Brylcreem, lino and National Service.

Now Butlins is heading for the 21st century, and the sunlit uplands of Style.

Good luck, chaps.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific