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.

News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was left red faced but, thankfully, unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards, sending her tumbling off the stage.
peopleIggy Azalea was left red faced but apparently unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition