Minor British institutions: Pontin's holiday camps

It is a surprise to learn that in a world where the budget airlines have made nice bits of Europe accessible for £1 and a package holiday to south-east Asia can be enjoyed for a few hundred quid, that the Pontin's holiday camp is still an option.

There are only five of them left, re-branded "centres", the Blackpool establishment being the most recent to go. Founded in 1946 by Fred Pontin as a rival to Billy Butlin's venture, there were a couple of dozen during the camps' heyday in the 1960s.

Indeed, so successful had Sir Fred's company become that you could even "Go Pontinental" by the mid-1970s, Spanish weather adding to the charm. Bluecoats (as opposed to redcoats) such as a young Shane Richie offered the entertainment.

It is gratifying to see that the Prestatyn centre is still going, as it was the setting for the 1973 classic Holiday on the Buses. Sir Fred sold his chain in 1978; it has changed hands many times since. An ironic, retro alternative to the usual fortnight in Tuscany?

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