We’ve recently given thought to the idea of a staycation. Thinking back to our childhood years, our first memories of holidays in particular Butlins, are still quite kitsch, quite british and strangely cool. Below are nostalgic thoughts of butlins, (the original staycation and british seaside pictures to inspire!)
Staycation – a predicted mass shift by recession-hit Britons towards domestic holidays – has slipped fashionably into the modern tourist lexicon in recent years. If you believe all the media reports on this phenomenon, a combination of the recession and the feeble pound will see/have seen millions of families abandoning their villa on the Algarve for a cost-conscious domestic alternative.
According to a recent survey by Mintel, some 35% of Britons said the economic climate had stopped them from booking a main holiday in the next six months, despite the fact that such a break has increasingly become seen as a right rather than a privilege throughout the recent era of cheap, easily accessible overseas travel. As a result domestic holiday centers such as Butlins – that veritable English institution – are enjoying a revival.
Butlins, the nation’s favourite cheap and cheerful holiday resort may have battled with an image problem in the past but new investment is hoping to put it firmly on the pampering map! The company’s PR department has obviously been in overdrive recently with articles on their new £20 million Ocean Hotel in Bognor Regis (the South Coast resort that famously caused George V to exclaim ‘Bugger Bognor!’ when told by his doctors to convalesce there) featuring in most of the national newspapers.
In the 1960s, Billy Butlin commissioned colour photography maestro John Hinde to immortalise his empire. The results spawned the tradition of the lurid, hyper-real postcard. Each photograph was stringently composed by Hinde and his team, and the colour saturation doctored to render everything in unnatural Technicolor. It was the job of two German photographers (Elmar Ludwig and Edmund Nagele) and one British (David Noble) to execute the photographs to Hinde’s rigorous formula.
“Long viewed only as a master of kitsch Hinde is now recognised, albeit posthumously, as a peerless social documentarian. Dazzling in their their colour intensity and strange clarity…. Visionary, Wonderful.” Sean O’Hagan, The Observer, London
“Extraordinary…the combination of aesthetics and promotion produced something that bypasses documentary and approaches an arresting British surrealism.” David Jays, Financial Times
It’s interesting to note that the postcards had an impact on the young Martin Parr, who worked over two summers at Butlin’s in the early 1970s and introduces the images for this book. You can see how the photographs has had a lasting impact on his own photographic aesthetic – Martin Parr’s portfolio on Magnum website.
More than 10 million British holidaymakers have stayed at Butlins since then, and though modernised versions of the camps still exist, their glory days have long been over (que the new Ocean Hotel resort).
You can read a potted history of the Butlins resorts on the BBC website here.
And here is a slideshow of photos from Butlins resorts in their heydey.