The Butlin’s Story on ITV1 tonight

by Lisa McGarry

This one hour documentary on ITV1 celebrates 75 years since Billy Butlin opened his first holiday camp – in Skegness in 1936. In doing so, a household name and a British holiday institution were born.

We hear from those who have worked at Butlin’s down the decades – including now famous Redcoats like Roy Hudd and Stephen Mulhern; from ordinary holidaymakers who spent the winter months looking forward to their Summer break at Butlin’s; and from those in the entertainment industry who started out at Butlin’s – including Status Quo.

The documentary calls upon previously unseen home movie footage which has remained on shelves and in attics for decades, showing the changing face of Butlin’s down the years.

Butlin’s was the first large-scale, all-inclusive holiday camp in Britain and, in 1936, proved an instant success. We hear from holidaymaker David Bradshaw who returns to the Skegness camp he first visited on the very day that it opened.

By the time the war had broken out three years later, a second holiday camp had been opened at Clacton-on-Sea. But Butlin’s holidays were soon suspended as the camps were taken over by the armed forces. We hear from broadcaster David Jacobs who was stationed at Butlin’s in Skegness (or HMS Royal Arthur as it became known) and we reveal the story of Prince Phillip’s chalet during his wartime years at Pwllheli.

Silvia Collins tells us of her first visit to the Filey camp as a 16-year-old just after the end of the war while other contributors share their memories of Butlin’s straight after the war years.

We also find out how Butlin’s has played a part in the careers of many famous entertainers. We hear how Ringo Starr got the call to join The Beatles while he was playing at Butlin’s – and ITV’s Stephen Mulhern tells us how Butlin’s played a crucial role in shaping him as an entertainer.

We also hear the first hand accounts of some of the stars who have passed through Butlin’s over the decades, including Status Quo, Dame Kelly Holmes and comedian Roy Hudd.

But at the heart of this programme lies the stories of the ordinary campers who grew up at Butlin’s, met their spouses at the camps, honeymooned there and had the time of their lives in its resorts – all told using seven decades of archive footage, much of which has never been seen on television before.

This Liza Tarbuck narrated documentary tells the story of 75 years of ups, downs, and ups again of this British institution.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011, 8:00PM – 9:00PM