NOTE: This is a shorter article than intended because life got ahead of me and I didn’t get to write it all up for a couple of weeks and then my computer lost the draft. FML. We also saw The Fall at this event but I’m pretty sure that no one will ever believe that The Fall played at Butlins so I won’t bother telling you that Mark E Smith really is that mardy in real life, but also brilliant.
WHODATHUNK? I hadn’t been to Butlins since I was a kid and remembered it as a mixture of slightly grubby apartment blocks and cabaret audiences divideded into ‘houses’ called Grosvenor and Embassy. Oh and they had this incredible version of ‘childminding’ that involved staff simply keeping an ear out and your chalet number popping up in lights next to the stage if anyone heard your bratlings kicking off (does anyone else remember that, or am I just incredibly old?). I was always most excited about being able to go the cinema in the middle of the day – proper loose living, that was.
I’d seen the Butlins resurgence over the last few years and other than quite liking the retro look I’d not given them much thought, mostly because the idea of spending a week in such close proximity to Other People’s Kids makes me feel all skeevy. Then the Chap spotted an ad for Rockaway Beach – an ‘indoor music festival’ at Butlins Bognor Regis (seriously, how can anyone take a place seriously when it’s got ‘bog’ in the title? I remember snorting merrily as a kid at the idea of ‘going to Bog’, and it turns out that growing older has not translated into maturity).
WHAT A FUCKING GENIUS IDEA. No kids, all adults just wanting to see bands. And it was a really good lineup, including Echo and the Bunnymen (our main incentive for going, tbh), Johnny Marr, The Fall and Spiritualised.
There is something seriously bloody surreal about watching ‘actual’ bands at Butlins (as opposed to the cheese-fest nostalgia weekends they also run). The awesome Ghostpoet seemed as bemused as we were, mumbling into the mike “Butlins. We’re playing Butlins. This is weird.” It is also bloody brilliant. The venues are all indoors and all next to each other. They were also only a two minute walk from our apartment. THIS IS PERFECT.
Butlins appears to have given everything a makeover, including the staff, who were super friendly yet inconspicuous. We were upgraded on arrival and the ensuing maid service was brilliant – not only did we end up with so many clean towels that we actually had to turn them down on one visit, but they also did the washing up. You don’t get that in a soggy tent at Reading.
It was a ridiculously long way to drive and I still can’t say ‘Bognor’ without sniggering. But would I go again? You betcha.