We love the 70s, at Butlins
A wet weekend in Bognor may not be everyone's idea of a good time, but when you're at a We love the 70s weekend at Butlins, it can turn out to be a laugh!
An adults only weekend at Butlins sounds a bit sleazy, but I found that a holiday park without any kids makes for an incredibly easy weekend away - even the entertainment was thrown in!
For me, the 70s were a blur of school days and exams, and one incredibly hot summer. The small town in which I grew up played host to daredevil motorcyclist Eddie Kidd, who leapt an 80-foot gap across a disused railway viaduct, but that was about as exciting as it got!
I'm not a devoted fan of dressing up, nor of nostalgia, but a group of friends and I decided to head for Bognor Regis and take up Butlins' invitation to revisit the 1970s. Hey, Les McKeown of the Bay City Rollers was playing, so what's not to like?
The Bognor site sprawls along the seafront, and by the time I arrived at about 5.30pm on the Friday, the car parks were already pretty full. I assume that parking is more of a problem on their party weekends as many groups of friends, like us, were coming from different parts of the country and meeting there.
We rented a three-bedroom flat in Atlantic Bay, the gold-standard apartments. It was a well-arranged flat with a large, open-plan kitchen-diner-come-living room, three bedrooms and a bathroom. It was basically furnished, but perfectly comfortable and adequate for our needs. The single beds in the two twin rooms were covered with a waterproof coating which made rolling over a crunchy affair, but would be good for families of small children as there'd be no problems with bed-wetting.
My main gripe, as always in rented places, is that although the apartment was billed as self-catering, the saucepans were not really big enough to cook for six adults. And with only a small larder fridge, it would be hard for a family to stock up if they were staying on a week?s holiday. There is a small supermarket on site and a large Tesco about a ten-minute drive away, so it's easy to get fresh food if the standard fare of burgers, pizza and curry doesn't appeal.
The party weekend attracted a mixed range of age groups. There were a few groups of young adults, probably just scraping past the over-18s cut off, but the majority were slightly older. There were several hen and stag parties, as well as plenty of mixed groups. Most people entered into the spirit of things and dressed up in the evenings. The bars were full of glam rockers, and people sporting big hair and dodgy fashions, and everyone seemed up for a laugh.
Entertainment at Butlins seems to revolve around two huge bars, Centre Stage and Reds. These cavernous rooms are surrounded by slot machines and hot dog vendors, so the noise level is always high regardless of what time of day or night it is. The Skyline Pavilion also has a coffee bar and food outlets as well as arcade games to keep everyone amused.
The live entertainment was great. The weekend we were there, there were tribute bands for David Bowie, Abba, Queen and T-Rex, as well as originals including Les McKeown, Brotherhood of Man and the Real Thing. The tribute bands varied in quality (as one of my friends commented, T-Rex was more Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall than Marc Bolan), but the Real Thing were a genuine highlight.
Their energy and enthusiasm while belting out favourite hits like 'You to me are everything' and 'Can you feel the force?' was formidable considering they've been performing for some 30 years. And they seemed to enjoy the audience, even welcoming a group of friends dressed in spangly dresses and long gloves on to the stage to provide backing vocals.
The weekend we visited, it rained fairly solidly, so we weren't that keen to venture off and explore the surrounding area. But there was plenty to keep us entertained on the site. We happily spent an afternoon in Splash Waterworld, enjoying the flumes, slides, rapids and wave machines without hordes of kids screaming and jostling. My favourites were the Master Blaster, a kind of watery roller coaster that you ride in a blow-up dinghy, and the Space Bowl, a flume that delivers you to a huge bowl with a big hole in the bottom that you drop out of with very little dignity intact!
We also tried the ten-pin bowling, which at £5 per person proved quite expensive for our group of six. Other activities on offer included go-karts (again at additional cost and geared more for younger kids than adults), archery, crazy golf, and tennis courts and football pitches for the energetic. If Bingo's your thing, there's a Gala Bingo hall on site as well as a Ladbrokes if you feel the need to have a flutter, and a cinema.
The party weekend proved a great way for my group of friends to get together. The accommodation was comfortable and clean, and with all the evening entertainment just a short walk from our flat, we could dip in and out as we liked.
Need to know
Butlins have three holiday camps, at Bognor Regis, Minehead and Skegness. All three run party weekends on different dates throughout the year. For more information visit www.butlins.com
Prices start from £59 per person and include accommodation and access to all the bands. Some entertainments, such as bowling and go-karting, cost extra.