Keeping up the Butlins Redcoats tradition

The Sling Swing class.  Picture: Ian Hargreaves

The dance class where you can boogie with your baby

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Redcoats have been providing entertainment and looking after guests at Butlins for nearly 80 years - and are still as popular as ever. MISCHA ALLEN visits Butlins at Bognor and talks to Redcoats about why they love their job.

Charlotte Robinson will always remember her first trip to Butlins in Bognor Regis as a young girl.

Charlotte Robinson.

Charlotte Robinson.

The magical rides, the glittering theatre shows and, of course, those happy, smiling folk in their red coats made a deep impression.

From then on, she couldn’t think of any other job she would rather have.

A decade on and the 21-year-old from Gosport’s dream has come true as she has been hired as a Redcoat by the resort. Now heading into her second season in the job, she loves it.

Charlotte, who now lives at the Bognor Regis site, says: ‘I got the chance to go on work experience and become a Redcoat for a week. I worshipped them when I was younger and I knew the place inside out.

13496_BUTLINS_19/2/13''(l-r) Billy Bear, Anthea Mundye, Sophie Harrison, India Mundye, Charlotte Robinson, Oliver Harrison and Karen Harrison. ''Butlins Holiday Resort, Bognor Regis, West Sussex.''Picture: Allan Hutchings (13496-483)

13496_BUTLINS_19/2/13''(l-r) Billy Bear, Anthea Mundye, Sophie Harrison, India Mundye, Charlotte Robinson, Oliver Harrison and Karen Harrison. ''Butlins Holiday Resort, Bognor Regis, West Sussex.''Picture: Allan Hutchings (13496-483)

‘I’ve attended dance classes since I was three and I had performed at shows and fundraising events before, but I always loved the idea of working with families and children. It’s important to me.’

The Redcoats are the frontline entertainers at the Butlins resorts and their responsibilities range from being entertainers to stewarding. For Charlotte, there’s nowhere else she would rather be.

‘It’s crazy when people want to have their picture with us because you feel like a celebrity, but you never take it for granted.

‘Some of the things we do include taking the characters out and about, working inside the venues at night, plus talking to the families and playing with the kids.’

She adds: ‘I want, as a Redcoat, to give families and children good memories for when they’re older. I love knowing I’m a part of that.’

Butlins has long been a favourite for families, with the Bognor Regis site at capacity over this February half-term. With nearly 3,500 guests staying, there’s lots of fun to be had and the Redcoats are an important part of that.

There are three Butlins holiday resorts in the UK – Skegness, Minehead and Bognor – and they will host more than 1.5 million visitors this year alone. In Bognor, millions of pounds has been invested with a brand new traditional fairground being opened and a restaurant carrying the name of celebrity chef Brian Turner.

Just last year the Redcoats’ uniform was re-vamped by British designer Hannah Clayton, whose designs have been worn by none other than pop star Lady Gaga.

Josh Anderson, 22, is the activities team leader of Bognor’s Redcoats and has been working there for just over four years. He says: ‘I think the Redcoats are memorable because they have so many years of history. They always had that prestige and I think over the years they’ve always been a favourite for families to see.

‘We get to interact and entertain the guests and we build relationships with them. We help make memories for all the families, not just the kids, and we end up spending a lot of time with them.’

Josh adds: ‘But then we have a lot of time to be able to chat and interact. I think it’s great we have fun with the kids and chat with the parents, and I think the parents really appreciate that aspect of it.’

With more and more investment being put into the resorts, everyone can see a difference in what it offers families, as Josh explains.

‘I think it’s completely different than it used to be. They’ve invested so much and it’s made big changes to the place. When I first started the Ocean Hotel wasn’t even here and, of course, there’s now the fun fair.

‘There’s also the new character show which includes werewolves and mermaids, which opens in a couple of months. I love everything about it here. You can do everything whether it’s sports, arts and crafts, seeing a show or going on the funfair. It’s like living in a little bubble or town.’

He adds: ‘You get kids coming up to you and asking for your autograph. But it never gets old.’

Jamie Thomson, 34, is the entertainer manager for all three Butlins’ resorts and first started out in the company in 1999 as a Redcoat. He grew up in Scotland, but applied for a job at Butlins in Bognor Regis for a summer position. When it came to the end of the season, he decided to stay on.

He believes that Butlins offers a lot of opportunities for young people as well as looking after the guests.

‘You can move forward with the company because it listens to everyone’s opinions.’

Since Butlins first opened nearly 80 years ago, people’s perception of entertainment has changed, but Jamie believes that Butlins is keeping up.

He says: ‘Kids can see the characters they see on television, such as Fireman Sam, which is important, but it’s also about personal interaction.

‘They want entertainment and they want big venues. They want something a bit different, which is what we’re trying to offer. The Redcoats are an integral part of this and Butlins. People return because they want to see them and they have a sense of fun about them.’

He adds: ‘They really are the connection between our guests and the Butlins brand.’

For more information about Butlins go to butlins.com.

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