Why I Love Holiday Parks


Watching an escapologist stuck in a homemade sack while his sidekick smiled uncomfortably, I laughed until my sides ached.

My dad found the muffled cries just as hilarious and the epic entertainment fail at a Welsh caravan park has gone down in family folklore as a holiday highlight to remember.

Fast forward 20 years and I'm again howling at the on-stage antics of a holiday camp turn. This time it's Chico of dubious X Factor Fame, enthralling a Butlin's Bognor Regis audience as his backing track stalls, twice.

But more importantly, my daughters love it too. A red coat has just told a joke about Lady Gaga (How do you make her angry? Poke her face) and they're in seventh heaven. Some may look down their nose at such cheesy holiday diversions but we can't get enough.

For my family at least, these riotous laughter-filled evenings are a much more attractive prospect than a new 'mini me' experience for children at London's Ritz Hotel or posh treats at the nearby Athenaeum in Mayfair.

They also happen to be much kinder to my pocket.

Shows at UK holiday parks, sometimes ambitiously called cabarets, have kept my family rolling in the aisles for generations. At Barry Island Butlins in 1976, again with my dad, I gleefully chanted "Eas-y eas-y" and winced as two out of shape men threw each other awkwardly around a wrestling ring. Come the evening, my nan and granddad donned their finery to watch Vince Hill in The Pig and Whistle.

You may think things have moved on and that UK holiday parks now inevitably offer slick, professional productions to rival a paid-for theatre spectacle.

How I wish that were always true. There's no doubting the famous red coats are a cut above and my children have been well impressed with their talents when we've visited both Bognor and Skegness. There was no stopping the excitement when aged just four, they first set eyes on Bananas in Pyjamas on a Butlins stage. At Haven's Quay West in West Wales, over the years, we have also been awestruck at feats from the Moscow Circus.

But still in holiday parks across the UK, mulleted singers are belting out power ballads as families wait for the bingo and dire tribute acts are testing their playlists. For every new entertainment gem, there's another faded 1970s star or even a newer comedian unfortunately moulded in the form of Freddie Starr or Jim Davidson.

But we love it – a classic rendition of it's so bad it's good.

It's more than five years since my daughters set out with their dad to see Keith Harris and Orville, even though of course, they'd never heard of him. I think they stayed ten minutes. Nobody warned them how blue the baby green duck had turned.

Not everyone loves such cheesy entertainment. Many forward thinking parks are investing heavily and improving their act.

My friend Kim recently returned from a week's stay at Chesil Vista Holiday Park in Weymouth, Dorset. The calibre of the entertainment was a definite winner.

Kim says: "I came away thinking the entertainment was outstanding, especially for the children. It was well above anything I had seen at a UK holiday park before and much, much better than I expected, I still rave about it now and my son Oliver, now four, continues to remember when he met Ben and Holly from Nickelodeon."

Not everyone is convinced. Helen Moffat, contributing editor at Have a Lovely Time who stayed at the Park Resorts Cayton Bay, North Yorkshire, says holiday park entertainment just isn't for her.

Helen, mum to Ellie, eight and Rhona, five, says that she wouldn't seek out the shows or any branded characters for her children, as they see the park simply as a base to explore the area.

"The park is somewhere for us to eat and sleep while we're away, rather than a source of entertainment. We love the fact that staying in this type of accommodation can prove such good value, but I don't factor in the entertainment, we just want to do our own thing."

Whether it's for the entertainment or as a basecamp, I'm convinced nothing beats a holiday camp for building a bank of happy holiday memories.