My work on seaside history naturally drew me to the subject of holiday camps and after publishing my book of that title in 2010 I was delighted to be asked to write the Official History of Butlin’s for the company’s 80th birthday in 2016.
Billy Butlin was one of the 20th century’s most significant entrepreneurs with an enviable knack for knowing what the British public wanted before the British public knew themselves. During his twenties he built up a business of seaside amusement parks that meant he was a millionaire even before he launched his famous holiday camp brand in 1936. His plan was to offer afforable luxury to the masses of middling people who were otherwise confined to the old-fashioned seaside boarding house. He provided chalets with the freedom to come and go, top name entertainers, a huge range of sporting activities and the chance to make new friends. By 1963 he was playing host to a million British holidaymakers each season, across 8 sites around the UK and Ireland.
In researching The Nation’s Host: Butlin’s and the story of the British Seaside I was lucky to have privileged access to the Butlin’s Heritage Collection from which to choose a wealth of wonderful imagery, much of which has never been published before.
Profits from the book go to Great Ormond Street Hospital, one of the many charities that Billy Butlin supported during his own lifetime.
My next project is a biography of Sir Billy Butlin, telling his incredible rags to riches story for a new audience.