By the 1980s, after decades of immense popularity, the great British holiday camp was in terminal decline. The huge camps founded by Billy Butlin and Fred Pontin — the chalets, the dining hall, the redcoats (Butlin’s) and bluecoats (Pontins) — were becoming passé. Now the few that remain have been rebranded as holiday villages.
But why not bring them back? Surely old-fashioned camps had exactly what we need today: simplicity, gentle fun and a sense of community. They were about team effort, not atomised nuclear families. Above all perhaps, they had a sense of identity. And they were a life-changer for me.
I recently came across an online video of Gunton Hall, near Lowestoft, in the late 1970s. The film — all 19 minutes of it — was sheer time travel, because there on the screen, along with hundreds of other campers, were my brother, my dad and me.