Butlins Redcoats

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A Redcoat at Butlin's Minehead in March 2011
Redcoat on the skyline pavilion stage
Occupation
Occupation type
Employment, performing arts
Activity sectors
Entertainment, event management,
Description
Competencies Singing, dancing, acting

Redcoat is the name given to frontline staff at Butlins holiday camps in the UK. A Redcoat has duties ranging from adult entertainer or children's entertainer to stewarding.

History[edit]

Redcoats at Butlins Filey in 1947

The first Redcoat was Norman Bradford. When Sir Billy Butlin opened his first Butlins in Skegness he realised that the his guests were not engaging with activities in the way he had envisioned, most kept to themselves, and others look bored. He asked Norman (who was engaged as an engineer constructing the camp) to take on the duty of entertaining the guests which he did with a series of ice breakers and jokes. By the end of the night the camp was buzzing and the Butlins atmosphere was born.

The same night Butlin decided that for his camp to work he would require an army of people to carry out the same job as Norman, and the role of Redcoat was formed.[1]

Uniform[edit]

Redcoats with former England football player George Cohen, March 2011

To make his new army stand out, Butlin asked Norman to purchase a uniform. Norman later returned with a jacket in the camp colours of, blue, primrose yellow and white; however, Butlin found the look to be too authoritarian and decided they should wear red blazers with white lapels and the Redcoat uniform was born. The first uniforms were made by Billie Ditchfield who became one of the first two female Redcoats (the other was Kay Berry).

Over the years the uniform has changed several times, but has always retained the core component of a red blazer (despite a proposal to replace them with red jumpsuits in the 1970s).[1] In the 1960s and 1970s, braid and badges were added to the blazers. Famous designers such as Jeff Banks and Zandra Rhodes have redesigned the uniforms. To mark Butlins 75th anniversary, the uniform was re-designed very similar to the original design consisting of Red Blazer with dark braiding and a badge with the letters "BHC" on (standing for "Butlins Holiday Camps") and white trousers or skirt. This uniform was only worn throughout 2011 for the anniversary celebration, before a new uniform, designed by Hannah Clayton, was selected and is currently worn by the Reds today. Redcoats have two uniforms, the traditional formal uniform (called their number one) and a new casual outfit (their number twos to match their additional role as children's entertainers.[2]

Recruitment and training[edit]

A female Redcoat wearing pleated white skirt, March 2011

The Redcoats undergo a tough selection process. Despite this they are still paid only minimum wage and members of the 'triple threat' cast team (such as the skyline gang) are paid a considerable amount more. Recruitment roadshows are held nationally and prospective redcoats have to show potential in a range of fields including dancing and singing.[3][4]

In 1999 Butlins Introduced the now defunct Butlins ‘Academies of Excellence’ to train Redcoats.[5] However, this has since been replaced with a 6 week training course.[3] There is also the option of a foundation degree in either musical theatre, or Technical Skills for the Arts and Leisure Industry[6][7] Training includes aspects of direction and production and time spent as a Butlins Redcoat counts toward membership of Equity.[8]

Roles[edit]

Redcoats work in three areas, General duties, the Kid's Club and the costume character team. General duties are similar to those of a tour rep in a resort - Butlins even describe the role as "The Original Holiday Rep"[4] In the evening the Redcoats form part of the live entertainment team, starring in Gangshows and X-Factor style game shows.[3] Throughout the years, Redcoats have been expected to lead ballroom dances, stage and judge competitions, and steward theatrical performances as well as meeting and greeting guests in public areas. Redcoats run the children's clubs which provide sporting activities, competitions and arts and crafts. Each redcoat will have many different roles to fulfil in any given week.[1]

Similar staff[edit]

Further information: Holiday camp - Colour coats

Whilst Butlins remained the largest holiday camp chain in the UK, smaller camps copied the redcoat style of staffing, in the 1960s Fred Pontin adopted the Bluecoat to represent at Pontins holiday camps[9] and at some point Harry Warner decided Warners' holiday camps should adopt the Greencoat.

Media appearances[edit]

The ITV series Redcoats was a docusoap following the lives of Redcoats at Butlins Minehead and Bognor resorts. Over three series of 30-minute episodes, it shows the selection process, the Redcoats entertaining the visitors and life behind the scenes. The series was made by Pilgrim Productions.[10]

In fiction[edit]

The BBC television series Hi-de-Hi!, written by former Butlins employees Jimmy Perry (a Redcoat) and David Croft (summer show actor),[11] featured the Yellowcoats as a fictional analog. The title of the show "Hi-de-Hi" originated with Norman Bradford who claimed to have taken it from an American film; he began using this as a cheer to which the audience spontaneously responded "Ho-de-Ho".[12][13]

Another BBC television series, Doctor Who, featured an episode entitled Delta and the Bannermen, which depicted an alien attack on the fictitious Shangri-La holiday camp (in reality the Butlins camp at Barry Island). As with the real camp, Shangri-La was staffed with Redcoats played by extras.[14]

Notable Redcoats[edit]

Main category: Butlins Redcoats

A number of entertainers have been Redcoats in the early stages of their careers. Becoming a Redcoat is seen as a way into show business, as it allows a performer to become established as a professional for the purposes of joining the Equity trade union which then allows the performer to work freely throughout the industry. In exceptional cases a Redcoat may even become notable whilst in the employment of Butlins; Stephen Mulhern notably performed on the Royal Variety Performance in 1997 whilst still working as a Red coat,[15] and in the past notable singers have had chart hits. Clinton Ford, for instance, reached number 27 in 1959 with Old Shep just after completing his final summer season at Pwllheli. However prior to this in 1957 Russ Hamilton recorded a number 2 hit in the UK "We Will Make Love" (held off the top spot by Elvis Presley and All Shook Up). Shortly after this he recorded a number 4 hit in the U.S. Billboard with the song "Rainbow", and all the time Russ continued to entertain Butlins guests. It was Billy Butlin himself who asked Russ to record "We Will Make Love" for the benefit of Butlins guests.[16]

Other artists have gone on to find success building on the skills they learned as a Redcoat, such as Des O'Connor, Jimmy Tarbuck, and Michael Barrymore.[17] The role is an important part of the entertainment and tourism culture of the United Kingdom, and even today former redcoats are regularly identified in the press and in books by this role even though it may only have been a small part of their career.

Another famous Redcoat is Ted Rogers, a comedian mostly famous as the presenter of the variety/game show 3-2-1.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Butlins Memories -Redcoats, Butlinsmemories.com, retrieved 27 October 
  2. ^ From the catwalk to... Butlins, Bbc.co.uk, retrieved 27 October 
  3. ^ a b c Ewing, Ed (3 November 2006), Could you be a Redcoat?, London: The Guardian, retrieved 28 October 
  4. ^ a b Redcoat Auditions, WeArebutlins, retrieved 28 October 
  5. ^ Butlins loses hi-de-hi image, the BBC, 19 May 1999, retrieved 28 October 
  6. ^ Redcoat degree at seaside resort, the BBC, 29 August 2008, retrieved 28 October 
  7. ^ Clark, Laura (7 March 2009), The boffins of Butlins: University offers degrees in the finer arts of being a holiday camp Redcoat, London: the Daily Mail, retrieved 28 October 
  8. ^ Gould, Peter (31 July 2002), Bright future for Redcoats, the BBC, retrieved 28 October 
  9. ^ Butlins Memories - Pontins, butlinsmemories.com, retrieved 28 October 
  10. ^ Redcoats, Pilgrim Productions, retrieved 28 October 
  11. ^ Croft and Perry, davidcroft.co.uk, retrieved 28 October 
  12. ^ Butlins at Clacton, a History of the Man and the Holiday Camp, notebooknews.co.uk, retrieved 28 October 
  13. ^ Citizen 82 [Programme 2], Central Television, retrieved 28 October 
  14. ^ Delta and the Bannermen, mentalis.co.uk, retrieved 28 October 
  15. ^ Wilson, Benji (2 May 2009), In-taxi with Stephen Mulhern, London: The Daily Mail, retrieved 28 October 
  16. ^ Russ Hamilton: Liverpudlian singer-songwriter who had a hit in America years before the Beatles, London: The Independent, 17 October 2008, retrieved 28 October 
  17. ^ Famous faces launched at Butlins, The BBC, 11 April 2006, retrieved 28 October 

External links[edit]