A guide to the New East

Happy campers: what’s it like to live in Butlins, Britain’s cheap and cheerful resort?

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Whether you love it or hate it, or are too young to remember a time when a package holiday meant limbo-dancing and bingo-playing on the coast, Butlins remains an iconic piece of British heritage. When the first Butlins opened on the Skegness seafront in Lincolnshire, it was the first holiday camp in the UK to offer “a week’s holiday for a week’s pay”. By the 1960s, Butlins boasted nine vacation outlets across the UK. A vital part of the Butlins experience has always been the employees, in particular the on-site entertainers, the “Red Coats”, whose job is to greet, organise activities and, in its hey day, to wake up the guests each morning. Since then, holiday-goers have come and gone, with many Brits seeking better holiday weather abroad. Even with the high-end renovations, only three resorts have survived into the 21st century. Those who have stayed over the years are the staff. “A lot of employees come from Poland, Hungary or Romania and are trying to save up some money and live better than in their native countries,” says Polish photographer Wiktor Kubiak, who discovered this world while visiting friends working at the resort in Minehead. For the last two years he has been documenting the lives of the staff who occupy its former chalets, each no bigger than a garden shed. “Most of the people I spoke with had planned to stay for short period of time but the ease of life inside the resort has meant that some have ended up staying for years.” His series gives a glimpse into an unfamiliar side of Butlins — not just a quintessential British weekend escape but a home away from home.

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