The Great Britain Championships

So, we’re back home from the GBs and I can’t help myself but to comment on the experience. Butlins in Bognor Regis doesn’t exactly sound classy and snob I ain’t, but it was with a little trepidation that I drove down to the bottom of Bognor.

We stayed off site because when I looked at prices Butlins were quoting near £500 for a three night stay. I only wanted one night but that didn’t seem possible, you had to book out your room for the duration of the championships – nice one Butlins, saved you lots on housekeeping! Still, the cost led me to believe that the cheap seaside resort for Britain’s working class had become gentrified in the way of Hackney and Shoreditch. For the cost I was expecting CenterParcs and was half regretting my sensible and rather adult decision to leave my children at home (the older one in school actually) and deny them this experience.

So, small in support but here nevertheless, I was congratulating myself for being organised for once. In a plastic wallet for safekeeping I had the precious day pass thus avoiding the hullabaloo and stress of falling foul of Butlins’ capacity number. I also was pretty pleased with myself for booking the nearest hotel to Butlins. The girl at check-in told me we were a 5 minute walk along the beach front. How delighted I was. Result – I saved on Butlins’ astromical rates, bought myself a day pass which wasn’t that bad and was now saving on parking and getting a nice brisk walk along the seafront thrown into the bargain.

It was a 5-10 minute walk along the seafront. The sea was to the left of us and to the right was a 8ft perimeter fence to keep the inmates in or perhaps those pesky working classes from Essex out. With a heavy heart I knew it was Butlins even before I checked on my phone that we hadn’t set off in the wrong direction. The day entry gate made you feel like a pauper, ‘We cannot afford to stay in your good establishment but please sir may we just come in for a few hours, we promise to be gone by 8pm?’

Alas, it was still the same Butlins it always was (except I’ve never been to one before so perhaps there is a bit of a snob in my background); poor man’s Las Vegas with all the ‘amusements’ and fast food outlets – I thought Irish dancers were now seen as elite athletes! Those who were staying there didn’t rate it much either but perhaps thought the proximity to the competition was worth it. I have to admit though, the auditorium where my daughter danced looked the part. The big scary backdrop to the stage reminding us of the occasion rather than the venue, brought a tear to my very proud eye and for a little while I could forget where I was and enjoy the splendour.

I can’t say anything about other competitions on Friday, but my daughter’s one was run very well. We were lucky that we were on so early in the weekend as it was very un-feis-like from the amiable security person checking wrist bands to the calmness of the personnel side stage. It would be interesting to hear if it stayed like this for the duration. The only bug bear were the parents and teachers who would insist on going down to the front when their child/protégé was performing and in doing so would completely block the view of other parents whose child was also on stage whilst they hopped, spun, counted the steps and pointed to the ceiling (obviously the adults not the children). Anyway, aside from that and a few kid spectators whose behaviour suggested they did not want to be there because the pull of the ‘tack’ outside was too great, all was good. She danced, she made no mistakes, she used the stage and she did well. Proud mummy moment.

Time then for the pesky day visitors to have some Butlins’ fun. Except it wasn’t, rides closed at 4pm and the pool, whose flumes teased us that morning from the other side of the perimeter fence, closed at 5pm. Nothing for it but to sneak into the panto knowing we would be breaking our curfew. We watched probably a quarter of the show (which actually was really funny) and then panic set in. What if the little gate for the poor people (us) was locked at 8pm? Thankfully my angst at being locked in must have come across to my daughter as she agreed we better leave and we sped to the gate where thankfully the guard was still on duty and let us escape, sorry leave. A quick run along the beach front, it was now dark and quite scary, we were soon in bed with a hot chocolate divided into two mugs – this is what Irish dancing has done to us financially, day visitor at Butlins isn’t the half of it.

As I said, back home now  with a lovely medal and a feeling of immense pride. To dance at the GBs is an amazing achievement and I am truly blessed to have a daughter who is healthy enough to dance and has found a passion so young.

Will we go back to Butlins next year? You bet (if her teachers think she is still good enough) but I think we’ll be going through the pauper’s gate again.

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