The days when thousands of us went to The Barry Island Resort for our summer hols
If you ask anyone from outside of Wales what Barry Island means to them, it's more than likely Gavin and Stacey will be the first answer these days.
The hit series, written by and starring James Corden and Ruth Jones, has brought the eyes of a nation to one of Wales' most beautiful seaside destinations, putting the spotlight on its golden beaches, cafes and family amusements.
But if you roll back the clock to the era of the mid sixties to the mid nineties, The area was famous for something a little different.
People from across Wales and the UK would flock to the Vale of Glamorgan hotspot for a week of fun, excitement and a family holiday which included your whole family, from your gran and granddad to your cousins.
A Butlins holiday resort, which later became Barry Island Holiday Resort, attracted thousands every summer to the area.
You’d be shacked up in chalets - colour coded either yellow, red or blue - which were suited for up to four people and would feature a lounge, kitchenette with a cooker, fridge and twin beds, plus a double bedroom, private bathroom and toilet.
But it would be a case of throwing in your luggage and heading straight out. You'd spend barely any time there, as you’d be out enjoying everything else the resort had to offer.(Image: Robert Dalling) (Image: Western Mail Archive)
The camp had endless hours of fun for all the family, and was one of the largest indoor entertainment complexes anywhere in the UK at the time.
It was amazing value for money, and once you’d paid for your holiday, the entertainment, shows, games, and snooker - on 37 full-sized tables, were all free.
Kids were able to enjoy an indoor fun fair, a games room, and the Tropical Indoor Reef Club swimming complex.
And if they wanted to get around quickly, they could hop on Timmy the train or Tammy the tram which operated from 10.30am until 5.30pm every day.
The focal point was the huge outdoor pool with its super flumes, with a stage set up above it where there would be regular entertainment.(Image: Western Mail Archive)
There were numerous indoor bowls and five-a-side soccer competitions, and shopping options too.
Inside Princes Shopping Centre there was a large supermarket, hot bread shop, sweets, a chemist, hairdresser and a hireshop.(Image: Robert Dalling / WalesOnline)
And you'd also have the Boulevard shopping mall, where you'd have the photo shop, shoe shop, rock shop, toys, fashion, sweets and cigarettes, fancy goods, drapery and beachwear on offer.
There was a chance to star in your own music video, as you could enter the 'pop box' where you'd be filmed dancing along to a song of your choice, with various elaborate computerised backgrounds added onto your video keepsake.
And there was just as much fun to be had in the evening.
Inside its 2,000-seater Gaiety Theatre there were four different shows a week suitable for the entire family.
And the Gaiety Ballroom was the place for families to rock around the clock with big bands playing seven nights a week.(Image: Robert Dalling / WalesOnline) (Image: Robert Dalling)
Memorably, it was also the venue for its big prize competitions such as Best Dressed Woman, Glamorous Grannie, Lovely Legs and the Miss Majestic Beauty Contest, with more than £2,500 in prize money.
And there were more competitions in the Princes Ballroom, with Bonnie Baby, Father and Son, Fancy Dress, Mr Macho and Picture of Health competitions for the kids. There would also be sequence and modern dancing six nights a week.
The adults were catered for too in the famous Pig and Whistle showbar, which from 8pm, would feature showgirls, artists and comedians.(Image: Robert Dalling / WalesOnline)
And at Ebony’s Lounge, there would be a more sophisticated lounge bar with gentle entertainment in comfortable surroundings, ideal for couples.
For those who wanted to keep the party going until the early hours, there was Co Co’s, a disco which opened at 11pm and went on until late.
In the day time, Co Co's would be used for kids' activities such as cartoon time and the 'Whizz Kids Wakey Wakey Club'.
The holiday camp was first opened in 1966 by Billy Butlin, who took out a 99-year lease on the headland at Nell’s Point.
His inspiration for opening in Barry came from a less than happy holiday there in his youth, when he had been locked out of his B&B all day by his landlady.(Image: Western Mail Archive) (Image: Western Mail Archive) (Image: Western Mail Archives)
It was enormously successful, but on October 29, 1986, Butlins, which had several other camps across the country, announced that Barry Island would not be part of the company’s future, closing it on December 31 the same year.
Many were left completely devastated by the news, but it was not to be the end.
It re-opened a short time later, on May 23, 1987, as Majestic Barry Island, later renamed The Barry Island Resort after a complete refurbishment under the late Rick Wright, who was hailed at the time as "the saviour of Barry Island".
The Redcoats became the Bluecoats, following Butlins' threat of legal action over the use of the name in 1991, and things continued happily for many years.(Image: Western Mail Archive)
The people behind the running of the resort were always coming up with hilarious stunts and events to keep the holiday campers enjoying themselves.
This was in no small part thanks to the creative mind of entertainments manager, the late 'Dazzling' Dave Brady, who was always full of ideas.
One famous moment came when Michael Jackson was appearing at Cardiff Arms Park on August 5, 1992, as part of his 'Dangerous' world tour.
The camp advertised that Jacko would be driving through the camp on his way to the gig to wave to fans.
It was something that drew the entire holiday park out, who were all hoping to catch a glimpse of the megastar.
But instead of the King of Pop, there was a bluecoat wearing a sparkly glove, waving out the window of a Mercedes car which flew past at high speed. The entertainment team went to elaborate measures of bringing in two security guards to add to the prank, and Michael Jackson music blared out from the poolside area.(Image: Western Mail and Echo)
But campers did get a chance to see a real star that same week, as Kylie Minogue performed in Barry as part of a Radio 1 roadshow, which saw many leave the camp for a few hours to visit the nearby The Square to watch the music before returning.
Another man behind a famous memorable stunt at the holiday camp was Adie Thomas who worked at the resort for one season back in 1991.
The DJ from the Redditch area was offered the job when he was spotted by Mr Brady whilst he was working at a nightclub. He thought he would be employed as a DJ, only to discover he would become an, at that time, redcoat.
His girlfriend, now wife Carrie-Ann, also came to work there with him, initially taking up a job at the shop Poppers, before becoming a redcoat herself.
"My duties involved being a DJ, compering, being thrown into the swimming pool, all sorts!" he said.
"It was great fun. It was hard work, as they were long shifts, we'd be working from noon until 2am the next morning.
"I met some lovely people, and some of my fellow redcoats have been long time friends ever since. I met some lovely people who came down as guests too, and some still write letters to me.
"I was always told by Dave Brady that if you were dressed in normal clothes around the site you would not be disturbed, but if you were wearing the redcoat, the white trousers and dickie bow, you would be stopped every two seconds for a photo. They thought you were stars.
"People would come to work and everybody had pigeon holes, and they would be full of letters from people who had been and had a great time."
There was one particular high-profile stunt that Mr Thomas will be remembered for.
Every Friday, he would be 'shot out of a cannon', with campers told from the first day they arrived what was going to happen the following week, creating such a build up that everyone would be out to see it happen.(Image: Adie Thomas) (Image: Submitted by Adie Thomas) (Image: Submitted by Adie Thomas)
Mr Thomas recalled: "Me and Dave were in his chalet one night having a few beers, it was me, my girlfriend, Dave and his wife Mandy.
"There was always a big event every Friday afternoon outside the pool, and Dave told me: 'I don't know what I'm going to do, but whatever I do, you're doing it'.
"He said to me, you're like Eddie the Eagle. I'm going to call you Adie The Atom and I'm going to blow you out of a cannon near the pool.
"He had a great mind for thinking up things. The way it worked was we had two of us, myself and Karl Derbyshire, who was another redcoat.
"He was dressed up like me and went onto the the roof of a three-storey block of chalets some distance away from the poolside.
"Thousands of holidaymakers would be outside watching it, as we'd built it up so much. There would be all smoke and pyrotechnics from the cannon I was inside, and then Dave would say on the microphone: 'Did you see him?' And Karl would wave from the top of the chalet roof.
"But then I would jump out of the cannon and Dave would say: 'Oh, they tricked us!' and me and Karl would both be chucked in the pool."
Kerry Instone went to Barry Island at least once a year from the mid 1970s to early 1990s with her family, travelling down from the Berkshire and Hampshire areas, and described them as “the best times of her life.”(Image: Kerry Instone) (Image: Kerry Instone) (Image: Kerry Instone)
“I remember the freedom of being able to go where we wanted whilst we were at the camp, my brother and I had a chalet key on a shoelace around our necks and if we wanted to go somewhere, we did,” she said.
“I remember going into the Princes Building for the indoor fair and snooker. I seem to remember so many tables and I can almost still smell what it was like.
“The arcade through the Gaiety building - the smell of popcorn, the seafood stall. The shops selling Welsh dolls, Welsh hats, the stripy candy canes with sweets in, rock.
“The sound of the arcade at the top, I spent hours each holiday there. I also remember playing bingo, it was fab. I loved the adrenaline of sliding those shutters across and saving up for prizes! There was a Welsh lady that used to do the calling, very dark curly hair, glamorous and lovely Welsh accent.
“I remember Toot & Ploot, Beaver Club, 913 Club, fun on the sports field. The outdoor funfair, the roller skating rink, the slide, the dodgems, the twister and the paratrooper as well.
"I loved riding the cable cars. I recall a young guy working on them whose name was Daz, I remember thinking it was a really exotic name and I guess I may have had a crush on him!"
Ms Instone always stayed in 'Blue camp' with her family.
"Blue A 216 we asked for and got every time, which was lovely," she said.
"It was overlooking the beach, it was fabulous. Some of us used to go down to the beach and write messages in the sand for the others up in the chalet.
"I remember the chalet, the furniture. the bedding, the cutlery all marked with the Butlins logo. The whistling kettle, 50p electricity meters, washing my hair with a jug for the water.
"I remember getting ready to go out in the evening, the sun going down and all walking up to the Gaiety Building for pennies in the arcade, the theatre show and then the rest of the night in the ballroom.
"I remember the competitions we took part in. I can’t remember what one was called, but it was for mothers and daughters, I remember having my hair like Princess Leia and feeling so cool!"
- Barry Island's log flume closed after family's cart 'came off the rails'
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The video used in this article was provided by JJT Adventures, whose YouTube channel can be found by clicking here.
Katie Smith first went to Barry Island in 1991 when she was seven, travelling from Ipswich with her younger brother Nicky, who was aged five, and her mum and dad Carol and Peter.(Image: Submitted by Katie Smith)
"The holidays are the highlight of my childhood," she said.
"I can’t quite explain the excitement in the build up to our week away. Arriving in Barry you would turn the bend and spot the log flume at the pleasure beach and the camp behind it, a white building edged with blue.
"I can vividly remember the impatient wait for me and my brother as mum would have to queue to check in and get our chalet key. We just wanted to get going.
"There was so much to do. A whole room upstairs full of rides, all free. A sports room full of snooker tables. My brother loved the room with a large model railway - he would spend hours watching this.
"I loved walking up and down the shops in the ‘boulevard’ wondering what to spent my holiday money on. I remember a particular highlight was getting my hair braided at the hairdressers.
"The swimming pools were amazing and huge, I can remember spending hours in the outdoor pool particularly. They even provided entertainment and the red/ blue coats would come and do party dances by the pool.
"Mum or Dad would drop us off at Co Co's where there would usually be films on first and various games/entertainment and then a disco."(Image: Submitted by Katie Smith) (Image: Submitted by Katie Smith) (Image: Submitted by Katie Smith)
Miss Smith made a lifelong friend there called Carrie Draper, and is now godmother to one of her daughters, Hattie, and Ms Draper is godmother to her children Renee, Toby, Ollie and Marley.
"I made a lifelong friend at one of these discos who is now my children’s godmother, and I hers!" Miss Smith said.
"I can also remember seeing various shows at the Gaiety theatre. The main entertainment was fantastic, good old fashioned holiday fun, party dances, cabaret and the ‘resident band’ John Oliver and his band. I recall a lot of ‘oggy oggy oggy - oi oi oi! '
"They had the ‘whizz kids’ as entertainment for us kids as well as the red/ blue coats and a big part of the holiday for us was getting pictures and autographs from them all. I still have mine.
"One of the best things about Barry Island was that everything was included in the cost of the holiday, so we had the freedom, especially as I grew up a bit, to go off and explore by ourselves.
"We were often in the further away chalets (reds) and we would get Timmy the train, also free, over to the main buildings to amuse ourselves while mum cooked or dad walked across the road to the little fish and chip shop.
"We would also visit the pleasure beach at least once and the beach several times if the weather was good, which in my mind it always was, but that may just be positive mind set.
"The camp was definitely run down and the chalets particularly. One year mum had to catch a mouse on arrival! But we just didn’t care. We would still be visiting to this day if we could.
"I wish I could give my children even one weeks experience of a Barry Island holiday. We visit a Barry Island regularly as it holds so many happy childhood memories for me."
In its later years, maintenance had become an issue at the camp especially with the chalet’s flat roofs and wooden panelling.
A clause was even added to the booking conditions limiting action to 20% of the cost of the holiday.
BBC show That’s Life! visited the site to investigate, and a report aired in January, 1989, titled ‘It’s Barry Awful. It’s Barry Hell’, and encouraged anyone who was off there that summer to send them a postcard.
By the end of the summer of 1989, testament to the immense popularity of the camp, the show received 8,000 postcards, with only 40 complaints.
Mr Wright sued and Majestic received £500,000 in damages.(Image: Western Mail Archive)
But in the years that followed, storm damage caused more maintenance problems.
The Vale of Glamorgan Council threatened to refuse renewal of its entertainment licence, unless work was carried out to improve the then 30-year-old site.
It closed for good on November 7, 1996, and was sold for £2.25 million to the council, which demolished the camp in October, 1997.
The land was sold to Bovis Homes for a housing development, and homes were built on the site between 2002 and 2003, with the remaining two original camp buildings and the outdoor pool being demolished in early 2005.(Image: Kerry Instone) (Image: Kerry Instone) (Image: Kerry Instone) (Image: Kerry Instone)
Ms Instone went back to the camp when it was half demolished.
"It was very sad," she said.
"A security guard took me in through the gate and took me inside the buildings that remained like the Regency, the pool, the Gaiety (old, empty shops, the theatre and the ballroom). It was heartbreaking.
"I’ve also been back since it’s become just houses and again, it was very sad.
"Happy days indeed and it makes me incredibly sad that I won’t see a time like it again, but my memories remain."
Whilst the days of Barry Island Holiday Resort and Butlins are now just a memory, the people who went there will never forget the days they had some of the best holidays of their lives together as a family, both young and old.
You didn't have to get on a plane to get there and there wasn't that lure of a foreign destination with virtually guaranteed warm weather, but it was a fun-filled environment where there was something going on at all times, uniquely catering for adults, children and the elderly at the same time.
Children could roam off by themselves with a feeling of safety, whilst adults could sit back and enjoy a leisurely pint at Ebony's and watch the world go by.
And you had even more options outside, where you could have a stroll along Barry's beautiful beach or go and spend a few hours at Barry Island Pleasure Park, which to this day is full of amusement rides.
As many look to spend staycations in the UK as the coronavirus pandemic continues, this place once offered the ultimate place to get away from it all and only be a few hours away from home, and it will not be forgotten by all those who were lucky enough to experience it.