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crumbling chalet by Paul Wray
  Paul Wray
Extracts from an interview between Sarah Daniels and Paul Wray

Paul Wray has spent hundreds of hours at Butlin’s Filey, first as a young boy on family holidays, then as a young man in the late seventies. Following closure of the camp, Paul gained access to the site and it’s buildings collating thousands of photographs, and video footage. He later published his book with Hutton Press ‘Butlins Filey - Thanks For The Memories’ which, 14 years later is still very much in demand and can often be seen on the internet auction website ‘ebay’, fetching prices much higher than it’s original book price.

Sarah Shall we start at the beginning? You went to Butlin’s as a child.

Paul We used to go, with only living 30 miles, we either went for holidays every year or went on day trips. My sisters were dancers so they would take part in the Butlin’s competitions for dancing and then we would get day trips as well to watch them. So that was my experience of it, I only ever visited Filey camp.

Sarah So you went quite regularly?

Paul We’d always be there at least two or three times a year, if not for holidays, then for day trips. My last time there was the season of 1981 and I went for a day trip just to see what it was like and re-live memories.

Sarah So, lets move on in time. You went back again didn’t you?

Paul I went back was to see my eldest sister who was staying in a caravan at Primrose Valley. I went to see her one night and we went for a walk around Primrose Valley. As we went back to near the old North Gate, where the Windsor dining hall used to be, there was a mound of earth and there was a fence that divided Primrose Valley from the old Butlin’s Camp. The whole of the fence was just lined with people and they just stood in silence. You could hear a pin drop at that point and they just stood looking over the fence and nobody said a word. We joined them, as people left, other people joined, but nobody spoke. It was a really weird sensation. You’d think people would be stood there saying, “oh I remember this bit and that bit of the camp”, but I can genuinely say that not a person spoke a word, just total silence.

Sarah What were they all looking at then?

Paul Just looking over the camp. The camp was still intact then, except for the bit that was being demolished for Primrose Valley, so we just stood looking over and we could see the Empire building, the old chair lifts, the indoor and outdoor pools and the holiday fayre and shopping centre. You could see those from where we were stood, but the crowd just stood in silence. I presume they were just reliving, like I was at the time, past memories. We kept looking over at it, I decided that I would try and find out who owned the land and see if I could get permission, not at the time to write a book, but get permission to go onto the camp. The next day I spent a few hours tracking down who owned it. At first they were reluctant and then I said ‘I’m writing a book on the camp’ and they gave me permission to go on. It then just stemmed from there.

Sarah In 1988, was it a bit of a job finding out who owned the site?

Paul Pentad Security were the security people on site, it was those people who I rang and they put me in touch with the people who owned the site, which at that time was Birmingham Estates. Once they found out I was writing a book they then gave me permission to attend, all I had to do was arrange when I was going on with Pentad Security. I can’t remember when I first did go back on, it was during 1988, it must have been towards summer of 1988. I went back on because I’d had that experience, the weird experience when I stood on the hillside with all those people. I remember going up to the South Gate and I hadn’t been through that gate for 6 or 7 years, I then met Keith who was the Security Guard on that day. He came and collected me at the gates and we went through, now we were back on what was classed as hallowed turf. At that time there was only Keith and myself on the site and we just wandered round. The first place we went to was the outdoor pool and at the time I’d forgotten the layout of the camp, but my memory soon came back as we wandered around. We did a whole circuit of the camp, took us about four hours I think. That was my first visit, the first of many and then I just kept going backwards and forwards to the site and eventually got access to the buildings and took all my photographs and made the video.

Sarah The first time that you went round, were you in shock? I mean obviously the gardens and things were all overgrowing, but the state of the buildings, was that a shock to you?

Paul It was very dilapidated on the outside and to a degree on the inside, the buildings were run down, but I’m sure with a bit of love, care and attention something could have been done with it. A lot of the buildings were not that bad. When you went round the chalets, the beds were made, the fridges were still in the self-catering suites, and there were plates in the dining halls. Initially, when you went around you got the impression that the camp was just waiting for the season to start. All the outdoor toilets had toilet rolls still in them and it was immaculately clean.

Sarah Sounds a bit spooky?

Paul It was a strange experience having the whole camp to myself. On my last visit there, there were thousands of people walking round with me all in the holiday mood.

Sarah These visits in 1988, were they done before the demolition crews started to bulldoze it?

Paul Demolition didn’t occur until, I would think about the back end of 1989, early 90, so for a year I had free reign of an intact camp before they started demolition, but they were slow in demolishing it, you know they would demolish a little bit here, then they’d move somewhere else. I just virtually had free reign of the camp for three years.

Sarah When you initially went in there and said you were writing a book, it hadn’t occurred to you until then?

Paul It hadn’t, but I’d said it to get me back on the camp with the main intent of going back to take some photographs for my own personal collection. I told them I was writing a book so they let me back on the camp, I took my pictures, went back home and then I thought I’d go to the Hull Daily Mail archive to see what they’ve got of the old camp. They enquired as to my interest and somebody from their office then rang me up at home to interview me for this proposed book and that’s when it snowballed. I thought well, yeah, I’ll write a book, the Hull Daily Mail put a piece in the paper and I got lots of phone calls off ex-employees and campers and it just snowballed from there and in the end, the book got published.

Sarah I expect that you were a bit like us really, a bit surprised at the response that you got?

Paul I can’t believe the love that people have got for the camp. No-body’s prepared to let it die.

Sarah From that initial going in, in 1988 and demolition starting a year or so later, did things change for you when they started to smash a bit down here and a bit down there. Did you think I’ve got to do this before it gets completely demolished, before there won’t be any trace of it left?

Paul I made sure that before the camp was demolished I got a photograph of every building both inside and out, so it was a kind of rush around, but I did go most weekends. I spent most my life up there in the end and then once the last building fell in 1991 I stopped going back up.

Sarah In 1991 there were just the chalets at the back left, the sides of the indoor pool, the outdoor pool and the fountains?

Paul Yeah, that was it, that was all that was left, so there was no point in me going back. Things had been demolished by then, I’d got what I wanted off the camp, including the chair lift and I just let the memory go.

Sarah Your book now goes for a fair amount on ‘ebay’, are you still surprised at how popular the former camp is? It seems to be something that will not die even though you did it all those years ago.

Paul I still get a lot of emails from people asking me questions about the Filey camp, I get questions about my book, my pictures and the DVD that I filmed at the time. I am just amazed that the camp just does not seem to die, I mean, there’s other camps, there’s Barry Island, there’s Clacton but although they’ve got their own little following, Filey is just so popular with ex-campers and employees. It just will not die.



Disclaimer - This site is dedicated to preserving the memories and heritage of the Filey Butlins camp. It has no connection whatsoever with Butlins, Bourne Leisure or any associated companies, nor has it been endorsed by them.

human : graphic design agency hull
copyright images - Sarah Daniels