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rememberfileybutlins
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Initial image taken in 1991
decaying chalet

 

Magic
By Sarah Daniels (Remember Filey Butlins Project Artist)


I first heard about Butlin’s Filey shortly after I arrived in the area as a student in 1991. The friend who mentioned it went regularly as a child and she accompanied me there on my initial trip. She had not been since the 70’s and I did not know what to expect, but being a curious photographer, a closed holiday camp was always going to be interesting. We certainly did not expect the vista that greeted us as we travelled north from Bridlington. We reached the brow of the hill just before the site and my friend gasped as we approached the panorama of destruction. It seemed to cover acres and acres. Rows and rows of chalets without roofs, two-storey buildings with exposed breezeblocks, smashed up render, endless piles of rubble where large buildings once stood. Twisted metal stuck out of the ground. Glass, furniture, bricks and concrete littered every direction. We looked on in utter disbelief. Usually when looking at demolition sites you can see some order amongst the destruction, a structure to the breakdown of the buildings and removal of the spoils. You can feel emotional, sad at the loss of a long-standing structure or alternatively, look forward to the redevelopment. Looking at the former Butlin’s camp the feeling was simply bewilderment. How did this happen? As we approached the main gate it became apparent that the site was being stripped and great heaps of doors, windows and metal were being sold. A battered caravan housed the men in charge plus their dogs. I ventured through the entrance and asked if I could take photos but I was told if seen again I’d lose my camera.

The first photographs I took were black and white and very much reflected how I initially saw the camp. It looked like a war zone. To the right a heap of bricks remained where once stood the chair lift station. Further up and to the left a single goal post survived amongst an overgrown sports field. We walked up to the chalets which I now know were on White Camp. None of them had roofs; some were beginning to topple like dominoes. Each room was still furnished, damp warped wardrobes containing three or four coat hangers and mattresses reduced to a series of rusty springs. Bed bases were upside down and at skewed angles and there were chairs where the padding had disintegrated to nothing more than a fibrous mess. Floor tiles were pulverised and chests of drawers abandoned with the drawers open. Every available space was covered in junk and the pavements covered in debris. It did not look like a holiday camp that had fallen on hard times, but a scene from a nuclear holocaust film. How did it get to this state? Why did somebody drag a wardrobe from a chalet and dump it twenty feet away in the grass? It was completely unfathomable. As I clicked away my friend just stood there dumbfounded .Her last visit had been some fifteen years earlier and a happy holiday, full of sun and colour and fun.

I spoke with my Nan about the visit and she dug out her photographs taken at the camp when her and my granddad went to Butlin’s in the 1960s. I never knew she had been there and to me these images seemed to have come from another world. They were full of oversaturated colours and tones not present in contemporary photographs. They showed thousands of people flocked around the swimming pools and fountains, or watching events similar to a school sports day.

My Nan remarked on it being a wonderful place. I felt compelled to return and then the derelict camp became an addiction. For three or four years I had to hang around at the back for fear of being caught and keep a low profile when the man and his dog did their site patrols. I don’t know whether I became brave or the security slackened but I ventured further into the camp. Until this point I had never seen the swimming pools or fountains. It was hard to work out that I was actually looking at the indoor pool since the building that housed it had been demolished and the upright structure of the pool lay exposed, slightly elevated. Once you could have watched a child swimming past through the windows, but now every window was smashed, the glass three inches thick lay in the dirt. The fountains iconic to the camp stood crumbling and had somehow avoided the indiscriminate bulldozer. Around the outdoor pool the diving boards, slides and steps had been sawn off to stumps and the manhole covers removed. The most poignant and symbolic part of the camp was here. Maybe it was luck, maybe there was nothing to gain or just maybe the demolition men could not quite face obliterating this particular area.

The demolition seemed to have stopped and for me the former Butlin’s Filey camp became a magical place. Over the years nature had taken over as the site remained abandoned. The neglect was all part of its charm. In the summer the trees, flowers and wild grasses flourished, deer and rabbits roamed. At other times of the year the pools and pumping stations were filled to the brim with Great Crested Newts.

I did not want the site to ever be redeveloped but left, just as it was.

 

 
 

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.

graphic design, hull by human
copyright images - Sarah Daniels