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Tony Peers
courtesy Tony Peers & Butlins Archive Department

Tony Peers Camp Compère 1973
By Julie Folds

Tony Peers, well-known local show biz veteran, knows that he owed much to Butlin’s for a good start to his long career.

“Show business in Butlin’s was like a microcosm of show business outside. You had your hierarchies on the camp, you know, the principal comedians; the review company and the review stars; then you’d got your compère, then you’d got your Redcoats, who were minor celebrities. There was a whole microcosm of what it was like in the outside world contained within this, what was essentially a village of 15,000 people.”

Tony went on to explain the importance of Butlin’s to anyone keen to start in show business in those days.
“They were great building times. If you were a performer or an aspiring performer – as I was in those days – then it was somewhere to go and learn your business. It was big audiences who were forgiving! Their expectation of you as a Redcoat was not as high as it would be for a professional entertainer. So you learned to be bad, then you learned to be better, and then eventually do what I did and you were able to turn it into a career.”

We asked Tony how his experiences at Butlin’s Filey contributed to the development of his life in showbiz.

“In 1973 I was the compère at Butlin’s in Filey. Whoopee! In 1969 I joined Butlin’s as a redcoat – a lot of us did in those days. I did a couple of years as a Redcoat and then I became a Redcoat compère. In 1973 I was asked if I would like to go to Filey. It was one of the bigger camps. It was my first professional compèring job as opposed to being a Redcoat compère. It was a big kind of step-up for me at the time. And it was a big camp with a lot of tradition and so I was lucky enough to be able to go there and do it. Yeah, it was great fun. I enjoyed Filey because I was involved in most of the shows there. I would do 22 different performances in the week, from running the Donkey Derby, compèring the ‘Bonnie Babies’, and the ‘Holiday Princess’ to then doing a couple of theatre shows and the Redcoat show. So by Friday you would have built up the ‘following’ and on a Friday night we would be in the bar with 2000 people! There would be 500 people in there at 6 o’clock waiting for the show at 8 o’clock! I had a show in a bar called the ’Regency Bar’, which was on the end of the camp. On a Friday night we did a show called ‘That was the week that was – with Tony Peers & friends’ – all three of us! We used to do things like interview the ‘Holiday Princess’ and the Talent winner would come on and do the song they had sang in the talent final. They were great, great days! I just went in there and as I say we did the shows and it was like pop concerts. It was fantastic!”

Tony really rated his audiences: “They were just wonderful people! They were on holiday, they’d got money to spend, they’d come to have a good time and they were going to have a good time! So you would have an eighteen week summer season where it would be nothing but wall-to-wall joy, because everybody was happy, including me! At Filey, I was the compère of a show called the ‘Midnight Cabaret’. People like Bob Monkhouse, Ken Dodd and Roy Castle would all come and do shows. Now you would meet these people because you obviously had to introduce them and then after the show, in the dressing room, you would sit and talk to them, particularly Ken Dodd, and Bob Monkhouse. I spent hours in the dressing room talking comedy to two of the greatest exponents of it! I mean, Ken Dodd is the greatest theatre comic you’ve seen in your life. A wonderful, wonderful comic! To sit and talk about comedy with him is sitting at the feet of the master and having a master class on comedy! Then, to talk to Bob Monkhouse – the greatest worker of a room and nightclub comic – a club comic who was nothing like his television persona. He had the sharpest mind of any comedian – knew the history of gags, knew why things were… I became friends with these people because over the course of the 18 weeks summer season, they may come and do 10 or 12 shows. So I formed a friendship, which lasted until Bob’s untimely death, and I still, you know, see Doddy from time to time. But it was the ability to watch them work a room that you were working, so that you could draw comparisons. You also learned how the business worked, you learned about the agents, who did what. To think that I was able to sit with these people and talk about a thing, which was the only thing I was interested in those days, and still am today – comedy – and they would tell you their experiences! I was eternally grateful for Butlin’s generally, and Filey in particular, because being my first year as the compère there, and doing so many shows, it was a great grounding for what went on, you know, later in my career. Filey, for me, was a great learning curve and happy times, happy days.”

Interviewed by Sarah Daniels



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