An Absolute-ly amazing trip back to the 1980s at Butlin's
IT'S not often you get the chance to see Richard the Lionheart swap pleasantries with Freddie Mercury - or even Fred Flinstone sitting on the floor dancing to Oops Upside Your Head with Adam Ant for that matter.
We're at Skegness Butlins, where the tarpaulins have been pulled over the dodgem cars and the soft play areas double padlocked in readiness for the adults-only Absolute Radio 80s Weekender, a celebration of all things from the decade that saw leg warmers, 'Choose Life' T-shirts and baggy blouses - both men's and women's - aplenty.
And costumes are certainly the name of the game as thousands of Friday-to-Monday revellers do themselves proud with outstanding outfits everywhere you turn, and a camaraderie and sense of group fun the level of which I can't recall ever experiencing before.
True, to the uninitiated this could seem like a hen and stags party x1000, but after only a few hours you see that this is not the case and that these people are here for the love of music like any other festival - and what a lot of eighties offerings await.
There are six venues in Skegness Butlins - Centre Stage and Reds for the live acts, Skyline Pavilion and Jellyfish Lounge for live Absolute Radio DJ sets (the latter for post-midnight revellers), Hotshots and Green Baize for live sport on TV, meaning there is something happening all the time, whatever your tastes and whatever your bedtime!
Headline acts over our weekend included Altered Images, The Fizz (75% of the original Bucks Fizz), Roland Gift, Big Country, Chesney Hawkes, Nathan Moore (brother Beyond), Black Lace and, for us, the best show of the weekend, Tony Hadley.
The erstwhile Spandau Ballet frontman kicked off his set with the first single I ever bought (and played to death) To Cut A Long Story Short and went from strength to strength with a collection of Spandau and his own hits.
There are also some incredible tribute acts in support, the notable ones we saw being Love Distraction, who pay homage to The Human League, and Bootleg Blondie who had Debbie Harry and co off to a tee.
Another great experience was the Electric Symphony 80s Classical, where your favourite 80s songs are performed by a live band along with classical performers. It really is exciting to see Aha's Take on Me being given a fuller richer sound with the help of strings, brass, woodwind instrumentalists and timpani.
On all three nights Hotshots plays host to a silent disco - a must if you haven't tried it before. Put on your headphones and dance to your chosen track in full fantastic stereo - take them off and see everyone dancing in apparent silence!
There are various types of accommodation to suit every budget with self catering apartments so you can load up the car and cook in between concerts, or why not avail yourself of Butlin's own restaurants. We enjoyed the premium dining experience at The Deck, where amazing and different themed dishes - including Chinese, Indian and Italian - were served up each night, while a delicious full English and everything from pastries, porridge and pancakes awaited us in the morning.
What I take back from our trip especially was the sense of togetherness, friendliness and joy, and I cannot recall one negative incident during the stay. Staff are friendly, helpful and enthusiastic, and I have to give a special shoutout to the maid service, with Libby really looking after us with a spotless apartment.
Maybe the 80s are not your preferred decade, or Skegness not the nearest to you, but don't worry as all three Butlin's venues (Bognor Regis and Minehead being the other two) have weekends devoted to the 60s, 70s, 90s and noughties too, as well as speciality weekends - Ministry of Sound, Madness and Giants of Rock to name but three - so there's no excuse not to glam up and get gyrating!
Visit www.butlins.com/breaks/live-music-weekends for more details.