Ragroof Theatre were commissioned by Zap Arts to research, write and perform an outdoor theatre show in Clacton-on-Sea celebrating Clacton’s glorious days as the home of Billy Butlin’s Holiday Camp. The impact of the Camp’s closure has resounded for years within the local community, so this was a chance to bring the community together to celebrate its common history. With a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and funding from Creative Partnerships, Tendring, the show was performed as part of a whole day of fun and events, ‘It’s Another World!’ on Greensward, Clacton Seafront.

The day included talent shows, glamorous grandmother competitions, knobbly knee contests, dance classes and displays of work created by the local community, for all to enter and enjoy.

This day of celebration had been preceded by a five-month period of research spent interviewing local people, and giving theatre and dance workshops which pulled together different generations of the Clacton community. We met and worked with over 400 children from local schools, to whom we taught Jive, with a large number going on to perform in the final show. We also worked more in depth, developing children’s talent show acts and devising a scene of our show with dance students from Bishops Park College. We also held tea dances in the town centre, coffee mornings, and further dance workshops open to the broader community at Colbayns Community Centre.

Central to the project was the creation of a Butlins Archive – a valuable and unique local heritage resource, accessible to all future generations. The project relied on the memories and experiences of local people who had known Butlins in some capacity. We met those that had worked there, and been stationed there during the war; people who had waitressed there, bartended, managed and worked as chalet maids. We also met people who came back year after year to holiday there, perhaps eventually to meet their true love, and tie the knot on the campsite.

‘It’s Another World’ was a production created in collaboration with The Village Disco and Swervy World, a musical performing arts company who provided live, musical accompaniment. Live music was combined with recorded memories, and stories were brought to life on our bandstand and dance floor to a backdrop of glorious weather.

“The Viennese ballroom, the atmosphere was gorgeous, it was really sort of oldish, old fashioned but at the same time it was really gorgeous. Whenever you went in, you sort of felt like you were in another world. It was just really, I can’t really explain it, it was just gorgeous. It was always packed, every time you went in it was packed. They did the dancing competitions and the glamorous grandmother things like that. All different things, it was lovely.”
Eileen Kelly