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Andy Whitwham Award Winning Entertainer Highfield Holiday Park, Clacton on Sea in Essex,  -  Summer 1980

My very first job in the business, I answered an advert in The Stage.

It read that a professional cabaret act was looking for a stooge. I applied, went to Rhyll in North Wales and had a chat to Paul Coates, the cabaret act who was advertising.

 Paul was also entertainment manager at Highfield Holiday Park. He gave me the job as his assistant in his act, which he would train me for during the season in Clacton on Sea at Highfield.

I was thrown straight in as assistant entertainment manager, and became Children’s Uncle in my own club on the park. The park, held over 12,000 guests when full, and it was pretty full most of the time. I made mistakes, but learned so much. Microphone technique, stage presence, presenting, being torn to shreds by eastender unit owners when things went wrong, calling bingo , being swamped by kids most of the time I was at work, up to 400 at a time, every week.

Winter 1980 - Assistant in magic, comedy, drag, illusion act touring the club circuit in North Wales , Cheshire and the midlands. In October 1980,  I travelled back to Rhyl with Paul Coates, and stayed in Rhyl throughout the winter to continue to learn my newly found trade by being his ‘stooge’ in his comedy drag illusion act. We worked in all types of club throughout North Wales, Cheshire and other counties. I was the illusionist (took a lot of training from Paul to get me to the standard required), but eventually I was able to produce snakes, lizards, dogs, and other wonderful magical illusions whilst at the same time being heckled from the audience by Paul, who was ‘dragged-up’ in his bunnygirl outfit. The show was around an hour long, with Paul taking over the show from me after the first 15mins, and I was then assistant in various sketches and illusions for the rest of the show with a big finale of me padlocked and chained, locked in a big trunk and escaping with a boa constrictor around my neck ! We played working men's clubs, to conservative clubs, works clubs to gay clubs, children’s daytime parties. The experience I had was amazing and the sights and experiences I had during the winter of 1980 will be ones I will never forget.

It was with much sadness that I learned the passing of my mentor Paul in 2006. Click here for his Obituary.


The Winter Of 1980 - ASSISTANT IN MAGIC, COMEDY, DRAG & ILLUSION ACT

Spring of 1981 came and Paul had been offered residency at a theatre in Rhyl for the year. He didn’t need an assistant for that job plus I really wanted to return to holiday villages after my first season in Clacton. I answered another advert in The Stage and joined Ladbroke Holidays as a bluecoat at a small ( 400 capacity ) holiday park in West Sussex.

I joined a team of 6 resident entertainers, plus an entertainment manager. I was also given the honour of my very first bluecoat jacket ( very similar to a Butlin redcoat). So I was organising daytime activities such as pool knockouts, table tennis tournaments, darts comps, swimming galas, talent shows, beauty queens , as well as in the evenings working the ballroom, dancing with the guests, looking after the kids etc. A highlight for me was the weekly professional wrestling where I was the commentator, great fun with the pro wrestlers.

I returned to Sussex Coast the following year as Assistant Entertainment Manager. I enjoyed my time tremendously during my 2 years there. Alas Sussex Coast Holiday Village is now no longer there and has been demolished to make way for a luxury housing development.

Summer 1981 , summer 1982  - SUSSEX COAST HOLIDAY VILLAGE, MIDDLETON on SEA, SUSSEX SUMMER 1983 - NODES POINT HOLIDAY VILLAGE at BEMBRIDGE on the ISLE OF WIGHT

Assistant Entertainment Manager

 I was invited to join the entertainment team with Ladbroke at Nodes Point, and to my great surprise we had nearly the same entertainment team as we had at Sussex Coast, which was fantastic.

The Isle of Wight is a lovely island, and once again I enjoyed my time there greatly. It was at Nodes Point that I started to hone my performance skills, and each week during the bluecoat staff show I performed my solo spot doing a comedy mime dance routine, as well as joining in the full company staff shows.

SUMMER 1984 - WALLIS’S HOLIDAY VILLAGE , CAYTON BAY, SCARBOROUGH, YORKSHIRE

Assistant Entertainment Manager / Compere

In 1984 I was lucky to be part of a large entertainment team at a huge holiday park in Cayton Bay on Yorkshire’s east coast, Wallis’s. Same duties, games and events in the daytimes, but it was in the evenings where I was amazed. The park has/had 2 huge theatres, one for the children and a 2000 seater for the adults. I was also compere at both theatres, and working with names current in the business, operating spotlights, radio mikes, working with stage managers. I learned such a huge amount in my summer season at Wallis’s.

SUMMER 1985 - BLUE WATERS HOLIDAY VILLAGE, CHESIL BEACH, WEYMOUTH. DORSET

Entertainment Manager / Compere

I got promotion with Ladbroke in 1985 to entertainment manager at one of their parks in Weymouth, Blue Waters. Gave me the chance to run an entertainment programme with a small team of entertainers and resident band. Loved organising staff shows, talent shows both children and adults, and getting the superbly positive feedback from satisfied guests. Compared the televised ( TVS ) regional heats of the Miss Ladbroke beauty queen comp.One of the really useful parts of the job was being given the opportunity of introducing and working with some of the major names in showbiz. Duncan Norville, Les Dawson, Emile Ford, Windsor Davies, Sue Pollard, Brother Lees, The Hollies , Les Dennis, Andrew O’Connor, Bernie Clifton, The Nolans, Joe Pasqualle,  Danny La Rue , The Wurzels and Lenny Windsor were some of the big name artists who I worked with.

Entertainment Manager

Moved to Chichester in Sussex and joined Freshfield Holidays which was part of the Butlin’s group of companies. Small group of 5 in the entertainment team. Commented on pro wrestling every week.

Freshfields was a nice little park and I got the opportunity to organise my first Donkey Derby !

SUMMER 1986 - FRESHFIELDS HOLIDAY PARK, CHICHESTER, SUSSEX

Director of Entertainment

Moved to Devon in 1987 to take up my biggest role to date. Director of Entertainments at Swan Holidays UK Ltd, this was based at The Welcome Holiday Village in Dawlish Warren in Devon. Here I auditioned my own team of 5 entertainers, plus was able to book my own visiting cabarets & resident bands during the year, designed my own children’s club, constructed a full up-to-the-minute fortnightly entertainment programme, sought and secured national prize sponsorship for the same. Was compere. Hosted the weekly on site television channel. Choreographed the staff shows. I stayed with Swan Holidays for 2 years.

SUMMER 1987/1988 - swan holidays uk, dawlish warren, south devon SUMMER 1988/1990 - HOTEL GENERAL MANAGER, HOTEL VICTORIA, NEWQUAY. CORNWALL

Assistant General Manager / General Manager

Had the opportunity in 1988 of adding hotel management to my resume. Applied for, and got offered assistant manager at The Victoria Hotel in Newquay, a large 100+ bedroom hotel sat atop Newquay cliffs overlooking the beach. I once again learned a great deal in hotel management, and within 2 months of my arrival the current ( at the time ) general manager left and I was promoted to top position. The hotel not only had 100+ bedrooms, but a restaurant , pub and nightclub too.I stayed at the hotel until the spring of 1990.

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