A shorter post but I found this and thought it should be shared for the benefit of people like myself who grew up with parents (and in my case grandparents) too cheap, to skint, to xenophobic or too scared of flying and sailing to go abroad and thus spent their yearly holiday at a Haven holiday camp – If you went to Butlins or Pontins or British Holidays or wherever then this post isn’t for you, piss off with your bears and red coats and Skegness an’ shit.
I don’t think Holiday Camps exist in America, so for the imaginary American readers: they’re trailer parks that people go to on vacation. It’s not as boring as it sounds, they’re typically located in or near tourist destinations and have their own on-site entertainment, usually a swimming pool, an arcade and a club or clubs that put on entertainment in the evening – singers, dancers, magic acts etc – with a kid’s club just geared towards the children. Butlins is arguably the most famous holiday camp but the biggest company is Haven Holidays, especially since they merged with British Holidays. Before that merger Haven’s kids club was the Tiger Club and it was the home of their mascot Rory the Tiger and his pals, they had entertainment in the evening and in the day patient Haven employees would babysit your kids if you didn’t want them around ruining your holiday - as I hate joining in and had a mother who actually wanted me around I rarely went in the day but I did used to go at night. The centrepiece of the Tiger Club was their weekly Rory Roadshow where full-costume versions of Rory, Anxious the Elephant and Greedy Gorilla would sing and dance to unique songs - most of which I can still remember word-for-word, I can’t remember my own mobile number but I can remember Cocoavamangokiwibananayamyam.
Today’s artefact comes from that time - lord knows how it’s survived so long in my house but survived it has – it’s the eleventh issue of Tiger Tales, a small 8-page booklet that came in your welcome pack. Welcome packs were just booklets, leaflets, rules about not leaving your caravan a fucking wreck when you left, complimentary soap and the like. Really this is just an itinerary for the Tiger Club jazzed up with some basic puzzles and a two-page comic but it’s filed with so much exclusive and/or rarely-seen artwork that it deserves to be shared online, plus it has puzzles and a two page comic, that’s awesome.Click all images to enlarge, they're life-size.
This Tiger Tales was wrapped in a full-colour Beano-style comic printed on glossy paper and everything and is the star attraction of the booklet (not that it has a lot of competition as it’s ¼ of the whole thing). I wonder if Steve Speilpool is intentionally dressed like then-rival holiday camp British Holiday’s mascot Bradley Bear – because he is. The other characters involved are Anxious the Elephant, Greedy Gorilla, Manic the Parrot, Prudence the Giraffe, Bellamy the Lion and Sylvester the Snake, to prove just how old this booklet really is this is before Greedy was Scottish which means it probably comes from about 1823.
Our first page of activities and that full-colour stock artwork of Sylvester the Snake makes me as happy as anything has this year (I know, right?), once upon a time the Tiger Club had a large membership, most of them didn’t exist outside of the odd colouring book but Sylvester, Manic (who had his own song) and Prudence were used nearly as much as the ‘big three’ of Rory, Anxious and Greedy, they were all animatronics (in the most basic sense) in the roadshow and you could buy large plushies of Manic an Sylvester (I still have my Manic) but good luck finding anything about ‘em online. I also like the ‘letter from Rory’ that comes with the disclaimer ‘please note that the Tiger Club is not a child minding facility’ ha! That was heeded – note: it was not heeded, parents used to dump their little bastards there all week and go down the beach.
A Tiger Club itinerary, which will probably bring back lots of happy memories for little bastards who were dumped there all week while their parents went down the beach, I actually did do some of these activities – I did the matchstick hunt and the poster designing competition for certain – but I hate joining in and would rather spend my time alone in the pool, not much has changed really. The kids were split into Monkeys and Chimps and a football club style rivalry was encouraged (you can always count on the British to hate someone because they come in a different category), if I remember membership was dictated by where you caravan was on the site, as we usually went in a touring caravan I was a Chimp most of the time (I’m sure there was some comment in making the cheapo bring-your-own-caravan kids into Chimps). Also in the boarder of this is the tortoise, who was the other animatronic in the Roadshow and I can’t remember his bloody name.
The final page of activities, it’s a real bloody shame what the post-merger Haven has done to their mascots, I can live with dressing Rory like a douchebag surfer but their ‘mix-n-match’ Seaside Squad – which features three jungle animals, a bear and two humans – seems like such an illogical hodgepodge compared to what they’d built with the Tiger Club. This isn’t just nostalgia talking, with the Tiger Club Haven had created a believable little cartoon world where all the characters felt like they naturally fitted (they were all jungle animals), it would have been easy and far less jarring to have simply had British Holiday’s Bradley move into the Tiger Club and join the Haven characters on stage, he isn’t a jungle animal sure but they were still anthropomorphic animals in a compatible cartoon style but instead Haven chose to retire all but Bradley, Rory, Anxious and Greedy McGorilla (as he was by then) and throw in two scary humans to create nothing special. It’s not a case of ‘they changed it now it sucks’ but a case of ‘they changed it AND it sucks’. Hmm were the scary humans at British Holidays before the merger? I only went to a British Holidays camp once or twice, if we had a second holiday it would usually be to Parkdean camps and they had Sid the Silly Seagull and Lizzie the Lizard (and whatever the seal in the hat was called).
Anyway I got a bit too serious about holiday camp mascots there so I think it’s time to say goodbye for now. I hope at least one person saw this and thought ‘oh yeah! Manci the Parrot! I’d forgotten about him!’ or something similar, ta-ta.