The Great British Alternative Music Weekend – Butlins, Minehead 8th – 11th March 2019
Once again, we find ourselves at Butlins, Minehead I think it is starting to become a habit, this is the second time in 6 months that we have attended a Music Weekend at Butlins, Minehead following a lapse of several decades. Butlins seems to have the perfect formula for hosting music weekends, everything is well organised and runs like clockwork. A great way to continue enjoying music festivals during the winter months – great fun.
The Great British Alternative Music Weekend is predominately Punk Rock hosting such bands as Sham 69, Angelic Upstarts and the Skidz. The weekend was arranged around 3 venues, Central Stage and Reds covered most of the bands but these two venues closed for 2 ½ hours each afternoon, which is when Jumpin Jaks came into it’s own hosting 4 bands each day in a competition where the audience decide the winner. Each member of the audience is given a token on entry and after listening to all four bands you select which band you preferred by placing the token in the relevant box. The winner won the opportunity to play in one of the main venues next Great British Alternative Music Weekend. Central Stage and Reds are both large venues with a dance floor, plenty of seating and tables on different levels and superb sound quality and lighting. Jumpin Jaks is much smaller but still boasts a dance floor and seating with good sound. All the venues have excellent access for those with mobility issues. Both of the larger venues have 2 bars offering a good selection of beverages ranging from Carling, Coors light & Thatchers Gold on tap, to bottled Doombar for the real ale drinkers and other bottled drinks plus the full range of usual spirits. The pricing at these bars appears to be just above pub prices at £4.00/pint of Carling.
Jumpin Jaks and Central Stage are located within a large permanent tented atrium called Skyline, whereas Reds is just outside – the walk between any of the venues is less the 5 minutes which means you could see all of the bands if you chose not to watch complete sets. If you fancy a break from the music Skyline contains another bar, Hotshots, which televises sport, but you can also play ten pin bowling, pool & Snooker. You can also find various restaurants here, such as Traditional Fish & Chip, Burger King, Ludo’s Italian, Soho Coffee and the Firehouse Grill. Within the atrium itself, there was plenty of seating and tables and a small market consisting of jewellery, clothing, cd’s, records, band paraphernalia and T-shirts for a little bit of retail therapy. There is a real ale bar selling Doombar at £4.10 and Exmoor Gold at £3.85/pint, which made us very happy, also a caravan themed Gin Bar selling cocktails.
The tented, Skyline, means you can have all the fun you like without getting cold and wet from all the weather that a British Winter can throw at you – fantastic. But if you fancy a breath of sea air the sandy beach is just across the road from the resort and not far from downtown Minehead for a change of scenery.
Now for some music information. The music kicked off on Friday in Jumpin Jaks at 5.30pm with Charred Hearts an old school punk band from Swindon, and finished at 8.30 with The Papshangos. Both Reds and Central Stage opened at 8pm with Big Country in Central and The Vapors in Reds, the evening culminated with Bad Manners and Peter Hook and the Light at 11.30 – a great start to the weekend. Saturday began at 12pm with Peter and the Test Tube Babies with Jumpin Jaks opening at 4pm with 4 more bands vying to be chosen to play the larger venues next time. Reds fired up at 6pm with The Lambrettas, Saturday closed with The Undertones and The Complete Clash in Central, Toyah and The Jam Restart in Reds. Another brilliant day. Sunday opened with a stroll to the beach just to be sand blasted as it was extremely windy, great to get back inside to catch Midlife doing fantastic covers in Central at 12pm. Jumpin Jaks hosted 4 more bands including Tokyo Rankers and Resistance 77. To end a fantastic weekend were Anti-Nowhere League and Cockney Rejects. All the bands seemed to really enjoy themselves which made for very good sets, and some of them were seen around the resort watching the other bands and having a beer at the bar.
Down to the nitty gritty, we were told that we would not be able to access our accommodation until 3pm but could turn-up at 1pm. We arrived early and were greeted by pleasant friendly staff, got booked in and was given an access card, very hotel, to our apartment and was told it was ready – fantastic, time to settle in. We located our accommodation, which was very easy to find due to a very clear map which we received on arrival along with the programme which is very clear. There is also a very useful app which enables you to select what you want to see, then notifies you near the time it is due to start. Our accommodation was clean and well equipped and up to a good standard.
Booking is easy and can be done on line, with various levels of accommodation and catering packages, though you do not have to have the catering options as self-catering is available. If you opt for self-catering but do not always want to cook there are various food outlets within and around Skyline. There is also a small but well-stocked supermarket on site which is open until the wee hours of the morning, though there are 3 large supermarkets close-by, but off-site if you cannot find what you need.
Just a mention, there are 2 catering options, the premium catering offers plenty of choice including an omelette station and pancakes freshly cooked for breakfast, along with the usual full English and Continental Options. Dinner always had the option of a full carvery, lots of other choices and freshly cooked pasta and Wok dishes cooked to order. Plenty of choice to be had not enough days to try everything. Sorry – unable to comment on the choices for the standard option.
The whole resort was kept immaculately clean and tidy including the toilets which were always fully stocked with toilet rolls, hand soap and hand towels.
All the staff at Butlins were always friendly and couldn’t be more helpful. Security was plentiful and very friendly but not intrusive and were more than happy to chat during band changeovers.
Any negatives – just one, some of the bands initially advertised did not perform which disappointed a few people. But we found the line-up still very good.
Now the big question – would we go again? A resounding definitely, to sum up great line up, brilliantly organised, everything you need for a music festival during a British Winter. Many of the clientele are of the mature age group and were saying that they no longer enjoy festivals in fields, but the Butlin’s music weekenders still enabled them to have the festival experience they love without the hardship and discomfort. It was also commented that it’s great that Butlins are supporting all genres of live music and helping to keep live music alive.
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