The last time I went to Butlins, I was knee high to a grasshopper and everything was Hi-De-Hi, knobbly knees contests and talent shows, so wasn’t sure what to expect. What we got was a very well-oiled music weekend showcasing 80’s & 90’s music in various venues, all inside, without the potential bad weather and mud. Shiiine On is now in it’s 4th year and this shows with the high level of slick organisation, outstanding line-up and the brilliant venues offered by Butlins. If you are suffering from festival blues now that the season has ended – give this a try.
Booking is easy and can be done online, 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 including Ludo’s Italian, Firehouse Grill, Fish & Chips, The Diner and even a Burger King. 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.
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. After a cup of tea, how rock & roll are we, we went for a wander to get ourselves orientated, the main arena, Skyline, was less than 5 mins from our apartment, though I expect there is other accommodation slightly further away.
Skyline is a large plaza with café, bars and amusement arcades with a large tent structure to keep out the British winter weather – hooray, it also houses the main stage which has 2 large screens either side which were very clear and high quality so it didn’t matter where you were watching from. Here you will also find Hotshots, this is an area with pool, snooker, pinball, amusement arcades – yes, they still have the 2p shove machines. You can also do tenpin bowling here, they also televise the main sporting fixtures. Within Skyline you will also find the 4 other venues, Centre Stage, Inn on the Green, Jaks – so no need to get cold and wet, Reds is part of the Skyline complex but the entrance is just outside the doors. A jumper is needed in Skyline as it is quite chilly until the crowd builds and heats the space. This is also where you will find the supermarket, food outlets and merch stalls.
Time for some music and beer. One of the highlights of Friday for us was seeing Salad, this is not what we had for dinner, an alternative Rock band who reformed in 2017, who performed on the Skyline stage. The sound in Skyline is very good whereas the Inn on the Green made up for quality with volume though that didn’t spoil any enjoyment had, listening to The Keepers, an Indie Psych band from Northamptonshire. We also had the pleasure of Sleeper and Shed Seven, both putting in excellent well-rounded sets which certainly got the weekend going. In Reds, along with others were Collapsed Lung and Back to the Planet – brilliant, time for bed.
Saturday’s pick of the bands, for us, were The Rifles an Indie Rock Band from London, Black Grape and Ocean Colour Scene all on Skyline and then on to Reds for Chameleons Vox, a continuation of Chameleons UK a post punk band fronted by Mark Burgess and then Steve Lemacq, DJ set – a real crowd pleaser and sing-along.
Sunday – a fantastic day which included Space, Stereo MC’s, Peter Hook & the Light who smashed out a set full of Joy Division and New Order, and a fantastic complete set of music and visuals by Orbital – what a brilliant ending to a fantastic weekend, just what we needed at this time of year. Sorry not mentioned too much about the other 2 venues, though we did see Space in Central Stage which is a large venue with seating, dance area and good sound. We popped into JAKs numerous times over the weekend which is a small bar like venue but did not see a full set.
These are just a few of the more than 70+ bands/DJ’s on offer, plus some exhibitions and screenings, more than enough to keep you busy and spoilt for choice over the 3 days.
The clientele are a mixed demographic with a large contingent of Adidas branded clothing and footwear topped with bucket hats, all very friendly from all over the country. Having spoken to a number of people friendships are made here and they meet up as a group every year to enjoy the Shiiine On party.
A bit of info regarding beer choice and prices, the beer options were Carling, Worthington, WolfRock and bottled Doombar. One bar had Hobgoblin, Exmoor Gold and Doombar on draught for the real ale lovers. Thatchers Gold and Haze were available at all bars, which also had a large selection of spirits. The prices ranged from £4.30 - £4.60 per pint, there was also a Gin bar. The only problem we experienced was that more staff were required in the bars at peak times.
The site itself is level and all the venues are accessible to wheelchair users and people with mobility issues, Central Stage has a staircase but there is a lift available.
Just a mention, if using the catering options, there is 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.
A final mention has to be to the really friendly and helpful staff and security, no matter how busy or under pressure they appeared to be you were always met with a smile and a willingness to help as much as possible no matter what the question or problem.
To sum up, would we do this again – a resounding yes, a brilliant weekend to brighten a gloomy winter’s weekend and to stop the festival blues.
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