Like all good romantic stories it wasn’t ‘love at first sight’ but Wayne eventually won Katy over, and the rest is ‘history’ as they say – in their case a piece of Butlin’s history…….
Wayne, originally from Salford near Manchester, met Katy from Southend, at Butlin’s Ocean Hotel in Saltdean in 1984.
Dreaming of the Ocean Hotel
He had been working as a waiter, and then as a Redcoat, at Butlin’s Holiday Parks since the late 1970s, but Wayne’s dream had always been to work as a Redcoat at the Ocean Hotel Saltdean, the company’s ‘flagship’, and Head Office for all the Butlin’s hotels.
At the end of each summer season, the best Butlin’s Redcoats were rewarded with a free week at the Ocean Hotel Saltdean and in 1979 Wayne was one of them.
At the end of the week, they would all travel up by coach to Wembley to ‘dress the arena’ for the ‘Horse of the Year Show’ sponsored by Butlin’s.
‘It was a real treat – a real fabulous thing to do’
‘When I came to Brighton somebody on the train gave me a lift – they lived in Rottingdean. We came along the front – I had never seen property like it – I was blown away. And then we came past the top of the hill at Rottingdean and I saw the Ocean Hotel for the first time. In those days they had blue neon lights on top of the hotel and it had written ‘Ocean Hotel’ .
That was my first experience of coming to Brighton. I fell in love with it immediately. I couldn’t wait to get back next year’
For several years Wayne came back for the end of season week, all the while hoping to get a permanent transfer. In 1983 he became a Redcoat at Butlin’s Metropole Hotel in Blackpool, and in June of the following year his dream to work at the Ocean Hotel finally materialised. He came down to Saltdean with the Area Manager on what he thought was just a flying visit
‘I had one pair of socks and one shirt’
When they arrived the Entertainments Manager was being transferred to the Grand Hotel Scarborough. Wayne, much to his surprise and delight, was appointed on the spot to the prestigious position-
‘Because the Entertainments Manager who was here was so popular I was hated and I had to win everybody over, including Katy’
Katy’s family had moved from Southend to live in Saltdean when she was 16: her father became a captain of one of the cross-Channel ‘Sea Jet’ hydrofoils from Newhaven.
‘I got a job in the Hotel as everybody did who lived in Saltdean – as a chambermaid’
Katy went on to work in the Buying Department:
‘We literally bought everything from the teaspoons to the nuts and bolts, to the tablecloths to the furniture to anything you can think of (not food or drink) – we bought everything else for all the Butlin’s hotels from there’
Wayne was in charge of 26 Redcoats plus 8 Lifeguards who, when they weren’t looking after the safety of the guests in the swimming pool, doubled up as Redcoats.
‘That was my dream – to be at Brighton so I was going to make it work by hook or crook so I took over the running of the Redcoats; the production of the shows…..I just loved being there’
There were three shows a night: A War Show about the Second World War; the Billy Butlin Story, written by Wayne, and The Redcoat Show all performed in The Ocean Ballroom:
‘We had a crescent shaped stage in there. It was a very hard room to work as a performer – it was very hard – the bottom section with the bar area – it was very noisy. It had a very low ceiling.
The people at the back couldn’t really hear. Every time the PA went up the people at the front complained!’
In 1985 Wayne and Katy left Butlin’s and got married in St Martin’s Church just up the road from the Ocean Hotel. They had two sons and continued to live in Saltdean for a number of years, before moving to Devon.
In 1995 Wayne went back to the Ocean Hotel as a weekly visiting cabaret artist with his own show ‘El Loco or The Dentist Chair Show’, which he performed all over the country for the next 20 years. Both El Loco and his latest touring show ‘Beastro: A Culinary Cabaret’ combine comedy, music and magic in a very entertaining way, and can be seen on You Tube.
Ladies and gentlemen-please give a big hand to Wayne and Katy Slater – we will be catching up with more Butlin’s memories in the next few months
Footnote: Working at any of the Butlin’s hotels was much sought after because it meant you were employed all year round, rather than just for the summer season.The other Butlin’s hotels at this time included: the Metropole Hotel Blackpool; Cliftonville Hotels, Margate; the Grand Hotel Scarborough and the Grand Hotel Llandudno.
Did you know Wayne and Katy?
Do you have any photos of yourself, friends or family at Butlin’s Ocean Hotel Saltdean in the 1970s and 1980s?
If you do and you would like to share them with The Saltdean Zone we would love to see them.
Horse of the Year Show at Wembley 1966