Ahead of all the others in the United Kingdom, Skegness was the seaside resort chosen by Billy Butlin for his first holiday camp in 1936, and 10 years later, in the volume on Lincolnshire in his famous “King’s England” series, Arthur Mee waxed lyrical about the town: “Holiday-makers come here by road and rail and plane; and they come here to delight in the bracing air, the splendid stretch of firm, clean sands, the safe bathing… everything, in fact, that young and old in search of recreation on holiday can desire.”
It was also the inspiration for the most famous and best-loved holiday poster of all time: “The Jolly Fisherman”, dating from 1908 and derived from an oil painting by John Hassall, with its accompanying slogan that obviously influenced Arthur Mee when he came to describe one of the unmistakable characteristics of the resort. Skegness is not a place, even during the summer months, of wall-to-wall sunshine. It is not always hot, and it is not always fine and dry. But, as the words on the railway poster beneath the skipping fisherman proclaim, Skegness has another quality that, in its own way and at the right time, can be just as attractive and beneficial to the visitor: “Skegness is So bracing”.
More recently, illustrating that the appeal of Skegness continues to this day and did not disappear with the charabancs and steam trains, the Lonely Planet travel guide described the resort as “the ABC of the English seaside - amusements, bingo and candy-floss, accompanied by a constant soundtrack of tweets, klaxons and bells from the abundant slot machines and fairground rides”. Some people have interpreted this as being somehow disparaging and evidence of a lack of sophistication and culture. For me, it sums up exactly what you should expect from a traditional English seaside resort. Long may it continue!
Hundreds of thousands of holiday-makers flock to Skegness each year, and I am sure that, at this moment, mums and dads and boys and girls are looking forward to a few days on the North Sea coast. There has been some concern in the town that, following a recent television advertisement for the National Lottery, people might be deterred from visiting Skegness. The advert asks the question: “Where would you take your family if you won the Lottery?” A series of people then name their preferred destinations - Belize, Jamaica, Las Vegas, Filey on the east coast (!) etc. - before a young woman comments at the end: “Anywhere but Skegness”.
The advertisement has caused outrage among some local hoteliers and those who rely on tourism for a living, and prompted many residents of the town to come out and say how proud they are of recent developments, the ambitious plans that are in place for the future, and of Skegness’s reputation for family entertainment and good clean fun. As for Gina Parkin, the woman who made the remark, she has been shocked by the furore it caused and has accepted an invitation to visit Skegness when the town’s mayor, Danny Brookes, will show her some of the many attractions that Skegness has to offer. Whether picnicking on the beach (winner of several Blue Flag awards for cleanliness, where donkey rides are on offer), visiting Natureland Seal Sanctuary, taking in a show at the Embassy Theatre, going ten-pin bowling on the pier or losing herself in the new, family-friendly Aquarium (“a watery world full of pirate adventure”) I am sure there will be more than enough to make Gina change her opinion.
As you would expect, there are many hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfast establishments in Skegness. I hope that one of them will be ready to welcome Gina when she arrives for her summer holiday in 2018!