One of the great things about writing a book is that you get the chance to talk to different parts of the media about a subject very close to my heart.
And when of them included appearing on a much loved TV programme alongside a Scottish Performer, billed as a “National Treasure”, it felt that (CLICHÉ ALERT) my Christmases and Birthdays had come together at once.
Last year I was delighted to receive an e mail from a Researcher working on the award winning TV show, “Elaine C Smith’s Burdz Eye View,” saying that with they were working on a second series and Ayr was on their list, with the old Butlins camp set to feature. And having had written a published a book linked to the old camp, it was a reason for them to contact me.
“What Time Does Midnight Cabaret Start,’ is my first published novel, the first leg of a trilogy inspired by my three life changing seasons working at the former Butlins Ayr Camp. I absolutely loved watching the first series, and after some e mails later, I was delighted to be invited to take part in this next one.
Once it was confirmed that I would be involved in the show, they asked if I could bring along a Redcoat from the 60’s to join in the discussion. I said that I did not know any Ayr Redcoats from the 1960’s but I knew an Ayr Redcoat in his 60s would that do? As far as I am concerned there was only person for the part.
Joe Byrne, who started out working behind the Bar at the Stuart Ballroom during my first season. The following year, he ditched his Bar Uniform in favour of a school boy’s outfit (there will be a brief pause in order for you readers to hold on to that thought) and on his way to become one of the camp’s most memorable characters and a Butlins Redcoat Legend.
And if that wasn’t enough, he had (and still does) have a top singing voice as well. So next to the current Mrs Frankie Boy, the inspiration behind “What Time Does Midnight Cabaret Start,’ Joe was the obvious choice.
Joe and I had a cracking day out earlier in the year when we were interviewed during a news section on the STV Glasgow Channel. We knew that this one was going to be even better, filmed on location, a special location, back at Ayr, not at the camp unfortunately, mind you where we ended up was a more than adequate back up plan.
A smashing, pub/restaurant, just off the main high street, just down from the bridge, overlooking the sea view.
And at my suggestion and agreed with the programme makers, I would turn up in my Red and White Uniform – and why not! As there was nowhere to change, I made the decision to go spend some time walking through the town in my Reds. It had been a long time since I did that – more than thirty years to be precise.
This was going to be a special day, and my good lady was armed with her camera to mark the occasion. And as I was dressed in my Butlins Gear, it would be wrong to pass up a good photo opportunity. And toured the town we did. We even got to eat in “our café” where we used to spend our days off whilst working at the camp.
We had an approximate time when the recording of our section of the programme and with Joe and fellow ex Red Ian Campbell making their own way down to the Ayr where we eventually met up at the venue.
With the production team delayed through recording at other locations, the four of us had time to kill taking advantage of restaurant’s surroundings and catering, particularly the coffee and the cream scones.
It was late in the afternoon when the moment we had been waiting for arrived, when we finally got to meet the production crew of “Burdz Eye View” along with the star herself, Elaine C Smith.
A star of countless number of hit TV shows, Elaine C Smith’s impressive CV includes much loved shows like “Naked Video,” the iconic “Rab C Nesbitt,” to most recently the BBC Scotland Production, “Two Doors Down.”
Her talents continue on to the Theatre Stage starring in Panto, acclaimed productions such as “Annie,” ‘Calendar Girls” and taking on the role of the now legendary Susan Boyle, “I Dreamed a Dream,” which she also co-wrote.
When Ms Boyle captured the imagination of the people around the world I lost count of the number of Hollywood Stars tipped to play her if they did her life story. As far as I was concerned Elaine was the only performer who could play that part, a point that I said to her when she sat down and started talking to us.
It was not long before we were all wired for sound and we were led the outside seated area to begin filming where we sat down at the table. From what I remember, we were told that the filing would be basically a relaxing chat, where we both came back with the reply; “No worries! Hope you have got enough tape?”
“We recorded about an hour’s worth of material where we talked about all sides of Butlins Ayr; and yes, we did talk about the book. And regardless of the subject, Joe would always make sure that the book was in camera view.’
Apart from the moment when Elaine described me and Joe as “very talented” (that did happen, I have witnesses; He! He!) The highlight came right at the end, when Joe and Elaine had a brief duet, singing “Stone in Love with you.” It was one of the classic moments that will never make it on the TV screen, but it was a perfect way to end what was a brilliant afternoon.
I certainly did not envy the production team in deciding what to include in the show. We certainly gave them enough material to choose from. And I was really pleased when I watched, not just our bit, but very entertaining half hour on the television. But I would not expect anything else from what is an award winning television programme, which now well into its second series.
If they do a third, I wonder if they would do Dunoon ? You never know, if they do, they might run into more of us “Reds” doing one of our gigs.”