The Great British Alternative Music Festival – Review – Butlins, Skegness

Great British Alternative Music Weekend Butlins 2018

By @Steve Crabtree

Just as you think music festivals at the seaside are over for another summer, another one pops up in Skegness, to whet the appetites of alternative rock, punk, new-wave and ska lovers everywhere.

The Great British Alternative Music Festival is an adult weekend, spread over a three days at Butlins. And with a line up containing a mix of well-known headliners, and other not-as-well-known main acts, my friend and I were looking forward to taking in as many of them as we could.

After checking in to our Seaside Apartment late on the Friday, we headed straight in to the middle of the musical mayhem to see what was going on.  And we weren’t going to be left disappointed.

The Great British Alternative Music FEstival

“Got the watching crowds going”

With a scaled down Friday line-up, we headed for Reds first, one of three on-site venues. Former Tenpole Tudor lead singer Ed Tudor-Pole hit the stage with an acoustic set here at 8pm. This was a nice intro for us, before we wandered over to the Centre Stage to see The Blockheads. They put on a great show, and acts got the watching crowds going, and thirsty for what was shaping up to be a fantastic weekend.

Beers were flowing, and the place was in energetic spirits.  It’d been a great start, and our Friday was rounded off by seeing Bad Manners in Reds. Reds was very humid, but Bad Manners didn’t let anybody down. And even if Buster Bloodvessel is looking quite trim nowadays, ‘Feel Like Jumping’ and ‘Lip Up Fatty’ ranked up there with the performances of the night.

It got us in the mood for the next two days of our break, which we’d already settled right in to.

“The entire place rocking”

We woke on Saturday to the wet and the wind. It was dull, and it was grim. But our morning brightened up when we saw the all-you-can-eat breakfast spread after we walked to The Deck restaurant. It had everything you could want for a Full English – including some great sausages – and we both went back for more. Maybe more than once…!

Being greedy, I also had a freshly prepared omelette, and we went back to the room very replete. On the way we were chatting to a couple heading in the same direction, and we got on to the subject of the crowd. We’d noticed that the atmosphere was very good and attitude free, and the couple – who’d done this weekend before– said that’s just how it was here. People were here for the music, and they fed off that. It didn’t matter how many pints they’d sunk, The Great British Alternative Music Festival brought out the best in people.

The weather had put paid to our planned morning stroll down the beach, so we decided to iron some of our clothes, and have a mid-morning beer in the apartment. It was nice to be able to have comfortable chill time, knowing we were only a few feet away from the action. And we were pretty pleased with our digs too. Rock and roll it wasn’t, but bright, roomy and spacious it was. 30 seconds walk to the Skyline Pavilion (the centre point of the entertainment) was a plus point, as was having a bedroom each.

Sockets by the bed too! You know how important that is! And the kitchen had everything we needed. Butlins had even thrown us a couple of beers, a few bottles of wine, some crisps, nuts and soft-drinks as a way of a welcome. A nice touch, which got us ready to go out and get some music in to our ears.

“A raucous set”

On heading in to the Centre Stage to see Midlife, we got talking to more people in the Skyline Pavilion. They were raving about how good the Introducing Stage had been the previous day. We needed to see what that was all about, and after we’d enjoyed The Complete Clash, we headed in to the Pavilion to catch the 4pm performance from Pete Bentham and The Dinner Ladies. And wow. How good? A raucous set from the Liverpool group, they gave what turned out to be my favourite performance of the weekend. The fast paced ‘Hip Potater’ had the entire place rocking, and ‘Goth Postman‘ went down a storm too.

We decided to go and watch the tea-time football in Hotshots, before checking out Delinquents, again on the Introducing Stage. We followed that up with Witchdoktors in the same place. And we were really impressed. Some big name headliners had been booked for the weekend, but there wasn’t a single band at the Great British Alternative Music Festival who were there making up the numbers.

Later that evening we went to see The Boomtown Rats. People had got in to Reds early to get themselves a beer or three and a good spot. And they didn’t let us down. Sir Bob Geldof may have been in Butlins, but he gave a full-on rock n roll performance. He may have proclaimed the band were “mega” a few too many times, but he was certainly on form.

The band were great and their performance of ‘Rat Trap’ took my award for song of the entire weekend.

After being on our feet for the best part of 15 hours, as well as leisurely taking in a few drinks throughout that time, we decided we’d done Saturday, and we needed our rest for the final day.

The Great British Alternative Music FEstival 2018

“How to catch the eye”

A few people headed home on the Sunday morning. It’s sometimes the way on these weekends, with work the next day and all that.  And although we were there for the duration, Sunday was always going to be the taking-it-easy day so we were fresh for the journey home the next morning.

But not before we witness the incredible, and indescribable Hung Like Hanratty. Where they used to throw TV’s out of windows, this band throw political correctness out of it. And do so in a much more dramatic fashion. Check these lot out.  There was a huge crowd watching them, and as well as delivering some great songs (with greater titles and unbelievable lyrics), they know how to catch the eye too…!

We had no plan for Sunday, and took the day in our stride. We enjoyed a bit of The Members, and The Truth before heading to The Deck again for dinner.  Dinner is again all you can eat, with a wide range of choice. The grill, Chinese, Indian, pasta, and a salad bar. I was a bit greedy and tried the Chinese and the Indian on the Saturday (fantastic), and I went for the carvery on the Sunday. I’m glad I did – they cook a stunning joint of beef. For £26.95 per person, per day we were wondering if it would prove to be value for money.  But it certainly is, and I’ll take this package each time I go to Butlins in the future.

“The buzz from stage to stage was something else”

We ended a brilliant weekend by heading over to Reds again, to see New Model Army.  ‘NMA’ were the perfect band to finish three days of boisterous, chaotic music at The Great British Alternative Music Festival.  And there wasn’t many who wanted the night to end.

Over the course of the weekend almost 40 bands took to the various stages in various venues on site. Headliners such as Bad Manners, The Blockheads and Sham 69 were well received. But so were bands such as The Lengthmen, Witchdocktors and Delinquents. On even measure too, may I add. Many preferring the Introducing Stage to the other venues.

The buzz from stage to stage was something else. Together, every single band and all the crowd played their part in making that buzz.

The adult weekends at Butlins are always enjoyable affairs. But there’s a special passion about the acts and the music at this one.  I’ve already looked in to booking again next year, and I’m thinking about March 8-11 at Minehead, or October 4-9 at Skegness.

The Great British Alternative Music Festival is a three night weekend event. Prices start at £127pp (based on four sharing Silver self-catering accommodation) at Minehead, and £121pp at Skegness (based on four sharing Silver self-catering accommodation). The optional Premium Dining package includes breakfast and evening meal, and is available for £26.95pp, per night.

Images: Sally Newhouse (


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