‘I begged Pontins for extra Blue Coat shifts – it was a wild addiction’

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    A holiday in Pontins can be great fun thanks to the pools, arcades, character breakfasts, sports and other family friendly activities on site. But, it’s the entertainment team who will keep children and adults alike in good spirits on their UK staycation.

    Known as the Blue Coats, the reps are those who put on shows, dance around with the children and make sure you’re having a blast are their own breed. But, it seems it’s not only the guests who are enjoying themselves at Pontins.

    Daily Star spoke to Gary Clarke, @garyclarkeuk, a former Pontins blue coat who spent multiple seasons working parks from Hemsby Park Norfolk to Torquay, and says he had so much fun that he'd beg for extra shifts.

    READ MORE: 'I was a holiday rep in Ibiza – it's not the glamour and partying you see on TV'

    Gary started working for the holiday parks over summer holidays – and it was the first step in his career in entertainment, as he began a thriving career of shows, silliness and the iconic blue coat.

    He told Daily Star: "I was thrown in at the deep end, but absolutely loved it – we did different activities from DJing to hosting games and looking after the different entertainment rooms.

    "We also looked after the health and welfare of the guests and we even had Pontin’s TV where we would record live and stream ourselves into the chalets twice a day.

    "We used to have so much fun acting like television presenters and you could just go wild. It kept us young at heart and the job was to make people smile. Me and Lynn [Gary’s best friend] didn’t really want days off! We used to to go the management and say ‘Keep us on rota'."

    Of course it wasn't all play and no work. He added: "We ended up working ridiculous hours, not for financial gain, it was more like an addiction. It became a way of living which we thoroughly enjoyed. But, it is hard work, it takes stamina and a lot of focus, but if you’ve got the energy and tenacity to of that and it’s an enjoyable experience then you almost just don’t feel the hard work."

    Thankfully, Gary was made to take time off sometimes and he has some funny stories from his time on the parks. One particular Christmas he even decided to do a gifts roundup for his fellow entertainment reps.

    Gary explained: "We liked a night out and there was a lot of drinking and dancing. You’d find the nearest nightclub and it was like an extension of the park really.

    "I always remember one Christmas the Blues had a night off and we went down into the Torquay Bay and ended up creating a Christmas conga on the beach. Once we found a shopping trolley and took it back onto the camp and went round all of the chalets banging on the doors.

    "We said to the families ‘Donate to the Blue Coats’ and all the families brought something – boxes of wine, chocolates, cheese and crackers. We put on a huge party for the Blues and it was amazing. We were able to act like kids again!”

    It was the guests that really made Gary love his job though. He noted: "Part of your job was to be positive was to bring joy to people's lives. If they fair to say that, you know, a lot of families that used to come to us were poor or marginalised.

    "Sometimes it was the first holiday they’d had for many years and our job was to give them a great experience. I really enjoyed entertaining families like that.

    "You could see that you'd given them a really great escapism from the grim realities of life. I think that's what I really enjoyed about the job is that my job was to make people smile, make people happy, in a really positive way."

    According to Gary, not everyone could hack it as a Blue Coat, as he reckons it's a job for "extroverts and people in the performing arts, people that like to show off people that are good with kids and families".

    He explained: "People that have got energy, people that are positive and like fun, and being silly and who are not afraid of making a fool of themselves! I always would say to young people, go ahead and do it. You know, it's such a brilliant experience, even if you just do it for one term."

    When asked whether Pontins had gone downhill since his days on the blue coat force, Gary noted: "I think today in today's current financial climate, it must be really difficult to keep on top of so many so many parks.

    "With the cost of living and electricity and energy bills, it just must be really hard to keep on top of everything. But when I was there, it was a really thriving industry.

    "It was a thriving organisation and we were treated very well as employees. It’s basic, you know – you don't go there wanting a five star experience."

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