“I have to remind myself that I am at a holiday camp, not at some West End show”

(October 08, 2012)

Warren Bailey, a guest at Mill Rythe Holiday Village in September, was so bowled over by the high standard of entertainment from the Show Cast team that he has contacted local newspaper The News in Portsmouth with this review. What a hidden gem Mill Rythe really is.

"Every now and then I check the internet for the rare chance that my guilty pleasure, Cannon and Ball, are performing somewhere close to home. 

This time I’m lucky and find out that they are playing just down the road at Mill Rythe Holiday Camp on Hayling Island as part of a Hi-de-Hi nostalgia break. 

I know the place, I’ve spent 40 years passing it by on summer time trips to Beachlands as a child and as a father, but had never been there before. 

So I decide to check it out on the internet and get all the dates, prices and facilities. I am surprised to see how affordable it is – not much more than a £100 for three nights’ half board – and book the break for my wife and me.

Friday 28 September arrives and we jump in the car and take the short drive to Mill Rythe.

When we arrive, the place is bustling with people and it’s all very manic. We head to the reception to check in and we are greeted with a warm smile from the Guest Services representative and given directions to our chalet, which we promptly set off to find.

Our chalet turns out to be comfortable and cosy accommodation of a very high standard. It has tea/coffee-making facilities, flat-screen TV with freeview and nice, warm, fresh towels. 

The welcome pack contains information about sittings for breakfast and dinner, and our allocated table number. So we head off to the restaurant and find our table – small but nicely decorated affair set for four people.

We have our own dedicated waiter, and such a varied menu, we wonder how they can provide this selection considering how affordable the break is.

During dinner, we are joined by some fellow diners, who are great dining companions, and after dinner we all head to the ballroom to take our seats for the evening’s entertainment after ordering some reasonably priced drinks at the bar.

The entertainment kicks off with two of the staff from the Show Cast team elegantly and professionally performing a waltz before inviting everyone to join them on the dance floor for the next waltz.

More members of the Show Cast team, dressed as Joe Maplin’s Yellow coats, join them on the dance floor, and my wife, moved by the nostalgia and the emotion of the scene, is now in floods of tears.

The music for the night’s entertainment is provided by a four-piece band called Jetset, fronted by the delightfully smooth vocals of Melanie Macro. 

When the compere says “Cabaret time”, the words fill me with dread, but when the curtains open, and  the performers flood the stage, performing a song from Hairspray the movie, I find that the costumes look good, and the music sounds good… The performers start to sing, hold on a second, they are singing in harmony together, as a vocal group.  It glides into another song from Hairspray, and then into a medley of ‘60s songs, performers coming and going from the stage, costume changes, acting, well choreographed dance moves, every vocal tuneful to the last note, an underlay of music from the band. 

This is not just good this is fantastic!  Another slick change into a Beach boy medley, and I have to remind myself that I am at a holiday camp in Hayling Island and not at some kind of West End show; after all we’ve paid just over a £100 each for three nights, not one, with food. 

Over the next three days we enjoy quizzes, bowls, line dancing, archery, sequence dancing, shuffleboard dominoes, tap dancing, darts, zumba and more amazing entertainment.  The star attraction – Cannon and Ball – do not disappoint, but the third evening’s show, The Vera Lynn Story is a bespoke piece of theatre exclusive to Mill Rythe, written by its creative director, Max Barraclough, showcasing the famous singer’s life.  The performances are outstanding, especially Amanda Poyner as Vera Lynn, and the final curtain is met with two standing ovations. 

I came to see Cannon and Ball as the main attraction (which they were) but left feeling that they were the icing on an extremely well-baked cake, from the waiters to the entertainment staff, the band to the cleaners and especially the happy go lucky disposition of the campers, it was a great experience.

 Will I be going back to Mill Rythe? Hi-de-highly likely. Those three days spent on a holiday camp 15 minutes from my doorstep have completely changed the views I have held all my life.  

Thank you Mill Rythe, once again I thank you!"

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