Funtastic! The Big Brownie Birthday event at Butlins

When I joined my current Guiding district in September 2012, I was told to put a weekend date in my diary for a Brownie event at Butlins.  Following on from the success of a similar event during the Guiding centenary in 2010, a weekend for Brownies to celebrate their own one hundredth birthday was arranged for January 2014.  I love Brownie residentials, so the date went straight in my diary!

In January 2013, we gave the booking information to the Brownies and their parents.  There are four Brownie units in my district, and we decided to go as a district, the bigger the group size the better!  Sadly, the event was so popular that we didn't get any places.  Cue disappointed Brownies and leaders.  We decided to stay on the waiting list, and in September I got an email to say that there were enough places for us all!  Cue very excited Brownies and leaders!  As we're in the same county (Sussex West) as Bognor Regis, a lot of our leaders were already volunteering as staff at the event, so we knew there would be quite a few of us there!  In the end, we took over 30 girls, to join the 3,000 other Brownies attending from across the region.

 Friday afternoon I arrived at Butlins with another leader to register us before the girls arrived.  The Butlins staff were fantastic the whole weekend, incredibly professional and patient with all our girls.  We checked in, and put a district necker and a Funtastic goody bag on each bed, just in time to go down to the car park to meet our Brownies.

Lots and lots and lots of Brownies!  We found all of ours, and took them back to the hotel to get settled.  To say they were excited is an understatement!  For many of them it was their first time away with Brownies, but there wasn't any time to be nervous, there was too much to do!  After settling in and going over some ground rules for the weekend we went off to the disco.  Oh the noise!  The screaming!  The encouragement of noise and screaming! The excitement!

Saturday was a busy day, the timetable was divided in hour long sessions with fifteen minutes in between for moving between venues.  The inside of each venue was set up in such a way that leaders could stay around the edge with the girls' coats and then the girls could wander off on their own (as long as they stayed inside the building) and pick and choose their own activities.  It was great for them to be independent in a safe environment and be able to do what they wanted to do.  There were queues for the more popular activities, but that's just a part of life!  There was a slight hiccup with swimming in the afternoon, as previous sessions had overrun meaning my group had less time than those who had swum in the morning.  But the Brownies were well behaved in the queues, and seemed to understand that an event of this size is likely to have the occasional bump along the way.

Saturday evening we watched the Celebration Show, with children performing in a play based on time-travelling girls exploring Brownies throughout the section's hundred year history.  The lady who was in overall charge of the event was presented with an award for her organisation, which was truly deserved.  I can only imagine what it's like to organise such an event for so many people, my hat goes off to her and her teams!


Sunday was a gorgeous day, we spent the morning on the beach doing a photo treasure hunt, then going on the fairground rides, before a roast lunch followed by birthday cake and ice cream.  It was then back to the hotel for more packing before we went to the shops.  Brownies do like gift shops! (I bought this vintage-style postcard, it did make me laugh.)  We finished with giving out the Funtastic badges (the same design as on the birthday cake and one of the best badge designs I've seen in quite a while) and the Brownie Stay Away badge, as well as having a round of applause for the adults.  It's through events like this that the Brownies realise just how much work goes into an event...I was chatting with a few Brownies about the weekend, and one said it was definitely worth the £100 she knows her parents paid for it.  She asked how much I had paid, and I said £60.  Another Brownie asked why the adults paid less than the Brownies as normally adults pay more than children.  We then talked about what the adults had done this weekend (slept, eaten, watched the girls do activities) and what the children had done (slept, eaten, swum, crafts, and other activities which required equipment and set-up costs) and the girls all decided that it was fair we paid less as we worked hard looking after them all.  It was a really grown-up discussion, and when the girls thanked the leaders for their hard work and giving up their weekend, I felt they truly meant it.  I know I'm a volunteer because I love it, but it is nice to be appreciated!

Parents then arrived to collect their daughters, with many parents commenting on how happy but tired we all looked, which I think summed us all up perfectly.  As soon as the girls had all gone home, us leaders finished packing and then headed home too.  I spent the evening on the sofa with multiple cups of tea and takeaway pizza!

Yesterday at Brownies we asked what the girls had enjoyed the most, and all of them said "everything".  I don't think you can ask for more than that!  So, LaSER: when's the next one?!


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