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Created by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, Hi de Hi first took to our television screens on 1st January 1980. Based on Jimmy Perry's real life experiences as a Butlin's Red Coat, Hi de Hi is set in the fictitious holiday camp of Maplins, Crimpton-on-Sea in the late 1950's when holiday camps were at the height of popularity. The location work for the series which won the 1984 BAFTA Award for Best Comedy along with three other BAFTA nominations in consecutive years, was filmed at a real life holiday camp in Dovercourt, Essex and ran for 55 episodes before finally closing it's chalet doors in 1988.    It's strength and huge popularity came as a result not just of brilliant writing but of the superb casting which led to the evolving of some of British sitcoms most memorable characters. For example, who would ever expect the camp to be run by a bashful boffin and ex Cambridge Professor of archaeology AKA Jeffrey Fairbrother played by Simon Cadell. Then there was the man eating, Welsh chief Yellowcoat Glady's Pugh (Ruth Madoc), delightfully dotty chalet maid and Yellowcoat wannabee Peggy (Su Pollard), camp host and loveable rogue Ted Bovis (Paul Shane), the alcoholic and child hating Punch and Judy man Mr Partridge (Leslie Dwyer), the supercilious dance instructors Barry and Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves (Barry Howard and Diane Holland), Riding Instructor and former disgraced jockey Fred Quilly, (Felix Bowness)  and most importantly the naive and often described as hapless camp comedian Spike Dixon, played of course by Jeffrey Holland.


There are few who would question that this role was to be the real turning point in Jeff's career making him a household name. He played Spike for all 55 episodes as well as starring in the musical stage version which toured the UK to sell out houses and also enjoyed major success in London at the Victoria Palace  where it's Christmas season was extended to the end of May.


Despite having already worked for Croft and Perry on a number of occasions, Jeff still had to pass an audition before being offered the role of Spike. He believes his success was largely due to his portrayal of a character he had played previously played in It Ain't Half Hot Mum together with an immediate chemistry struck up between himself and Paul Shane.


Over the course of the series as a comedian, Spike could mainly be relied upon to get laughs from his outrageous costumes and for the numerous times he was thrown into 'the Olympic sized swimming pool' but this wasn't all fun for Jeff. For obvious reasons, filming couldn't take place at the height of the summer season which meant the water in the outdoor pool was often freezing. That coupled with the fact that Jeff is not a strong swimmer almost resulted in disaster during the filming of one scene. As the camera's rolled, no one appeared to notice that Jeff was in difficulties. As he began to get colder he started to loose the feeling in his legs and lower body. It was he recalls, the most terrifying moment of his life and as panic set in he truly believed he was going to drown. As he frantically waved his arms, thankfully one of the crew realised his predicament and Jeff was dragged form the pool and plunged into a hot bath to revive him. Due to some brilliant editing, the scene was later screened without any evidence of the near catastrophe. Fortunately for Jeff his other memories of the series are much happier!!!


As the show evolved, new characters were introduced who only served to strengthen the series. With the departure of Simon Cadell came the introduction of a new Entertainments Manager in the form of Sqdn-Ldr. The Honourable Clive Dempster DFC (David Griffin) whose rakish charm brought a complete role reversal to the character of Gladys Pugh. Having spent much of her time perusing the timid Jeffrey Fairbrother, Gladys suddenly found herself trying to avoid the amorous advances of the not so honourable Squadron Leader. Spike acquired a girlfriend in the form of Yellowcoat, April (Linda Regan) and found himself firmly under the thumb if only temporarily and a new children's entertainer Uncle Sammy Morris (Kenneth Connor) was introduced along with a new dance partner for Yvonne in the form of Julian Dalrymple-Sykes (Ben Aris).


The series finally made an emotional exit at the height if it's popularity with the camp closing down but not before Gladys had married her knight in shining armour and Peggy had become the proud owner of her much sought after Yellowcoat. As for Spike, well rumour has it, he left to work in the tax office!

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