Colin Butts Interview (Is Harry On The Boat Author)

Colin Butts is the author of the bestselling Is Harry On The Boat books which went on to become a film as well as a TV show. He also owns the bar Plastik in Ibiza, we took to time to catch up with him.

You was a rep for 2wentys, what was that like?
I think being a rep is a good foundation for later life as it makes you mine your personal resources and realise what you are capable of (e.g. surviving on very little sleep!). It endows you with a broad palette of skills and I know of 3 reps who I worked with who went on to be worth 50 million+ each and they all said their time repping helped furnish them with the self-belief and skillsets to achieve their success. I remember it being a stressful job but also huge fun. Basically, you’re being paid to socialise and make sure people have a great time. The passage of time has made me forget about being constantly knackered or having to deal with petty politics so my memories of it are quite fond.

When did you decide to write the Is Harry On The Boat series?
I kept a diary when I was repping and I had so many incredible and unbelievable stories that it was crying out to be turned into a book. I had a go at starting it a few times but those attempts were pretty poor. In later years, I was fortunate enough to be mentored by Paul Abbott (the guy who created Shameless and one of the country’s top script writers) and he always said that writing finds you rather than the other way around. I started writing what became the published Is Harry on the Boat? about 10 years after I stopped repping and he was right – writing found me and it just seemed to flow.

Is the series over or will we see a third book?
After Is Harry got published, a 15 year old girl read it and gave it to her mum who was a film producer, saying she thought it would make a great film. I’ll always be in Lily Allen’s debt for that (it was her mum Alison Owen who was the producer). The film, which was Danny Dyer’s first lead, was made in 2000 and part of the deal was for there to be a subsequent series on Sky. That prompted me to write a sequel, Is Harry STILL on the Boat? I wrote a 3rd book in 2003 called A Bus Could Run You Over. It’s set in Ibiza and is my favourite of the 3 as it’s more about working out what makes you happy and is set against a backdrop of worker life in Ibiza.

The books seem to be out of print and the dvd is impossible to get hold off, is there going to be a reprint of the books and a re release of the film?
I was shocked to discover a few years ago that an original copy of the Is Harry on the Boat? DVD was selling on Amazon for over £150! I didn’t even have a copy! It was supposed to go to cinema but Sky Pictures folded and it went out on Sky so I don’t think there were that many DVDs made. Danny’s grown enormously in popularity since then too, plus there’s quite a lot of other well-known faces in it – if you know where to look you can even see Lily it it a few times. I really don’t know why it’s become such a massive cult film though – maybe it’s just the Ibiza factor?

Is Harry was published in 2000 so I don’t think they’re doing any more print runs. I managed to get a few boxes of A Bus Could Run You Over and I normally give those out to friends or the kids who work for us in the bars. As for the film I’ve actually been trying to get the rights from Sky to re-release it. I spoke to the director (who went on to do Kidulthood) and the idea was to do a few bonus interviews and behind-the scenes stories to add to it but getting the rights back is proving very difficult so I’d be surprised if it happens.

Tell us about the first time you decided to go to Ibiza?
I came over on holiday way back in 1983, then worked here as a rep at the end of 1986 and 87, then ran Gala Night in 88 (which is where they now hold the Zoo Project). San Antonio was actually a really cool place back then and Es Paradis and the Star Club (now Eden, though back then it was totally different) were the 2 main clubs to go to, until Amnesia appeared on the radar. It was just a completely different vibe to clubbing in the UK where you usually had to wear trousers, shoes and a shirt with a collar to get into clubs. It’s no surprise that those pioneering DJs wanted to bring a bit of Ibiza back to the UK with them when the whole rave thing kicked off.

For the people who have never been to Ibiza, what tips would you give them?
Tell whoever it is picking you up from the airport back in the UK that you’ll probably miss your flight.

Tell us a bit about your bar.
Plastik started in the West End as a record shop called Plastic Fantastic. At the time I was producing music (back in 2001, I’d just had a big club hit with Sweet Dreams) and I needed somewhere to put my studio. I had a massive 56 channel mixing desk and racks of equipment and as I was moving home every 6 months it was proving a pain to dismantle and re-assemble. There was a space at the back of the record shop and my mate Toni Oneto was one of the owners of Plastic Fantastic, so I suggested putting my studio there and using the rest of the space for a cool bar, attached to the studio and record shop. Gradually the bar grew in popularity, vinyl sales plummeted and the bar took over. The only problem was as cool as the bar was, it was still in the West End and because of people’s perception of the West End we couldn’t grow in the way we wanted nor attract the quality of people we wanted, so 5 years ago we moved to our current location.

Every year we try and up our game, do something different, offer something more. The VIP section had grown in popularity and we have a VVIP section where we get footballers like Steve Gerrard and Stuart Downing (Stu even DJs sometimes), sports stars like Franki Detorri, popstars like JLS, NDubz, Taio Cruz and Dizzee Rascal, actors like Danny Dyer, TV presenters like Location Location’s Phil Spencer, celebs like David Walliams and a host of reality stars and models. I think the reason they like it (apart from our notoriously fit bar staff!) is that they don’t really get hassled – we’ve a pretty cool clientele in Plastik.

What is it like living in Ibiza?
On the negative side it’s a place of extremes and it can sometimes get too manic for a very short period in the summer, yet in the winter all that’s missing is some tumbleweed and it really is a little too quiet. However, for me the best time is at the end of summer (October November) and just before the season starts (March/April). The weather’s great, a few places are open and you get to see and enjoy the island in all its beauty. What makes it even better is sitting in a small village or on a beach, with a bottle of wine and ringing up someone at home who’s stuck in a traffic jam in the pissing rain on the way home from work. Re-defines the word ‘smug’.

What does 2011 hold in store for you?
We’ve made a few changes to Plastik and improved the quality still further so we’ve high hopes for that. Last year we opened The Egg bar next door and we are in talks with a global brand about re-naming it.

Away from Ibiza, there’s a film out I’ve written called Screwed. There’s a lad I’ve been mentoring with his writing for a number of years called Ronnie Thompson. His first book was about his time as a prison officer (Screwed) and we’ve spent about 3 years trying to get it made into a film. He managed to raise the finance and we did the script at the beginning of 2010, filmed it in September so that should be out in June.

I’ve also just finished writing the script for A Bus Could Run You Over so I’m trying to raise the money to get that made this September, which I’m really excited about.
Plastik Ibiza