VIEWERS who tuned in to watch Johnny Vegas's journey in Channel 4's Carry on Glamping will have been given an insight into the real character behind the Thatto Heath funnyman.

But they may also have become aware of a little diamond in the St Helens business world – which comes in the shape of Retro Chimps.

The show follows the dream of St Helens' Johnny Vegas to create a unique glamping site, where the accommodation is made up of old buses and vehicles which are restored.

Johnny called upon the expertise of Retro Chimps, giving the little business huge exposure.

Johnny Vegas and Bev Dixon - with the Maltese bus that was restored in Carry on Glamping

Johnny Vegas and Bev Dixon - with the Maltese bus that was restored in Carry on Glamping

The business's story began in November 2012 when two St Helens brother-in-laws decided to change their lives and venture into the world of self-employment.

Working out of a garage, Hughie Brennan and Steve Kay harnessed their talents of creativeness and practicality to create interesting, custom built ornaments and furniture from reclaimed materials.

It’s been a long journey though for Retro Chimps and directors Hughie and Steve say it's been arduous in spells - a long way the the glamour of the television limelight.

They said: “There’s been hard times when we didn’t have enough work and money was tight, most people would’ve jacked it in.

"But we’ve always had faith in the business and we were determined to make it work.”

Retro Chimps now operates from its own unit on Chalon Way Industrial estate.

Steve added: “The business started to really take off in 2015. We fitted out a local café and made a distinctive logo and sign.

"This led to a barbershop fit out and it’s just grown from there really.”

The Retro Chimps work space at Chalon Way

The Retro Chimps work space at Chalon Way

Numerous other local businesses have benefited from the Retro Chimps magic.

Momos café, Sabroso Mexican restaurant, The Bard pub in Prescot and The Wine Club in Rainhill to name a few.

Hughie added: “It’s not just local though, we’ve fitted out pubs in Iron Bridge and Shrewsbury.”

But Steve says it is the connection with Johnny that has given them the boost.

He added: “The real break came when Johnny Vegas turned up at the unit with a pair of filing cabinets and asked us to create bedside cabinets out of them”

One of the quirky items listed for sale on the website (Pic:

One of the quirky items listed for sale on the website (Pic:

"When he returned to pick them up, he was made up with them and started talking about a documentary he was filming.” Hughie added: “Imagine our surprise when five months later we got a phone call asking us if we’d like to be part of the programme, and could we come up and film with Johnny.”

Retro Chimps' contribution to the programme, it's available to watch on C4 and on “catch up”.

Without giving too much away, they were presented with various discarded materials and tasked with creating something stunning, interesting and unique.

Retro Chimps have been St Helens Chamber Members since 2016.

“We were stuck at the time,”added Hughie, “we desperately needed advice on how to grow”.

St Helens Chamber Business Growth Programme provided marketing support and Steve added: “It was brilliant, the consultant was really enthusiastic about what we did and set us on the right direction.

"We both came out feeling 10 feet tall after that first meeting.”

Johnny withe the Retro Chimps

Johnny with the Retro Chimps

Hughie added: “We also had financial planning support through the Chamber; that was invaluable.

"We’ve got creativity in spades, that’s why we do what we do, but to make it a viable business we had to get to grips with the financial side. The support was great for that.”

If you'd like to know more St Helens Chamber Business Growth Programme or Business Financial Planning, contact John Woods on 01744 742058 or email

To find out more about Retro Chimps visit