“Roll up, roll up, roll up y’all!” Thus went the cry at Dreamland Margate’s reopening. This epic labour of love has taken 12 years from start to finish, the vision and grit of a very diverse bunch of people and millions of pounds in funding. Dreamland celebrates the culture and heritage of UK’s seaside resorts and it means so much to so many; never was a community more inspired by a project. Dreamland’s more than a heritage park – it’s the beating heart of Margate. It also means 250 new jobs created, with further jobs to be announced.
Best of all, what was once a rather sad and dilapidated Victorian amusement park is no longer the emblematic eyesore of Margate in general, or ‘shabby, down-at-heel Margate’ as it was invariably referred to in the press. Margate itself is looking well tasty these days, the David Chipperfield-designed Turner Contemporary holding its own with exhibitions drawing record crowds and new businesses opening all the time, mainly driven by the energy of the established hipster pioneers. No wonder priced-out-of-London creatives are jumping on the affordable period properties and enjoying the beautiful coastline. With the highspeed train links to London or Eurostar at Ebbsfleet International, Margate, and neighbouring Broadstairs and Ramsgate make perfect sense to the self-employed who don’t have to rely on finding work in Thanet.
Getting Dreamland ready for the opening day on the 19th June 2015 was clearly a massive push. Even as the fat, red silk ribbon was being cut by a select group of carny royalty, you could hear the odd buzz of power tools cutting through the jolly music and glimpse guys with tool belts and weary faces walking around – apparently they worked through the night in the blustery Margate wind to tweak the last bits for the grand opening. It is such a joy seeing the vintage rides finally revealed in their full glory after months of tantalising previews on Dreamland’s Facebook page.
The Big Wheel of Colour majestically moving round, each booth a different shade from the colour scale; the Helter-Skelter in all its tempting stripey goodness, a replica of the 1920’s version; the Dreamland Gallopers, a classic merry-go-round which dates back to 1922; Messham’s Wall of Death, with two riders lounging menacingly outside in between performances; the Chair-O-Plane looking like a Marie Antoinette music box and many more.
Although the signature Scenic Railway – UK’s oldest and the second oldest in the world after Melbourne’s Luna Park – wasn’t ready thanks to arson and winter storms, there were enough thrills laid on to keep even the most discerning punter happy. It certainly made a gaggle of cheeky schoolboys’ day when they spotted the open-air pole dancers! That may sound a little tacky but fitted in perfectly with the carefully curated colour scheme, vintage fonts, tongue-in-cheek seaside naughtiness, even the names for some of the rides – Born Slippy, Counter Culture Caterpillar – and the staff fitted in perfectly, cheerily smiling local boys and girls in Mod, 50’s pin-up styles or a skinhead-lite outfits, all a conscious nod to Margate’s youth culture past as re-imagined by HemingwayDesign.
And the fairground’s not all! There’s also a massive roller disco and pinball machine hall, awash in a tantalising fug of candyfloss. You can hire skates and whizz around the rink under a twinkling mirrorball; play the restored vintage pinball machines, use the photo booths, eat ice cream and other food from the café or visit the rather tempting souvenir shop. Loved the floor, studded with twinkling pennies.
Looking up you see the embossed, heavily decorated ceiling which is full of holes, reminding you that there are still areas left to do of this huge scale project and also how overwhelming it must have been. A huge WELL DONE to the Dreamland Trust. They have achieved the seemingly unattainable in resurrecting this magnificent beast. As Ray Hole, the architect working on Dreamland, remarked at the opening ceremony, “Miracles we do; the impossible take a little longer!”
Hall By The Sea Road
Check Dreamland website for prices, opening hours and schedule of upcoming events such as Mike Skinner, Sink The Pink and Club de Fromage later in the year
Words by Anna Bang
Tagsanna bang, Club de Fromage, Dreamland Margate, HemingwayDesign, Messham's Wall of Death, Mike Skinner, Ray Hole, Sink The Pink,