Dreamland Margate reopens on May 26 following a “creative makeover”. After several setback since the park was relaunched in 2015, management is promising a positive future.
For a second season, the park will boast free entry, and guests can then buy wristbands to go on rides. But there’s plenty more to do than just rides. The Spring Bank Holiday weekend promises a full programme of music and pop up entertainment, including a new live music stage – all with a vintage twist.
“Our opening weekend celebrations are a sign of things to come,” says new Dreamland Margate CEO Steven Mitchell. “We have curated a new age of seaside culture and are presenting something truly unique in Britain today. We’re incredibly excited to relaunch the park and are sure it will have a lasting effect on local people and businesses. There’s a great future ahead.”
A new area with rides and entertainment for the little ones has arrived in the shape of Teddy and Betty Land. Older guests can sip on oversized cocktails while watching the park’s classic 1920s Scenic Railway at The Slide Bar. Street food is on offer at The Friendliest Food Court Ever, overlooking the new music stage.
Families are important to Dreamland, of course, but to encourage a wider demographic – some might say “hipsters” – the park continues to hosts a series of special events. The most noteworthy is surely the sold-out Demon Dayz music festival on June 10. Hosted and headlined by the band Gorillaz, it will be their first UK show since 2010. In August, the music festival Camp Bestival will present the world’s biggest bouncy castle.
Other highlights in the calendar include:
• May 27: Maxïmo Park launch Hall By The Sea
• May 28/29: Margate Wonderland
• June 25: Summer Tea Dance
• July 2: Dreamland Vintage Market
• September 8/9: Undercover Festival
Dreamland Margate’s new era
Dreamland is considered to be the oldest-surviving amusement park in Great Britain. The site of Dreamland (as it was re-named in 1920) dates back to the British railway boom of the early 1870s. In its original form, the ‘Hall by the Sea’ was operated by circus tycoon ‘Lord’ George Sanger.
In 2003, a plan to close the park and build housing on the site triggered a ‘Save Dreamland’ campaign. Sands Heritage Ltd. was appointed as new operator in 2014, with the park re-opening in June the following year. Yet visitors numbers were disappointing, and barely one year on, in May 2015, Dreamland was in administration. Free entry was introduced soon after.
Speaking to The Guardian, Steven Mitchell acknowledges the difficulties. “We had a good selection of vintage rides but the overall look and feel of the park didn’t make it the kind of place that encouraged customers to spend lots of time there,” he said. “The lack of financing meant not all the rides were working all the time and the food and drink offering was fine but not really top quality, not enough to make it worth a trip for people outside the area or from London for the day or weekend.”
Now as part a £25 million makeover, architecture and design by d_raw and Aecom in collaboration with Neverland will see the next phase in the restoration project being realised. A fully re-landscaped park is planned with modern art installations and contemporary food and drink offerings. This will all sit alongside vintage rides representing most eras through until the 1990s.
All images courtesy Dreamland Margate