Interview by Gary Radice
: Added 2002/2003/2005
In December 2002, themagiceye contacted Nick Laister for an update on the story and he very kindly replied...

Have you had any feedback from your actions?
I have had a lot of people emailing me in support. I haven't had any negative feedback (yet!). English Heritage have been very positive, and have invited me to come back with a more comprehensive list.

Good Press/Bad Press?
The press has all been very positive.

For me, the best thing I read was an article in The Guardian about Dreamland and amusement park history in general. It took a really affectionate angle on ride heritage, and demonstrated very well how important this small part of our country's heritage is, and how retaining some of it is better than having a housing estate or a supermarket in its place. (The story is still on the internet: Here is the link.)

Has the owner been in touch?

And then in early January 2003 the following story featured in the local BBC Kent news...

"Margate's famous Dreamland Fun Park looks unlikely to continue beyond this year"

It (Dreamland) is under the same ownership as the Rotunda park in Folkestone, part of which is already being demolished to make way for shops, flats and indoor leisure facilities.

Owner Jim Godden said Dreamland would probably have to go much the same way and is considering replacing the rides with shops and indoor leisure facilities.

"The park is far too large for Margate as we know it today. We are looking towards a similar type of operation as Folkestone, without the residential aspect.

"We can incorporate some leisure boxes, some retail and a supermarket but retain the Dreamland tower which houses the cinema complex, the cash bingo and the Chinese restaurant," Mr Godden explained.

Although no formal planning application has yet been submitted, Thanet Council's leader Richard Nicholson said change might be difficult to stop.

"We have to face the fact that, whilst we could refuse anything that does affect Dreamland Leisure Park, Mr Godden is quite entitled to close it.

"What we donít want to end up with is a closed leisure park steadily going into dereliction within the centre of Margate and near the seafront."

...and the response...

"The Scenic Railway is the oldest roller coaster in Britain at 83 years old (as at 2003), and is one of only two surviving scenic railway coasters.
I am concerned that members of Thanet Council already seem to have accepted that closure is inevitable.
I find it astonishing that the closure of Dreamland could be seen as a benefit to Margate.
Dreamland is the only major seaside fun park in this part of the country. If it closes, what will bring the people to Margate? Retail boxes and a supermarket? You can see these in any town in Britain, you don't have to go to Margate."
Nick Laister, 6/1/03."

Then on 7/1/03 Nick set out his stall. He was to fight the proposals. The following extract is from Joyland Books:

"As a planning consultant, I am involved in this type of work every day. There are a number of avenues open to us to save the ride and to save some or all of this popular park.
I propose to use my experience of the planning system to fight these proposals.

I believe that the loss of Dreamland is completely unnecessary, and is only being brought about as the result of the present owner, Jimmy Godden, retiring.
The loss of the park would be a huge blow for Margate's tourism industry. The Scenic Railway is the single most important ride in Britain in terms of its historical significance.
The fact that it is now listed means that the owners have to cross several hurdles before they can demolish it. 
The events in Folkestone over the weekend make me certain that, were it not for the ride being listed last year, the Scenic Railway would by now have been removed.
I am now looking for people to join me in my campaign to save the ride."
Nick Laister, 7/1/03
Nick can be contacted at nick@joylandbooks.com

How historically important is the Scenic Railway?

World's oldest operating roller coasters (As at 2003):

1) Leap the Dips, Lakemont Park, USA (1902)

2) Scenic Railway, Luna Park, Australia (1912)

3) Rutschbannen, Tivoli, Denmark (1914)

4) Jack Rabbit, Clementon, USA (1919)

5) Jack Rabbit, Sea Breeze, USA (1920)

6) Scenic Railway, Margate, UK (1920)

By 18/1/0, an option agreement for the sale of the site had been signed with Yorkshire-based Stadium Developments...

The Scenic Railway in 2003 (Photo: Graeme Cassidy)

The Scenic Railway in 2002, with Henk Bembom's looping roller coaster behind (Photo: Graeme Cassidy)

The Save Dreamland Campaign's 2005 concept plan for Dreamland by Jean-Marc Toussaint

The famous Dreamland Cinema in 1969, marking the entrance to the Dreamland Amusement Park.

Folkestone's Rotunda Amusement Park in 2003. The park was also owned by Jimmy Godden and closed in the same year as Dreamland.

Campaigners Sarah Vickery, Nick Laister and Dave Collard at the 2005 Preston Rally (Photo: Nick Laister).


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