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BACK2FRONTierland
Photographs: DJ Clark
Interview: Gary Radice

Gallery: Added 2005

Although Frontierland in Morecambe (UK) closed forever in 2000, it lives on in the memories of the misty eyed amongst us who yearn for the simpler more carefree times of days gone by. In 2000 DJ Clark, a professional freelance photographer, took pictures of Frontierland operating in its last season. Five years on he talks to themagiceye and showcases some of his photographs from that period that portray a park on the edge of change.

Image: DJ Clark
The park has been photographed here in its last season (2000). The park was not fully open and that may account for the lack of people. Frontierland, as many people remember it, actually closed on 7th November 1999.
 
The park began to 'downsize' in 1998 when the back section of the park was closed - and with it some rides. In the summer of 2000 the park contained many travelling fair rides operated by showmen and went by the name 'Frontierland Family Theme Park'.

themagiceye: When exactly was the photo to the left shot? It was obviously taken from a cable car. Did you manage to take any from the Polo Tower?

DJ Clark: I was walking along the prom shooting pictures of people on the beach and saw the cable car was working so decided to buy a ticket and shoot some pictures.

 
I tried very hard to get up the polo tower without success. It had already closed by the time I started the project and although I made several requests to various people to get permission to go up the ladder, I was refused on health and safety grounds.


Image: DJ Clark
This spinning coaster weaves almost snake-like against the backdrop of the tower as if it is squeezing the life out of the park.

themagiceye: Is the imagery in keeping with your thoughts when taking the photo or is this just  themagiceye being too deep for its own good?

DJ Clark: I think the magiceye maybe be reading too much into this. I canít recall my thoughts at the time of taking this image but I am sure the graphic form of the rollercoaster and the sky were the main motivation for this image.

 

 



Image: DJ Clark
There is no mistaking the Tower with the word POLO emblazoned all over it. Some people appear oblivious to it and walk on by. Perhaps the man in the foreground is contemplating the tower...Or perhaps he is just turning to talk to the people behind him?
 
The tower has become an accepted part of the landscape.

themagiceye: Is there a story behind this picture?

DJ Clark: To be honest my main reason for this shot were the Asians in the foreground. The area has a fair sized British Asian population and I found it hard to represent them fully in the early days of the project. It was important for me to show the people of the region as they were and I was becoming aware of an over white British bias. I remember passing them on the prom and turning to find the polo tower and blue sky framed perfectly behind. I worked for a couple of years in Israel/Palestine covering the conflict there and remember my boss always told me if you shoot a picture in Jerusalem make sure you include the wall, then everyone knows where it is. I guess including the polo tower in a Morecambe shot immediately locates it.



Image: DJ Clark
The long shadows add to the eerie atmosphere of the photograph. Frontierland has become a ghost town.
 
Note too the pattern of the clouds over Noah's Ark giving the ark an almost mystical feel.

themagiceye:  How important to your photos is the sky and the light?

DJ Clark: Light is very important to me. When I have a choice (which I did for this picture) I will go out when the light and sky are strong as I know everything will look much more dramatic. This picture was taken on a December morning.

 


Image: DJ Clark
themagiceye's favourite photograph from the collection. Noah's Ark still standing amongst the desolation around it. Symbolism abounds..
 
themagiceye: Are any of your photos for sale separately?

DJ Clark: Yes of course all pictures are available for sale. At the moment though the negatives are kept by Lancaster Museum so if you donít have a high res scan you will need to get the print from them.

The Noah's Ark attraction once stood proud...click here (photo courtesy of www.morecambe.co.uk and Andrew Love/Frontierland Remembered).

 



Image: DJ Clark
The Polo Tower appears to take on another form here; that of a rocket - particularly as it stands against the background of the starlit night sky. This is the only shot themagiceye has seen of Frontierland taken at night like this.
 
themagiceye:  How many shots of the park did you originally take at night?

DJ Clark: No it is taken in the day, just a trick of the camera. I often watch the forecast for days where there is going to be sunshine and showers as these are often great days for dramatic pictures. It is black clouds behind the tower which give the appearance of night but the tower is lit by the sun. I took some night shots of Frontierland but all the lights had gone by 2000 and it looked pretty bleak compared to images taken a couple of years before.



Image: DJ Clark
The word 'facade' could be used here to describe the wild west building concealing the workings of the Polo Tower.

themagiceye: Are you familiar with any of the politics behind the closure of the park and have you ever met any of the key people from the park/council?

DJ Clark: I am not too familiar with all the politics other than it was not making enough money. I knew some of the planning people in the council from previous work but only approached them for permissions to get in to places (most of which were refused). I think the park had been doomed before my project started as it was only part open in the summer of 2000. I had to sneak in to take these pictures as I was refused permission to go in by the council.

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