News: September 2003

In  January 2003 the owner of Dreamland, Jimmy Godden, announced the closure of Dreamland. The park is to be redeveloped as "leisure boxes, some retail and a supermarket". Joyland Books will provide updates on the campaign to save Dreamland and its internationally-important Scenic Railway ride.

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Tuesday, 30 September 2003

BBC News reports that a man is being questioned over allegations that 5,000 has gone missing from a fund set up to save a historic roller coaster. This follows the report on Sunday 28 September in local newspaper Kent on Sunday (see below). Click here for the full BBC News report.

Today's Thanet Times carried a front page story about Dreamland's last day of the main season, under the headline: 'Hundreds Roll Up for a Final Thrill'.

Monday, 29 September 2003

The Save Dreamland Campaign has prepared its own statement in response to yesterday's news regarding the Scenic Railway Trust:

"The Save Dreamland Campaign is not at liberty to comment on the Kent on Sunday story relating to Colin Kiddell. However, we would like to make it clear that the Save Dreamland Campaign has no links with the Scenic Railway Trust. The Campaign holds its own bank account which is regulated by two signatories and has a very small balance: we are primarily a campaigning and lobbying group rather than a fundraising body."

Sunday, 28 September 2003

The Kent on Sunday newspaper carries a front page story relating to the Scenic Railway Trust with the headline: 'Arrest of Politician in Charity Cash Probe: 'I am innocent' says former Tory councillor'. The article states the following:

"A former councillor is being investigated by police in connection with the disappearance of funds raised to save the threatened Scenic Railway at Dreamland. But Colin Kiddell, 45, who resigned from Thanet District Council earlier this month and is currently on police bail after being arrested, says he is innocent and will be cleared of any allegations. Thousands of pounds are alleged to be missing from funds raised to safeguard the Grade-II listed railway at Margate's Dreamland, according to a reliable source. On one occasion the cash shortage almost saw the railway closed when its managers were unable to pay rent. A charitable Scenic Railway Trust for people to give money towards the attraction was never set up, it has been claimed. And a reliable source said that police were investigating "large financial irregularities". The source added that it had been a "good year" for takings and the ride could still be re-opened in future, depending on whether or not Dreamland landlord Jimmy Godden was prepared to give the go-ahead."

The article continues:

"When asked about his arrest Mr Kiddell said he currently has "more important things to think about". He said he had been seriously ill and was treated in hospital. "I was quite ill and still am," he said. "I ended up in hospital being quite seriously ill." He added: "It's all come to a head. At the moment I can't handle it." And Mr Kiddell said the allegations against him were false. "I am confident I will be proven innocent," he said. Mr Kiddell and David Collard began leasing the Scenic Railway from Dreamland in April and it was opened to the public at the end of May. Mr Collard has managed the ride on his own with two other staff since the beginning of August." 

The article also mentions that the Save Dreamland Campaign had been invited to be involved in the Trust:

"In February, members of the Save Dreamland Campaign were invited to an open meeting to discuss setting up a trust to raise funds for the scenic railway. It was to be established as a limited company, but was never registered, according to a reliable source. Mr Kiddell became a Tory councillor for the Margate Central ward in May. Thanet Council received his letter of resignation on September 10. A by-election was announced for his old post on Thursday. It will take place on Thursday October 30. Campaigners have been galvanising support for the ride, which won listed status in 2002, since the owners of Dreamland announced in January this year that they intended to close the amusement park. Opening on July 3 1920 the scenic railway is the oldest operating rollercoaster in the UK. It is one of only two scenic railway-type rollercoasters still operating - the other being at the Pleasure Beach, Great Yarmouth. The cars, which have lion's head carvings, run in troughs without wheels, limiting the speed and steepness of the drops."

The article also includes a formal response from the Police:

"A spokesman for Kent Police said: "A 45-year-old man from Margate has been arrested in connection with an investigation into suspected theft and is on bail. It relates to money raised to secure the future of the scenic railway at Dreamland." He was arrested on Wednesday September 3 and is due to answer bail at Margate Police Station in November."

Thursday, 25 September 2003

BBC Radio Kent will be marking the passing of what could be Dreamland's final weekend with a special lunchtime show on Monday 29th September (12noon - 2pm). Live guests on the Barbara Sturgeon Show - which encourages listeners to phone in with their Dreamland memories - include Nick Evans, author of the new book Dreamland Remembered, and Save Dreamland campaigners Sarah Vickery and Nick Laister. Call BBC Radio Kent with your memories on 08459 811111. Details of the special show can be found on the BBC's Barbara Sturgeon Show website.


Wednesday, 24 September 2003

A full report of Saturday's hugely successful Roaring 20s Night by European Coaster Club Chairman, Richard Foster, has been added to the website. Click here for the report.

Monday, 22 September 2003

Both Dreamland itself and the Save Dreamland Campaign have appeared extensively in the press and other media over the past few days. Some of the highlights are below:

It has been well documented that the Save Dreamland Campaign has been working closely with a major European theme park operator on proposals for the site. In June, Nick Laister and Sarah Vickery of the Save Dreamland Campaign and a Director of the European theme park operator met with council leaders to put forward their vision for the rebirth of Dreamland as a high quality family theme park based around the Scenic Railway. Following the meeting, councillors paid a visit to one of the Company's smaller parks, Bagatelle (Merlimont, France). This made the front page of Friday's Isle of Thanet Gazette, with the headline "French May Take Over Dreamland":

"French theme park owners have been in talks with Thanet councillors about the possibility of moving to the doomed Dreamland site in Margate. Council leader Sandy Ezekiel and tourism chief Cllr Jeff Kirkpatrick visited France to speak with owners of the Bagatelle theme park in Merlimont. Cllr Ezekial said: "We are in talks about the theme park, but it is at a very early stage. They have expressed an interest and nothing more. We are keeping our options open." Cllr Ezekiel said Bagatelle is a family-themed fun park, which the council would approve as a replacement for Dreamland."

Other parks owned by the French theme park group include Parc Asterix (Paris) and Hellendoorn Avonturenpark (The Netherlands).

Local Campaign Coordinator, Sarah Vickery, has made several appearances on local radio to promote the Campaign. She was interviewed on Invicta FM and KMFM on Friday about the Roaring 20s Night and the general direction of the Campaign. She was also interviewed live on BBC Radio Kent yesterday afternoon, and today was interviewed again by Radio Kent, KMFM and the Isle of Thanet Gazette.

Sunday, 21 September 2003

Roaring 20s Night, an event organised jointly by the Save Dreamland Campaign and the European Coaster Club, was held yesterday evening and has been hailed a great success. Campaigners from the two groups rode the Scenic Railway roller coaster for 200 minutes dressed in 1920s-style clothes to help raise the profile of the campaign and to raise money for the Scenic Railway. The marathon ride started at 8.40pm and finished at midnight, with all riders being sponsored for 50 or more. Richard Foster, Chairman of the European Coaster Club, said that early indications are that 2,500 was raised during the evening. A full report will appear here soon. A short report is available at the BBC News website or discuss the event on the Save Dreamland Forum.

Friday, 19 September 2003

Sarah Vickery (the Save Dreamland Campaign's Local Campaign Coordinator) and Richard Foster (Chairman of the European Coaster Club) are both interviewed live on BBC Radio Kent, talking about this weekend's forthcoming Roaring 20s Night.

Thursday, 18 September 2003

Dreamland's Reverchon Log Drop ride has reportedly been sold to travelling showman Willie Wilson Jnr. The log flume was new to the park, so will need a completely new fleet of transport to travel it, according to Ridesworld. The ride is expected to operate for the final time at Dreamland on Sunday 28th September 2003.

Thursday, 11 September 2003

Colin Kiddell, the man behind the Scenic Railway Trust, has resigned his seat as an elected councillor at Thanet District Council. His letter of resignation was received by the Chief Executive yesterday. A by-election has now been called in Margate Central Ward. Kiddell was elected as a Conservative Councillor in the local elections on 1 May 2003, shortly before which he had been instrumental in setting up the Scenic Railway Trust. However, his association with the Trust ended abruptly on 4 August 2003 (see report dated 11 August below). 

The Scenic Railway is now being operated by Dave Collard and his team. Dave has asked the Save Dreamland Campaign to point out that he is not running the ride as a Trust, but merely as an independent operator doing his best to keep the ride running. 

Dave Collard has made the following commitment to the Save Dreamland Campaign: "All the time I am offered the lease on the Scenic Railway from Dreamland Leisure I will ensure it is open and running properly for customers to enjoy and any financial help for running costs will still be appreciated from enthusiasts or supporters of the campaign."

Sunday, 7 September 2003

The European Coaster Club (ECC), in association with the Save Dreamland Campaign, has announced a special night of fundraising to help save Dreamland's Scenic Railway. 'Roaring 20s Night' is to be held on the evening of 20 September, and the hope is that the event will help to secure the future of the ride. The event is based around a 200 minute marathon ride of the Scenic Railway. Starting at 7pm, those taking part will have to stay on the Scenic Railway for 200 minutes without leaving their seats. To take part in this special event, being held on the ride's penultimate weekend of 2003, please email the ECC for a sponsor form by clicking here. You must raise at least 50 to be able to take part, and seats are being allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. The money raised will be used to operate and maintain the Scenic Railway over the coming months while the fate of the park is decided. The event is open to members of the Save Dreamland Campaign and ECC, and we encourage those taking part to dress 1920s style! If you would like to hire a costume, please email Local Campaign Coordinator Sarah Vickery by clicking here or telephone her on 01843 220008. There are only 20 places available for the marathon and preference will be given to those willing to dress in 1920s clothes - so please let the ECC know when you contact them whether you want to ride 1920s style!

To round the night off, there will be a special late night Exclusive Ride Session (ERS) on the Scenic Railway. This will be open to Save Dreamland Campaign and ECC members, including those who don't take part in the marathon. The cost of the ERS is 10.00 per person. However, if you are taking part in the marathon and would also like to take part in the ERS, the cost will be just 5.00. Again, all proceeds go to the Scenic Railway.

The Scenic Railway will also be open to the public from 7pm till 11pm at a reduced price of 1 per person. Between these times the Waltzer, Gallopers and Burger Bar will remain open, depending on how busy the event is and the weather conditions.

Finally, the Save Dreamland Campaign has managed to negotiate a special rate at a B&B for the night of 20 September. Details are:

Burlington Hotel
8 Buenos Ayres
Tel: 01843 292817

The price is 20 per night, bed and breakfast. The hotel is located very close to Dreamland. Please quote 'Scenic Railway' when booking.

The event has been organised by Save Dreamland Campaign/ECC members Sarah Vickery, Dave Collard and Ian Mansfield.

Friday, 5 September 2003

The Save Dreamland Campaign is featured in an extensive article about Scenic Railway roller coasters in leading US newspaper The Wall Street Journal. The article, by Kevin J. Delaney, is centred around an interview with Jorgen Jensen, brakeman on Tivoli Gardens' 89-year-old Scenic Railway and it also features contributions from Justin Garvanovic (founder of the European Coaster Club) and Nick Laister (Leader of the Save Dreamland Campaign).

The article explains how the unique profession of brakeman is now dying:

"The profession Mr. Jensen entered in 1973 is in its twilight years now. As amusement parks build more computer-controlled, steel-framed free-falls and zero-gravity loops to thrill visitors, fewer roller coasters are operated by hand. Financial concerns already threaten the jobs of brakemen at two of the nine remaining roller coasters in the world that still employ them. The coasters are still operating in Finland, Spain, Australia, the U.K., Hungary and Austria, in addition to Denmark. Hundreds of others were torn down long ago, including all of those in the U.S. "It's a dying profession," says Justin Garvanovic, founder of the European Coaster Club, in London. Coaster aficionados say Mr. Jensen and his peers make the dips and turns more fun because they finesse the rhythm of the roller coaster through skilled brake-work, and that adds to the thrills. Computer-controlled roller coasters have a predictable sameness for every ride. But with a brakeman such as Mr. Jensen in control, "you get a different ride every time," says Nick Laister, an amusement-park historian and planning consultant in Oxford, England. The second-oldest continuously operating coaster in the world, the wooden Tivoli ride remains the top attraction at the park -- 1.3 million rides annually."

The article goes on to state:

"At nearby Bakken, management has begun looking into the possibility of automating its roller coaster in the face of staffing costs of $330,000 to $375,000 each year. "We could save a lot of money if we didn't have brakemen," says Arne Hoy-Nielsen, the park's director. Bakken's brakemen average $17 an hour. Elsewhere brakemen are even more endangered. The owners of the Dreamland Fun Park in Margate, England, have cast the future of the three drivers at the Scenic Railway there in doubt, with their announcement of plans to close the park..."

The full article can be viewed at the Wall Street Journal's website, but is available to subscribers only.

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