News: April 2004

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.

Click here for the latest news

Friday 30 April 2004

This week's Thanet Extra Letters page is full of letters about Dreamland, following last week's report on the Save Dreamland Campaign's response to the Margate Masterplan. Ten letters were published...only one didn't support the retention of Dreamland. Here are the letters, some in full, some edited (indicated by...), with thanks to Sarah Vickery:

As a resident of Thanet since June 2003 I thoroughly agree with the views expressed by the Save Dreamland Campaign. Dreamland was always one of the main reasons for visiting Margate. Just as Blackpool benefits from its famous Pleasure Beach, so would Margate from a top class amusement park.
...It seems crazy not to restore Dreamland to its former glory - and then some.
Bill Goodenough, Broadstairs

I am a 19-year-old living about 50 miles away from Margate, yet every year I and lots of other people from my area all travel to Margate solely for Dreamland. Now it is closed I don't know anyone who will even be going to Margate once this year.... If Dreamland goes then the whole tourist industry in Thanet, and Margate especially, will suffer.
Ian, via email

I could not agree more about the need for Dreamland to be in the masterplan for Margate. I think the council should be taking positive steps to ensure this.
Philip Woolf, Margate

I am a mother with young children and had to go to another seaside resort to entertain my children over Easter. The Dreamland site could be a beautiful place with fun rides for all ages... So come on Margate, the future of our town is a big issue and we must fight to get what we want!
Cordelia Poulton, Westgate

How can anyone see a future Margate without a theme or fun park.... It surely doesn't need super imagination to realise Margate will be dead without amusements and slot machines.
Mrs B Hayes, Margate

Margate has been allowed to run down for too long, it needs all the help it can get to woo visitors to this once great seaside resort. As your article rightly points out, the current options, including cinema, night clubs, health clubs and a bingo hall, won't attract out-of-town people.
...I have many happy memories of visiting Dreamland with my family. If Dreamland is allowed to die my grandchildren and their many friends and counterparts will be denied any such memories.
Margate and Dreamland are synonymous and are a winning team. To let Dreamland go would be a great mistake. I wish Nick Laister and his colleagues good luck and strength to their collective arms.
John Jones, via email

First and foremost, Margate must attract visitors to survive. This seafront town is renowned up and down the country for its entertainment. With the closure of Dreamland, we don't have a lot to attract visitors....We must maintain Margate as a visitor attraction or become another ghost town.
LB Shergold, Margate

I believe it is essential that the town's identity with leisure and the seaside is retained. I agree with the Save Dreamland Campaign that a major theme park should be planned for the Dreamland site - perhaps a water park similar to those at Center Parcs where it can be under cover for an all-year-round attraction.
The Scenic Railway must be retained and incorporated into any new development. A mixed leisure and retail use is not right and the current options listed, such as cinemas, bingo etc., would not attract tourists from outside the local area.
Thanet council really needs to look into finding a committed developer for the site.
Dr Michael J Randall, Broadstairs

I have recently read about the Margate Masterplan and am quite frankly disgusted that the option to keep Dreamland alive has not been included. I live in Livingston, Scotland, and my family and I visit Margate every year... Ten years ago Margate and Dreamland were amazing. I would go as far as to say it was probably my favourite park in the country... I agree that it has deteriorated over the years, but that does not mean that it cannot get back to being the great park it was with the right backing and investment. I really cannot see the council's point of view on this one... I live right next to a shopping mall, and am not going to fly down to visit another one next to a beach. This year to going to be a sad year for the whole family. With the closure of Dreamland we are not visiting Margate this year and instead are looking at other places to visit. I hope we will be able to visit again next year with the opening of a brand new park, but if Dreamland closes we will not be visiting again.
Dreamland is the magic of Margate.
William Wilson, Scotland

And in full...

I read your report on the attempts to retain the current facilities at Dreamland and am baffled as to why the pressure group feels that it is a facility worth hanging on to.
This is a tired and jaded relic from a bygone era and they must realise that it is time to move on. Over the years, most families' lifestyles have improved and they have considerably more spending power than in the amusement park's heyday. Tastes have become more sophisticated and people want more out of their leisure time. At present, Margate has very little to offer in the context of the feel good factor that people want when they visit on holiday or at weekends.
It could be argued that it is improving, but there is still a long way to go before it sheds its daytripper image and is regarded as an interesting and desirable place to go.
We have marvellous natural amenities in the area and with the right approach and targeted investment there is no reason why the visitors should not come back. We have first class road links to London and the proposed improvements in the rail links means that London is only an hour and a half away.
Hanging onto Dreamland is not the right approach, the area is too small and lacking in facilities to compete with the likes of Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and Chessington. and in its current state only appeals to the candy floss and 'kiss me quick' hat brigade, which even Blackpool is trying to distance itself from.
What we need in the area is a range of facilities that appeal to people all year round and not just for the three month period in the summer when the sun shines.
Margate needs to shake off the past, recognise what it has got, provide the appropriate facilities and then the town will really start to move forward.
TP Adams, Broadstairs

In other campaign news, Campaign Leader Nick Laister will be appearing on the Bank Holiday Monday (3 May) edition of Good Morning Kent with Dominic King on BBC Radio Kent. Nick will be on from 7.40am, and will talk about the future of the Scenic Railway, the Margate Masterplan and the latest developments with the Save Dreamland Campaign.

Wednesday 28 April 2004

Do you remember Dreamland when it was Bembom Brothers White Knuckle Theme Park? Now is your chance to relive Dreamland's golden years in this DVD, filmed in 1993 and available from Joyland Books. South East Tour 1993 visits Dreamland on a sunny day in the summer of 1993, with the park busy and the rides operating full. See long lost rides such as the original Looping Star, Heatwave, Water Chute and Mary Rose. The DVD features almost 15 minutes of fantastic footage of Dreamland. It also pays a visit to Irvin Leisure's August Fair, on the park adjacent to Dreamland (now the site of the Travel Inn). The Tour moves on to Folkestone, where Jimmy Godden's Rotunda Amusement Park is doing a roaring trade. See the Super 8 Bahn Coaster in action, plus rides such as the Log Flume and Gallopers. The DVD also visits a number of other funfairs of the south east of England. Click here for more details or to buy a copy.

Those interested in reliving Dreamland's past may also be interested in the video Just For Fun: The Amusement Parks of the United Kingdom, an American documentary which visits Dreamland in 1996, the park's first year in Jimmy Godden's ownership. Besides a complete full circuit ride on the Scenic Railway, it also features the Waltzer (destroyed by fire in 2003) and the Fun House. It also visits other British parks such as Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Frontierland, Morecambe. Click here for details.

Tuesday 27 April 2004

The Save Dreamland Campaign today received a press release from Respect - The Unity Coalition regarding a planned protest against the closure of Dreamland. The release is shown here in full:
Protest Against Dreamland Closure

A protest has been called against the closure of Margate’s Dreamland amusement park for Saturday May 1 at 12 Noon. Large numbers of people are expected to gather at the entrance to Dreamland to demonstrate against the closure which threatens the future of the town.

The protest has been called by the new RESPECT political party which is running candidates in elections for the European Parliament this June. Film-maker Norman Thomas who is one of RESPECT's Kent-based candidates said: “The closure of Dreamland and proposals to replace it with a housing development is catastrophic news for Margate. We mustn’t allow this to happen.”

Mr Thomas added: “There is a housing boom on in Britain at the moment and developers and landlords are turning everything over to housing in a rush for profits. That’s why they’re closing Dreamland down.”

“This is an issue too important to be left to the vagaries of the “free market”. All who are concerned about the future of Margate should come out and show their feelings.”

RESPECT is a new political party which will be standing in elections for the European Parliament on 10th June. The new party say that they have formed to provide a real alternative for the millions of people feel disenfranchised by the major political parties.

More information on RESPECT can be found at For further information on the Dreamland protests please contact Christine Tongue, Tel: 01843 604 633.

Please note that this protest has been organised by a political party. The Save Dreamland Campaign is a non-political organisation and is in no way affiliated with Respect.

Monday 26 April 2004

Thanks to Campaign member Rick Crayford for passing on this link. In an interview with the Scottish Sunday Herald, former Dreamland owner Henk Bembom has been talking about his time at the Margate park:

"When we arrived in England in 1981 with the purchase of the Dreamland Fun Park in Margate [one of the biggest summer attractions in the southeast of England], we were new in the UK and the trouble was that when you took over a new company they looked at how it was doing not its potential. In some ways it would have been easier to raise the finance for a paper project with fabulous projections than an operating business.

"Dreamland, however, was very successful and we had times when we had to close the gate because the park was simply full. However, you either invest all the time or you let the business tick over. And when a local entrepreneur approached us in 1996 with a good offer, we decided to sell."

Henk is now owner of Scotland's Loudoun Castle Theme Park, which has already seen an investment of over £5 million over the past 12 months, with a further £2 million to come later this year. Several of Dreamland's old rides now operate at Loudoun, including the Looping Star and Mary Rose. Click here for the full interview.

Saturday 24 April 2004

Some rare postcards of Dreamland in its 'Bembom Brothers White Knuckle Theme Park' days have been added to the Postcard Shop at Joyland Books.

Friday 23 April 2004

A flurry of letters appear in today's Isle of Thanet Gazette, supporting the retention of Dreamland following the news of Margate's disappointing first Easter without the park. The letters also respond to the news that the owner of Southend's hugely successful Adventure Island theme park has made an offer to acquire the park and invest over £10m in new rides and attractions. One of the letters in the Gazette was written by Save Dreamland Campaign Leader Nick Laister, calling for the Council to reject the recently published draft Margate Masterplan and to protect the future of Thanet's biggest tourist attraction.

Thursday 22 April 2004

News of Philip Miller's bid for Dreamland has made it to the Southend Evening Echo. With the headline 'Fun Park King Snubs Southend', fears are growing that Miller will desert Southend for Margate's larger amusement park. But the Adventure Island owner confirms that he will still remain committed to his Southend park if his bid for Dreamland is successful:

"Mr Miller, 40, of Poynters Lane, Shoebury, stressed he had no plans to pull out of his existing businesses in Southend. He has invested £1million in new rides at Adventure Island".

Miller also reveals his frustration at not being able to further expand Adventure Island due to planning restrictions. He said that his plans to build a new rollercoaster within Adventure Island, crossing Southend's pier, were "undermined by planning bureaucracy".

Mr Miller, who last year featured in a TV documentary about self made millionaires said that the situation "reminded him of of the television sit-com Yes Minister". The Echo goes on to state:

"Dreamland was one of Margate's most popular tourist attractions, built around the same time as Southend's Kursaal, but it has fallen into disrepair and is currently closed. Dreamland's Scenic Railway is Britain's oldest wooden rollercoaster and is listed as a historic structure."

For more information about Southend's Adventure Island theme park, and an idea of what the new-look Dreamland could be like under Philip Miller's ownership, visit the park's official website: (With thanks to Campaign member Martin Porter for the Southend news item)

Friday 16 April 2004

The Save Dreamland Campaign dominates the local press again today, with the entire front page of the Isle of Thanet Gazette devoted to the Campaign's latest announcement that one of Britain's most successful theme park operators has made a bid to acquire Dreamland and invest £10m on new rides and attractions as well as the restoration of the Scenic Railway, a bid which has been rejected by the park's owner.

Page three of the Gazette reports on Margate's first Easter without Dreamland, reporting disappointment amongst visitors and a bleak outlook for the town's future from traders who are already feeling the pinch.

The Gazette Comment page puts the issue clearly into focus.

Save Dreamland Campaign leader Nick Laister says:

"The Gazette is correctly reporting what we have feared all along. Dreamland is Margate's biggest tourist attraction, and the town cannot remain a major tourism destination without it. The Masterplan has shown only too clearly the sort of damaging developments that Margate will get without Dreamland. Thankfully, from the emails I have received, it seems that the people and businesses of Margate are not going to let Dreamland go without a fight."

"The really sad thing is that Thanet Council could have prevented this. They had a Local Plan policy, the result of extensive public consultation, that protected Dreamland. Just like other seaside towns protect their most important tourist attractions. But at the last minute this was changed. Now Margate is left with indecision, and that indecision is already affecting Margate's prosperity and status as a family resort. Had the Council not changed this policy, I believe that we would not be in this position now. The owner of Dreamland would know with much greater certainty what can and cannot be developed on the site. The park could well now be in the hands of an operator of Philip Miller's calibre."

"It is not too late to rescue Dreamland and Margate's tourism industry. We call on the Council to firmly reject the second-rate Masterplan and be clear that Margate's future is to be a major family holiday destination, with a revitalised Dreamland at its heart. We know the private sector wants to invest. Let us harness that interest and put Margate back where it always should have been."

"If you feel as strongly as we do about this, please email the Council now and tell them!"


Thursday 15 April 2004

The Save Dreamland Campaign's response to the Margate Masterplan makes front page headlines in this week's Isle of Thanet Extra newspaper under the headline:

"No Dreamland, no prospects? 'Serious flaw' highlighted in town plan"

The article states:

"The failure to include a fully operational amusement park in the Margate Masterplan blueprint for the town could have disastrous consequences. The warning comes from the Save Dreamland Campaign that says the consultants working on the scheme to take the resort into the 21st century 'do not appear to have considered the importance of Dreamland pleasure park to Margate as a seaside resort.'"

The piece goes on to quote Campaign Leader Nick Laister's concerns (click here to read Nick Laister's quotes in PDF format).

The article concludes:

"Should Margate's tourist future be built around Dreamland? Write to Opinion, Isle of Thanet Extra, 183 Northdown Road, Cliftonville or email"

There is a further piece on Dreamland on page 3:

"Optimism over the future of seafront...but what about the 'gap' and Dreamland?"

The article states:

"Despite uncertainty over parts of the seafront, councillors and business leaders and looking towards a positive future for Margate. This year there will be no rides at Dreamland fun park following the decision by owner Jimmy Godden to shut the attraction. And a gaping space still remains in Marine Terrace one year on from the devastating fire that destroyed a four-storey building containing Mr G's amusement arcade, also owned by Mr Godden. The large hole breaks the sweep of Edwardian properties skirted by arcades. Thanet council and Margate Town Partnership have been keen to minimise the visual and financial impact of the fire. Their focus is concentrated on the seafront and town centre.

"Council leader Sandy Ezekiel said that a main problem is that the council has no control over the Marine Terrace and Dreamland area which they do not own. He said: "We have got to attract visitors into the area. We need to keep reinvesting." He is certain Turner Contemporary will have a far-reaching impact on attracting visitors. He said: "I am optimistic about changing Margate. We need visitors who stay for a period of time. We are hoping to attract family entertainment and are working closely with hotel and restaurant owners."

"Cllr Iris Johnston, opposition spokeswoman for tourism and leisure, voiced her "extreme" disappointment over Dreamland. She believes last year's operator, David Wallis, had been keen to return but had not been given sufficient encouragement. She said: "Unfortunately, we still have the 'gaping teeth' look on Margate seafront although the space left after that dreadful fire is fronted by some nicely painted boards. The tragedy is we are no further on than we were at the end of last summer. Every effort should have been made to support a use for Dreamland this season."

"Frank Thorley, chairman of Margate Town Partnership, echoed her disappointment about the seafront gap. He is keen that improvements outlines in the Margate Masterplan should be agreed and implemented as soon as possible."

To send your views on whether Dreamland should have a role in Margate's future, email the Isle of Thanet Extra on

Saturday 10 April 2004

The Save Dreamland Campaign writes to Thanet District Council regarding the seriously flawed Margate Masterplan. Click below to read the covering letter and the Campaign's detailed comments in PDF format.

  • Covering letter: sets out the Campaign's wider concerns and asks Thanet District Council a number of key questions (131KB)

  • Detailed Comments: Detailed comments on the main Masterplan document (84KB).

The covering letter explains why the Margate Masterplan is seriously flawed:

"The consultants do not appear to be aware that two established amusement park operators have confirmed their intention to acquire [Dreamland] at full independently-assessed market value and invest millions of pounds in its rides and infrastructure. It is believed that this investment would return Dreamland to the major regional tourist attraction that it was before it was acquired by the present owner. We know that the consultants were not aware of this because the representative from Tibbalds Planning & Urban Design Ltd (the lead consultants) confirmed this at the stakeholders consultation meeting on 30 March 2004."

The letter explains that Save Dreamland Campaign members have expressed serious concerns about the proposals for the Dreamland site:

"Our members are also extremely disappointed at the list of alternative options for the site put forward in the report. Perhaps with the exception of the proposed resort casino, not one of the options would act as a tourist attraction. Dreamland, even in its current run-down state, brings in almost 700,000 tourists to Margate every year (the advice we have received from the industry is that it should comfortably bring in around 1.5 million when operated by a committed owner). Almost all of the options in the report are the sort of leisure facilities that can be seen in almost any town in Britain; they would certainly not draw families into Margate in anything like the numbers that Dreamland does. The options, we consider, are seriously underselling Margate."

The letter also asks why the retention of the Scenic Railway within an amusement park was excluded from the questionnaire, despite being one of the options considered in the report. It also asks why Question 5 of the Questionnaire is 'loaded'. As soon as a response is received from the Council, it will be posted here. The letter concludes:

"Margate deserves more than this extremely poor piece of work. We hope that the Council will reject the findings of the Study pending more work on the part of the consultants. Margate’s future – and its unique heritage - is far too important to be thrown away on the basis of this poorly researched, ill-informed and unimaginative Masterplan/Design Framework."

If you are unhappy about the Margate Masterplan, you can still send your views to Thanet District Council via their website. Click here for the Masterplan website or here to go straight to the online questionnaire. See also the Campaign's new Masterplan web page.

Thursday 8 April 2004

UK national newspaper The Times featured the Save Dreamland Campaign on page 3 under the headline 'Historic seaside theme park faces demolition'. The article, by Nicola Woolcock, states:

"A seaside theme park containing Britain's oldest roller coaster could be demolished and replaced with a cinema and ten-pin bowling complex. Dreamland in Margate, Kent, which boasts a Grade II listed scenic railway built in 1920, has closed indefinitely while its future is decided. Campaigners say that it has been deliberately neglected. They accuse the local council of failing to support their fight to save the attraction."

The article goes on to mention the recently published "masterplan" for Margate, which recommends other uses for the site, but states:

"Those fighting to preserve the park said that several British and European operators were interested in buying it as a going concern".

Save Dreamland Campaign Leader, Nick Laister, is interviewed in the article, and said:

"It is the biggest tourist attraction in this area and still pulled in nearly 250,0000 visitors before it was closed last year [note: that should have stated 'nearly 700,000']. The consultants think a theme park is not viable. They are suggesting things like a public sector sports centre or a leisure facility, which you can get in any town. Dreamland is unique. There is no reason why it can't be turned around."

The article concludes by stating:

"Dreamland was bought in 1996 by Jimmy Godden, whom campaigners accused of removing rides and allowing the park to decline. Mr Godden, who 'spent many millions' on equipment and tidying the site said: 'People were not coming to Margate. It's no longer economically viable to continue.'"

To comment on the Masterplan before the deadline of 13 April, click on the following link: