News: October 2007

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 October 2007

Last Minute Reprieve for Rhyl's Water Chute

Following the disappointing news that the UK's last surviving circular water chute at the defunct Ocean Beach Fun Fair in Rhyl had been demolished before it could be dismantled for use in the proposed Dreamland Heritage Amusement Park, the Save Dreamland Campaign has managed to secure the key remaining mechanical parts of the ride along with the boats. This means that a complete rebuild of the ride is now a strong possibility.

The last minute rescue effort followed a chance conversation between Nick Laister and a heritage consultant in Nick's office kitchen late on Thursday afternoon. Nick discovered that if enough of the original mechanical parts of the Water Chute could be salvaged, the prospect of rebuilding the ride would be significantly increased.

Nick explains: "I was told by one of our heritage experts that salvaging the key mechanical parts of the ride - the motor, gears, boats, pumps, etc - means that a project to recreate the Water Chute would technically be a rebuild rather than a replica, as the ride is essentially a piece of industrial machinery. This could potentially open up additional funding sources that would not be available for a pure replica project. This opinion was independently verified. Although the main structure had been demolished, we knew that there was a strong possibility that the key mechanical parts and the boats may well still survive - at least for a few more days."

Susan Marsh and Nick Laister then commenced a fairly intense period of telephone calls to the owners of Ocean Beach, contractors, transport companies and others who may be able to help with the salvage operation, knowing that the deadline for the handover of Ocean Beach was Wednesday 31 October.

Susan takes up the story: "Thankfully, on this occasion luck was with us and enough of the ride was still on site for us to be able to attempt a rebuild."

With everything arranged between Friday morning and Monday afternoon, Susan and her husband Eric were on-site at Rhyl this morning to meet the owner, Harold Robinson, and the Save Dreamland Campaign's contractor, Jed Hopkinson, who gave up a day off to assist us.

Susan adds: "We rescued all four boats, the main motor, gears, pumps, side motors, water pump for the spray and other bits and pieces, filling a 45 foot trailer. The Campaign even had to demolish a building to take out the gears!

"Unfortunately, the Campaign did not have time to organise a round of fund raising for this exercise and our wider funding for the project is still not in place. We therefore had to take a leap of faith and book a contractor to dismantle the gears and to load the items and we had to book a trailer to get the mechanical items off the park. Not only does the Campaign now have to pay for the contractor and trailer, we now have to transport the items to Thanet this week and hire lifting equipment to unload it in Thanet."

When we announced on 13 October that our funder - who was to have paid for the entire dismantling and transport of the Water Chute to Thanet - had pulled out, many campaigners offered financial support to the campaign. Now we really do need financial help quickly to enable us to get the key parts of the Water Chute down to Thanet and safely in storage for the heritage project. The Dreamland Trust needs up to £2,000 to pay for the contractors, transport and plant. If you are able to contribute please email

The photo gallery below shows the Save Dreamland Campaign dismantling the main mechanical items from the Water Chute at Ocean Beach earlier today:

The remains of the Water Chute pool.

The crane lifting the gears can be seen behind the pool.

Contractor Jed Hopkinson and  the Trust's Susan Marsh

The Water Chute gears being lifted.

The main Water Chute motor.

Susan Marsh, Ocean Beach owner Harold Robinson and Jed Hopkinson.

The first boat to be rescued.

Susan surveying the salvaged items: various motors, gears and boat.

The first boat being lifted onto the trailer.

Eric Marsh surveys the loading.

More items are loaded onto the trailer.

Spray motor and car safely strapped to the trailer.

The Ocean Beach stairs are removed - the Dreamland Trust is not taking these!

The steps are demolished.

Eric and driver load the boat cladding.

The final boat (minus its cladding) is loaded - this boat was undergoing restoration.

The Campaign team at Ocean Beach, all items loaded.

A last tie down.

Ready to roll.

The full load being taken to temporary storage in North Wales.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

A brief catch-up of minor news items. The Thanet Times of 23 October provided more evidence that the people of Thanet are suffering from Dreamland consultation fatigue after yet another public consultation exercise on Dreamland.

The Isle of Thanet Gazette on 19 October featured a short letter on the future of Dreamland.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Plans for a heritage amusement park at Dreamland in Margate were dealt a significant blow as demolition started this week on Britain's last surviving circular water chute at the Ocean Beach Fun Fair, Rhyl. The ride, which was earmarked for the Dreamland project, is the last surviving example of a ride that was once common across Britain. Identical rides once operated at Battersea Fun Fair (London), Belle Vue (Manchester), Pleasure Beach (Blackpool), Pleasure Beach (Great Yarmouth), Coney Beach (Porthcawl) and at Dreamland itself. The Save Dreamland Campaign had reached agreement to dismantle the ride for use in the proposed heritage amusement park, and contractors were booked to commence work on Monday 15 October. As reported below (see news item on Saturday, 13 October 2007), the Campaign's financier pulled out just hours before dismantling was to commence.

Above: The remains of the Water Chute at 8.30am on Wednesday 24 October. Click here for more photos.
As the owners of Ocean beach, Rhyl Amusements Ltd, had to hand over a vacant site to developer Modus Properties on 31 October, it was not possible for the Campaign to raise the necessary funds to pay for the dismantling of the ride in the time available. On 20 October, the demolition of the Water Chute sadly commenced, and all the team involved in the Dreamland heritage amusement park project could do was watch helplessly. 

A photo gallery of the demolition of the ride, showing progress over the last few days, appears on relaunched amusement park history website, themagiceye. Click here for the gallery and here for an earlier gallery of Ocean Beach photographs.

In other news, last week (16th and 17th October) saw Susan Marsh attending the English Heritage Conference in Hastings, Seaside Heritage, colourful past, bright future, to represent the Dreamland Trust/Save Dreamland Campaign. There she met up with Campaign Leader and Dreamland Trust Chairman Nick Laister, who was attending for the two days on behalf of his company.

Susan reports: "It was a very interesting two days which saw many mentions of Margate, references to Dreamland and even the Campaign by speakers. By the last afternoon it was suggested from the platform that perhaps the ĎMí word should be omitted as the conference was supposed to be about the whole of England!"

During one question and answer session the panel were asked to name their suggestions for the seaside town that was likely to prosper in the future and Margate was there on the list.

The first day was followed by a reception in Bexhill to launch the English Heritage book England's Seaside Resorts by Allan Brodie and Gary Winter. Nick and Susan spent time during all the breaks in the conference programme, and at the evening reception, talking to senior directors of several organisations attempting to raise the funds required to dismantle the Water Chute at Rhyl.

Susan then represented the Dreamland Trust and the Campaign at the launch of English Heritageís book Margate's Seaside Heritage by Nigel Barker, Allan Brodie, Nick Dermott, Lucy Jessop and Gary Winter on 18 October at the Theatre Royal, which gave her another opportunity to attempt to find a benefactor for the Water Chute.

Susan comments: "Sadly all our efforts were doomed for failure as the plans for Dreamland were not far enough advanced, and the land not transferred to a trust (or other not-for-profit organisation) which would have allowed the money to have been made available to us. Many were sympathetic but their hands were tied."

Whilst in Margate, Susan met with Derek Harding of the Margate Renewal Partnership, Jason Wood (the Heritage Consultant advising on the heritage amusement park proposals) and Professor John Walton (author of the acclaimed new book on the history of Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Riding on Rainbows), to discuss the outcomes of the meeting with the Heritage Lottery Fund (previously reported) and the next steps for the project. Susan also had some discussions with Sandy Ezekiel, Leader of Thanet District Council , and he reaffirmed Council support for the work the Campaign and Trust are doing.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

The Save Dreamland Campaign has announced that it is unlikely to be able to save the world's last surviving circular water chute, currently standing awaiting demolition at Ocean Beach Amusement Park in Rhyl. The Campaign had agreed some time ago with the owners of the park, which closed for good last month, to acquire and dismantle the ride for use in the proposed Heritage Amusement Park project at Dreamland. Hopkinson Construction Engineering were due to go on site on Monday 15 October and commence dismantling. Although the ownership of the park was to pass to developers Modus Properties on 1 November, an extension had provisionally been agreed to allow the dismantling to continue to 14 November. Unfortunately, the Campaign's funders pulled out yesterday evening, making it unlikely that the Campaign can now save this ride.
Click on the image for a larger picture.
Campaign Leader Nick Laister said: "This is very disappointing after all the work campaign members have done over the past few months, especially as this is the last of its kind. It would have been a signature ride at the Heritage Amusement Park alongside the Scenic Railway. Negotiations are of course continuing, but if we can't find the £48,950 that we need by Monday morning, the chances of us saving the ride will have significantly reduced."

Identical water chutes once operated at Great Yarmouth, Porthcawl, Belle Vue, Blackpool, Battersea, Southend and of course Margate, but all have now been demolished. The Rhyl Water Chute, which originates from the Kursaal Amusement Park in Southend-on-Sea, is identical to the water chute that operated at Dreamland until about 1996.

Nick Laister continues: "If anyone can think of any way we can get our hands on £49k, plus cover transport costs, in 48 hours, we would love to hear from you! We need somebody with very deep pockets and a love for amusement park rides! (This cannot be in the form of a loan, as we cannot guarantee that it can be repaid)."

In other news, the future of Dreamland was covered extensively in yesterday's Isle of Thanet Gazette.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Representatives of the Save Dreamland Campaign and Thanet District Council had a meeting with the Heritage Lottery Fund at their offices in London. The Campaign, represented by Nick Laister and Susan Marsh, were greeted in reception with a welcome notice (see right). The meeting, which ran for well over two hours, was an initial discussion on the prospects of the Dreamland Trust making a successful application for grant funding to assist with the Heritage Amusement Park proposal.
Also in attendance at the meeting were Doug Brown and Nick Dermott of Thanet District Council and heritage consultant Jason Wood. Susan Marsh, secretary of the Dreamland Trust, described the day as "productive".

In other Heritage Amusement Park related news,
Doug Brown, Head of Planning at Thanet District Council, has invited the Save Dreamland Campaign to put forward its views on the new Dreamland Planning Brief in a special meeting next week. The meeting is to be held at the Shell Grotto in Margate at 7pm on Tuesday 9 October and all are welcome.

Any future planning applications for the Dreamland site will be considered against the brief, so it is important that your views are heard by the Council. To download the brief in full, click here. To view the summary brief on the Council's website, click here. If you canít make the meeting, you can tell the Council what you think of the brief by filling in the online survey form here. The consultation ends on Friday 12 October 2007, so donít delay - get your comments in now!

Finally, an update on recent local Dreamland-related news. The letters age of the Thanet Times on 25 September featured a further letter on the closure of the Dreamland Cinema.

Your Thanet on 26 September 2007 featured two small items.

And the Isle of Thanet Gazette reported, perhaps somewhat prematurely, on a name change for the Save Dreamland Campaign in its 28 September edition.

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