Bring back the heartbeat of our town and make it fun again - that was the simple stirring message at the launch of plans for Dreamland to become the world’s first heritage amusement park.
The world-famous seaside site in Margate has been at the centre of false dawns and failed schemes for decades but the latest multi-million pound project has fired the imagination of residents, businesses, politicians, the local authority, groups and organisations.
More than 400 people rolled back the years as Dreamland’s past and present met under the umbrella of the new scheme at the town’s West Coast Bar on Sunday night, with candyfloss and popcorn, music, costumed usherettes and archive film footage fuelling a nostalgia for the park in its heyday and offering a glimpse of what could be.
Sarah Vickery, treasurer of the Dreamland Trust that administers the Save Dreamland campaign, said: “We want Dreamland to be associated with having fun again. It is not about concrete block paving, desolation, sadness and fires. The heritage park plan is all about making Dreamland and Margate all about having a good time.
“There is so much goodwill from so many people and I think the Scenic Railway fire last April was a massive wake-up call for people who finally realised that Dreamland, it’s history and heritage, could really disappear very soon.”
Cllr Mick Tomlinson, former town mayor and regarded as Mr Margate due to his 50 year involvement with Dreamland and the carnival, said: “This is a step in the right direction as part of rejuvenation plans to bring the dear old town back to life. It still has so much to offer generations of visitors.”
Derek Harding, from Margate Renewal Partnership, said: “This is an exciting scheme. With Dreamland one end of the prom and Turner Contemporary by the harbour, there will be a great mix of traditional seaside culture and innovative contemporary art."
The Trust has worked with Thanet council and Dreamland owners the Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company on what is being called “a thrilling theme park from the past.”
Nick Laister, chairman of the Dreamland Trust, said: “We were successful in winning a Sea Change grant last year and, with additional funding from Dreamland’s owners, MTCRC, and the Margate Renewal Partnership, we have been able to appoint specialist advisers who are starting to bring our dreams to reality.
“If we can secure our next round of grant funding, work on the park could start later this year, with the park opening in 2012.”
The £12 million park would be built around the Grade II listed Scenic Railway, the oldest roller coaster in the UK. It would feature some of the last surviving examples of well-known amusement park rides, many of which are the last surviving examples of their type and have been rescued by the Save Dreamland Campaign from parks that have recently closed down.
Mr Laister said: “This will not be a collection of gentle old travelling fairground rides. Dreamland will recreate a large, thrilling permanent seaside amusement park, of the sort that could be found around the coast of Britain throughout most of the last century, but has now largely disappeared.
"It will be an authentic traditional seaside amusement park experienced in its correct location. We think it will be a great success and will play a transformational role in the regeneration of Margate.”
“The Dreamland of tomorrow will echo the thrilling theme parks of the past, and this is your chance to climb on board, fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride!”