Park Profile

While my Dreamland days had long since passed,

I was sad to hear of its demise in the early noughties as it held such fond memories for me. Little did I know then that following the formation of the Save Dreamland Campaign in 2003, 10 years later it would be open again, or that a few years after that, I would be back there - only this time to write about it.

A bumpy start CEO Eddie Kemsley is no stranger to Kent, having held senior positions at two other major attractions in the county - she was head of communications at Port Lympne and Howlett’s animal parks between 2005 to 2012, and chief executive of Paddock Wood’s the Hop Farm from 2012 to 2013. Prior to that she worked in London, launching bars, clubs and festivals. Eddie joined Dreamland as CEO in 2013: “I saw an amazing opportunity to take this site that had lay derelict and make it fresh for the next generation,” she says. A staggering 3,500 people turned up for the recruitment day. Eddie remembers standing and looking at the queue, “that was a real moment for me, when I just knew that what we were doing was absolutely right for the town.” A town which, following its heyday in the 60’s and 70’s, had fallen upon hard times and desperately needed a boost. In 2015, amid a blaze of publicity, Dreamland

finally reopened to the public. Not everything went to plan, the Scenic railway wasn’t ready for one, but that did nothing to lessen the buzz. “The press positioned it as a kind of David and Goliath story, everyone wanted it to be there and to be good,” she tells me. “It was “a massive collective effort with everyone coming together to make a big change for the town.” But in May 2016, less than a year after opening,

operator Sands Heritage fell into administration. “It was a really tough time,” recalls Eddie. “Our message was that we were not going to stop trading, but it was difficult to get people to understand that and we got a lot of negative press coverage. It was hard on all the staff here, but it was necessary for us to be able to transition onto a much better footing, so we had to kind of grit our teeth.” Eddie left Dreamland at the end of 2016 to take up a post at Kidzania in London, before being lured back by the Board in January this year to continue what she started. “I always had a real vision for Dreamland and the estate, so to be able to come back with the ability to execute that vision was really exciting. We’re now financially secure and going from strength to strength,” she says. Today Dreamland delivers exciting experiences for international visitors across its estate. In addition to the amusement park, there is also a roller room and diner, 1,000 capacity music venue (Hall By The Sea), children’s soft play centre (Octopus’s Garden), seafront pub (Cinque Ports), and amusement arcade.

Looking to the future A recent government report praised Dreamland for its role in the successful regeneration of the seaside town – but the next steps are to turn coastal communities into year-round destinations, says Eddie.


And while Dreamland has undoubtedly injected

new life into the town, Eddie is keen to point out that Margate has lots to offer in its own right - the Turner Contemporary, a big arts and culture scene, and the old town which is full of independent shops and bars. “Margate is increasingly being led by a creative quarter coming out of London who see it as a great place to live and work. This all feeds into the arts and overall improvement of the town. The Metro recently called it “The coolest place in Britain.” It’s become the poster child for seaside regeneration,” she says. People are voting with their feet and wallets, which is

great for the town and the park. Parent company Margate Estates has purchased a lot of the surrounding land, Eddie reveals, “We’re transferring to more resort- like model; work on a 124 room hotel on the seafront is about to begin and we plan to open a couple of more hotels in the town over the next few years. “We’re also expanding our event venue and indoor

facilities to create an all-year round experience, which again is positive for Margate as it turns seasonal jobs into permanent ones. Our Screamland October event is really popular; we are aiming to make it even bigger and better this year and introducing a Christmas festival too. We’re looking at all our events and trying to make them as multi generational as possible. Whether you are a hipster from London or a family from Maidstone you can come and enjoy a day out. Kids love it as they love the rides, the colours - it works across different age ranges and target groups. It’s a place where age is left at the gate. “We’re 100 years old next year and very proud of our heritage. We’ve got the Grade II listed Scenic Railway updated as a throwback to the past with a modern twist. It’s pacier than people imagine. You can feel the nostalgia, the ‘click, click, click’ as it climbs its first inline. Then you’ve got the The Speedway, another heritage ride, the Pinball X, The

Dreamland drop which gives you views all over Margate and Pendulum. Manufactured by Zamperla, Pendulum echoes the dynamics and excitement of the highly popular Mary Rose that I went on countless times in the 1990s. As the ride begins to swing, it also rotates getting longer and longer for a totally mind-boggling feeling as land, sea and sky fly overhead in circle after circle. To say it took me back is an understatement…the ride operator even asked us all to check we had nothing loose in our pockets! Dreamcatcher is a modern take on the much-loved classic Enterprise ride. The ride is an open-air thrill experience that transports riders sixty feet through the air at 25 miles per hour. As part of the its strategy to make visitors feel like part of the park’s very fabric, Dreamland gave the public the opportunity to come up with the ride’s name - it had to be original, fun, thrilling, bold, a maximum of three words and true to the spirit of the park. Dreamcatcher ticked all the boxes. Dreamland is also free to enter again, with the option to pay as you go or purchase a choice of two wristbands, one of which includes additional experiences such as the Roller Disco and Octopus Gardens. “It means the ‘coat holders’ don’t have to pay and can still enjoy the experience,” says Eddie. “We want it to be public realm - come for a drink, a day out, or come to the proms or a film screening, a music event or go on the rides.” There’s a strong retail element too - Ziggy’s rooftop

bar; Naughty Floss which does amazing candy floss; Carribean BBQs, traditional fish and chips, Cafe Bar Letter which serves European cuisine developed alongside a top London chef and so much more. “For us, food is part of our offering and line-up - it’s part of the content that makes the vibe of the place work,” she says. Many of the eateries are positioned in cool vintage

vans overlooking the large grassy area in front of the main stage, with the likes of Britpop sensation Jarvis Cocker and former Blur frontman Damon Albarn’s band the Gorillaz playing to sell out crowds. DJ’s Pete Tong and Jo Whiley, the Happy Mondays and other big names are lined up to play later this year. “The rides are a big pull,” says Eddie but it’s how they interweave with all the other

elements that is important. Every day is a festival at Dreamland, which is exactly how we want it.”

JUNE 2019

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