Dreamland amusement park in the seaside resort of Margate reopens on 19 June following an 11-year long local campaign to save it from becoming yet another boring retail and commercial development. Originally opened in 1920 on the site of a former pleasure park owned by circus impresario George Sanger, Dreamland is the oldest surviving amusement park in Britain. At its peak in the 60s, it attracted 2.5 million visitors a year. The town and the park's steady decline began in the 70s as cheap flights encouraged Brits to holiday abroad instead of at home.
Despite being filled with classic and historic amusement rides, including the UK's oldest roller coaster, dodgems, a helter skelter and a ferris wheel, it will be anything but a traditional heritage theme park says London-based designer Wayne Hemingway. One of his favourite rides - the Wedgwood 'teacups' - says it all. Decorated in the British company's classic off-white and blue, it features a youth culture timeline of mods, beatniks, rockers, new romantics and ravers painted on the cups' sides by one of the ceramics manufacturer's artists.
Hemingway worked on the park's vintage-styled redesign with his wife Gerardine and son Jack. He believes his team won the competition because they challenged the brief. 'We knew this had to appeal beyond the heritage community; it had to feel of the now while respecting the past.' He calls this 'a magpie approach' and adds that, 'when everything is new it can never be cool.'
The result is a quirky, witty and Hemingway hopes 'subversive' take on the British seaside. Benches, tables, bar furniture and even memorabilia have been crafted out of wood salvaged from the park's Grade II listed scenic railway, which was badly damaged in an arson attack in 2008. The park's branding, signage and uniforms are defined by an off-sherbet colour palette of turquoise- and lime-greens, electric yellow and antique pink that could easily be the stripes on a typical English 'stick of rock candy.' A design that 'has a timeless aesthetic you can't quite place.'
As well as 17 rides, the 16-acre site will contain shops and restaurants, a nostalgic roller disco and, come Spring 2016, a 1,600-capacity concert hall (that hosted the likes of The Who and The Rolling Stones in the 1960s). Renovation of the park's seafront art deco building with its alluring neon-edged fin tower and façade - and a 2,200-seater cinema within - is slated for 2017. Margate is getting its oomph back.