Ironically the week I wrote this article another UK park, Pleasure Island, announced its closure. Hopefully all that means is that the below points are all the more meaningful!
Time after time I see enthusiasts discussing, with fond and nostalgic tone, how it's such a shame that X park closed down and if they won the lottery they'd definitely spend money bringing X park back from theme park heaven. And the same thought always crosses my mind: what's the point? Theme parks close for a reason, and actually I think there's a lot to be said about fondly remembering a park from our childhood through the rose-tinted glasses of our memories. So many times since going 'full enthusiast' have I revisited some park from my childhood that somehow still operates and, frankly, they're usually bleak places, a shadow of the haven for fun and laughter we remember them to be.
So that got me thinking about the importance of supporting our local, non-chain parks. Sure, the chain parks usually have the bigger and better rides, but usually when I hear people reminiscing about parks from their childhood it's about some indie seaside affair and it's the atmosphere and quirkiness they remember so fondly, not the height or speed of their coasters. We love the weird and wacky and wonderful, they sprinkle the UK theme park scene with an extra spark of strangeness and imagination that you just don't find in chain parks.
And with proper support, these places thrive. The best example I can think of is Adventure Island at Southend on Sea (Peter Pan's Playground when I was a kiddie). Where other seaside parks have perished in the current economic climate and increase in Brits holidaying abroad, Adventure Island came into its own. There's nothing grimy or desperate about the park, it's fun, vibrant, packed with that nostalgic seaside fun but also has its own particular brand of oddball theme parkiness that makes it a joy to visit.
Similarly, the recently renovated and reopened Dreamland in Margate is a nostalgic dream in pastel colours. The Scenic Railway timelessly frames the small seaside playground and the real old school flat rides repurposed for this project are as Instagrammable and cool as they are heartwarming and reminiscent. If this place were somewhere in the heart of hipster town like Shoreditch the place would be an absolute goldmine, so why did the park go into administration just earlier this year?
And worse still, many of those I know who proclaim to love theme parks, and usually the ones bemoaning the closure of parks throughout the UK haven't even bothered to visit Dreamland since it reopened. If we, the ones who are supposed to adore this kind of attraction and constantly yearn for their reopening can't even be bothered to visit then what hope do they have for the rest of the public to help ensure it has a future?
So before you write a post again crying about the closure of the likes of Camelot and American Adventure, I implore you to make the effort to visit Dreamland Margate or any other smaller park in danger of being in decline. Show your support and love by visiting and enjoying these attractions with your family and friends. Make as much noise as you can about them to show there is a place in the modern market for the little guy before you end up sharing yet another Change.org petition fighting against their closure.
Talk later xoxo,