Friday, 19 June 2015

Margate's Dreamland: Even The Toilets Were Shut

We have just had the best couple of days down in Thanet. That's the sticky-out bit of Kent, in case you didn't know. It's lovely there. Ramsgate harbour is very pretty and Broadstairs is a gloriously quaint English seaside town. All the beaches in the area have vast expanses of sand, lovely eateries and some fine ice-cream parlours. Perfect.

What could possibly make a couple of sunny days in Thanet any better?

ONLY THE GRAND RE-OPENING OF DREAMLAND IN MARGATE!!! Just how excited was I? VERY! I remember going to Dreamland as a kid with its big wooden rollercoaster. I had to take Thomas and our friends there. They would surely be STOKED. It's billed as being a retro funfair with 18 vintage rides and has been designed by Wayne Hemingway. Awesome.

We arrived at the car park and were welcomed by half a dozen very enthusiastic employees who told us to find a space and head on in. They missed out the part where you had to pay SEVEN POUNDS to park, but never mind, it'd be worth it. Off we drifted into Dreamland!

Only two ticket booths were open, so we joined the surprisingly short queue. 'Can I have a family ticket please?' I asked. Apparently this family fun park doesn't do a family ticket. Well, OK, two adults and two children then. No problem. We were handed our tickets. On leaving the ticket booth, we were immediately met by not one but two members of staff. One said we needed to have our tickets scanned and the other said we needed wrist bands. Why didn't the ticket lady give us the wrist bands at least? No idea! OK. So we've got tickets (and had them scanned) and we've now got wrist bands. Let's head in. Oh no. Hold on. Now we need to have our wrist bands checked by someone else. That's FOUR members of staff required to get us into the park - in the space of less than 10 feet. Hmmm... Well, there's high unemployment in the area, so perhaps this is a way of creating four jobs where two would have been easily enough.

Now, we're in the park!

The first thing you see as you enter Dreamland is the brand new wooden rollercoaster. Actuallly it's the old one, that's been renovated.

Looks brand new to me. Brand new and closed. Apparently someone forgot to get a licence for it. Oops.

The big slide next to it is also closed.

Not to worry, there's a huge Ferris wheel we could go on. Hold on a sec, it's moving, but no one seems to be on it. That'll be because it's closed as well.

Right... let's go and eat our sarnies while we decide what to do first.

Now, I don't think I'm particularly prudish, but I remain to be convinced that stationing pole dancers next to the kiddies' swan-shaped picnic benches is entirely appropriate.

I have no doubt that the dancers are very talented and they are clearly very strong and supple. I suppose on the plus-side, at least I won't need to explain the female anatomy to my 10-year-old son. He's now seen more than most gynaecologists.

Seriously though, there's only so much minge a person can cope with whilst one's trying to partake of one's Waitrose luncheon.

This dancer's wearing black leatherette. One of the girls had flesh-coloured pants on. At least, I hope what I saw were flesh-coloured pants...

Directly behind the pole dancers, there's a hoarding. If you peep behind it, assuming you can see anything past the flanges flapping about, you'll notice there's another ride that's not open. The children's caterpillar ride.

Actually, there were SEVEN rides that were shut. The rollercoaster, the big slide next to it, the Ferris wheel, the Caterpillar, the Kiss Me Quick, the mono rail and another one that wasn't complete, so I couldn't quite tell what it was. That left only eleven rides to choose from. Luckily, all the things that cost extra dosh to play were open...

I needed the toilet. Uh oh. Locked. Even the toilets were shut! I asked an assistant who was by the entrance (and the closed toilets) where I'd find more toilets. She told me that she didn't know and wasn't allowed into the park. Then she asked a male member of staff who was on the park-side if he knew where the toilets were. He just said no and walked away.

So, I had to leave the park and go into an adjoining building that contained more attractions that you had to pay for. But, it had toilets! FOUR cubicles that were for both men and women to share. One cubicle had a note on. 'Out of Order'. Three toilet cubicles then. And no hand dryer.

It was all pretty disappointing, if I'm honest. I'd expected it to be naff, but not quite this... shut. I really really wanted it to be great. Margate needs some help. It's got amazing beaches, but it's seen better days. I'm gutted for Margate that whoever's behind this venture didn't manage to get the park anything close to ready for its 'grand' re-opening.

There were some good things though. Firstly, the dodgems (which you'll struggle to find because they've been hidden behind the big closed rollercoaster) were the fastest I've ever been on. Secondly, the motor bike stunt guys were pretty cool.

And thirdly, actually, there's not a third thing. Not unless seeing Vic Reeves hurtling down the helter skelter counts...

The staff were great (except for the man who didn't know or care where the toilets were). They were all really upbeat and working hard. As were all the entertainers. Such a shame that the management and contractors had let them all down so badly. It's pretty piss poor to open the park when a third of the rides weren't ready. Even worse is that they charged entrants full price to come in and they didn't warn anyone that so much was unavailable. They should have reduced the prices and been honest with their customers. We'd have forgiven them.

Despite all this though, it was a laugh. If you like fun fairs, you'll love this - once they get their act together. It is pretty expensive though. We paid £65.80 for two adults and two children (plus £7 parking). My advice is to park your car somewhere else and make sure you've been to the loo before you visit the park. They did have a couple of portaloos, but heaven knows what those will be like in the summer!


  1. Dear Goat, I think it's so sad that you feel you must focus on your negative experience at the park. We went as a daily with 2 children costing £100. It was lovely, we went for the night, soaked up the atmosphere and welcomed in a new age for the park, and for Margate. Wonderful stuff!!!
    Just think, your custom could benefit generations to come who visit the town as we did as kids. Personally... Seeing my own children running down the slope with excitement as I did when I was a child filled me with so much nostalgia.
    The whole area ould've been a housing estate by now, I know what I'd prefer. Well done Dreamland, and Margate, for fighting so long and hard to retain this attraction and to open it again to the public. Long may it stay open and I hope it's legacy benefits our children's children. Rob Black

    1. Hi Rob,

      Thanks for your post.

      If you re-read my post, you'll see how excited I was about the park re-opening and how disappointed I was that the management and contractors have made such a mess of it. I tried to write my review in a humorous way, but it's pretty hard to write a fully positive review when all the major rides were closed.

      I think Margate really needs this. We come to Thanet quite often but we've never been to Margate (not since I was about 14). I'd really hoped Dreamland would be great, but it really wasn't. They opened before they were ready and they should have made it clear to customers that so many things were shut. That's what I feel most annoyed about.

      I've looked at some TV news coverage of the opening too and all of them show the closed rides. You can't avoid them.

      I hope the management gets it's act together and sorts out the contractors. I'm sure the park will do well, once it's properly open.

  2. Would rather go to Chessington to be honest. Will be more exciting and just as cheap.

  3. I live just down the road from Margate and was expecting this sort of disaster. I know that we need jobs in the local area, but this appears to have been a ramshackle half effort by the managers. Hopefully it's just early teething problems and will get sorted in the very near future...

    1. I agree. I think Margate really needs this, but the management needs sorting out. Fingers crossed they get their act together and it all works out in the end.

  4. Work in Progress!
    All your complaints will, eventually, be dealt with.
    Dreamland is open! (main thing)
    The rides need an M.O.T. and Licenced to be able to run. This needs a certificate. (we don't want a repeat of the Alton Towers recent disaster)
    Toilet facilities will improve and be plentiful during the project times.
    Some people expect miracles to happen over night, this project cannot be hastened, must be safe in all areas. This takes time.

    1. It's not really open. Nearly 40% of the rides are shut. I agree that everything needs to be safe and licences need to be in place, but this should all be done before the park is opened to the public.

      I saw the CEO on TV saying this was part of a 'phased' opening. If this was really the case, it should have been promoted as such, but it wasn't.

      I don't expect anything to happen over night, but I do expect to get what I pay for, and I didn't here.

  5. I live in the local area and foresaw this happening too.
    Yes, Margate needs something to bring it back to life but my honest opinion of Dreamland is that it is just a publicity stunt (albeit an expensive one) to show that they have tried to do something with the land.
    I don't think we have the 360 degree pull needed to bring in enough visitors being that we're surrounded by sea on 3 sides, and the price tag does seem a little steep.
    The novelty will wear off after a period and I think it'll be shut within 3 years due to declining numbers. But then, I'm sure this is really what the developers want so that there is no longer such a strong objection to building houses there.
    As much as I would love Dreamland to work, I just can't see it happening. There are bigger and better theme parks dotted around the country and they do family deals and don't charge so much for parking.
    I'm sure this comment will get a lot of criticism (as I have, any time I've mentioned this to people) but I'm just trying to be a realist about the situation rather than seeing the whole thing through rose tinted glasses.
    It's nice to see an honest article about the opening weekend by the way.
    Good work.

  6. This is all really interesting. Obviously, I'm not local to Margate, so I'm not privvy to what's gone on to get to this position or the local politics. I suspect you're right with your concerns. What Margate really needs is something that will draw people in all year round and that will create permanent rather than seasonal jobs for local people. Building more houses seems, to an outsider, to be crazy when there doesn't seem to be the work there to support an influx of people.

    It's all such a shame. I really had genuinely wanted this park to be good for Margate, but if I'm being honest, there's nothing in it that you wouldn't find at the end of any pier or at a travelling fun fair.

    I hope Margate finds its 'thing'.

    1. It's nice to hear from an outsiders perspective that I'm not the only one that thinks this. Any criticism by locals seems to go down as "not wanting Margate to succeed" and "Never having faith in anything", when in actuality I'm just trying to look at the long-term.
      Houses really are the last thing we need but as we all know, this is where the money lies for land owners/developers.
      The same thing is happening with Manston airport up the road at the moment where they want to build more houses.
      Unfortunately, without the infrastructure, job opportunities and everything else that is needed happening first, I fear our area of Kent will once again become a dumping ground for the overspill from London.
      In essence, it it simple economics that show us this is what happens but money speaks much louder than the voices of the people.
      I hope Thanet finds it's thing too but at present it just looks like a good opportunity for Londoners to buy their second home, push house prices up and essentially force out locals who can no longer afford to buy around here.

  7. I am local too and lots of us would have liked an ice rink there as this could have been a real 'all round year' attraction for families. I can't see any local families visiting more than once and daytrippers only come in the summer. It is possible Turner Centre visitors may take it in too (but I doubt it). I think it was an opportunity missed. Good article!

    1. An ice-rink would make a lot of sense, as would going further with the artistic theme. There are so many well-known artists associated with the town. Fingers crossed that Margate finds it niche xxx

  8. Why do people feel the need to employ pole dancers at a family venue?Is this a new take on a circus acrobat in sexy this to draw in the bored Dads? This blog post made me laugh out loud but to be honest I would have found it offensive to witness such an out of place form of entertainment and have to explain it to my Grandchildren too. Why are all these places so expensive anyway for ordinary families?
    Mind you I had a Grandchild ordered out of her pushchair at Thorpe Park to be measured..disgusting way to treat people just to glean more money!
    Well written, hope this post goes viral.

  9. Please can you tell me why you have failed to publish my previous comment? I feel completely disrespected by your actions (or more specifically lack there of!) and do not understand why you don't wish to allow me to put across my point especially when you have painted me in a very negative light. Is it not fair for me to defend myself? To explain what is trying to be achieved? Instead you allow others to picture me and my co-performers as sleazy thus perpetuating the continued negativity that we face.
    Kristina Walker

    1. Hi Kristina,

      I've approved all comments that I've had on here, except one that was all sweary. There aren't any others from you and I'd very much like to hear your views.

  10. Things would probably have been better had they not suffered from some idiot with a thing about fire. To be honest, the public were warned that many attractions would not be open due to unavoidable delays and those with pre booked/paid for tickets could ride the unopened rides at a later date FOC. This was advised on TV many times in the weeks leading up to the 19th so people had the choice to wait or go in and put up with some closed attractions. Some people feel the need to complain for complainings sake. Margate needs something to attract people back and Dreamland is just such an attraction.

    1. Unfortunately, we're not local, so we didn't see any coverage of the opening at all. We went along because someone in Ramsgate told us it was opening and so we all excitedly headed to Margate. I'd looked at the website on my phone, but nothing on there yelled out that so much was shut, and it wasn't mentioned at the point of purchase either.

      I completely agree that Margate needs something to pull in the crowds, but I also think it needs something to provide employment and entertainment for local people all year round, and I'm not sure that this will do the trick. I hope I'm wrong, but I think, as someone else said on here earlier, that you can get into Chessington for a similar amount of money.

      I really do hope I'm wrong though.

  11. sad not to see my comment........I thought it was funny!! :-(

    1. Hi Yvonne, I've published everything I've received, but there's nothing else waiting to be posted. Do send again... J x