Saturday, 4 January 2014

Fingers crossed for Margate

Many years ago, as a kid, I was taken to Margate for a birthday treat to visit, what was then, Bembom Brothers Theme Park (for the short period in its life when it wasn't Dreamland).  Vividly sticking in my mind, even to this day, was the Scenic railway roller-coaster.

It wasn't the highest or fastest ride in the Park, it didn't loop the loop or induce stomach churning nausea from spinning, but it probably was the scariest.

Scariest because it looked old, and on some of the drops it was just a piece of scaffolding pole resting about 2 inches above your knees that stopped you from flying out of the car, and those two inches meant at times your knee was on the bar and the seat wasn't in contact any longer.

So it’s with sadness over a number of years to have heard, and seen in the news, the slow decline and then closure of park and even the partial damage to the Scenic Roller-coaster in an arson attack.

At the same time the news stories have painted a similar picture for Thanet, a slow, probably terminal decline.

But, perhaps (to abuse a much misquoted statement of Mark Twain), reports of Margate's death have been exaggerated.

Yes, along the seafront there are boarded up arcades and closed down nightclubs.  But perhaps this is just a symptom of the heart of Margate having temporarily shifted to the stunning Turner contemporary gallery.

I wasn't expecting the picturesque Old Town, packed with café’s and retro shops similar to Brighton’s North Laines, but without the hordes of camera wielding tourists (self-excluded), and I certainly wasn't expecting the Tudor House, with the excellent guided tour thrown in.

This wasn't the Margate that the news likes to portray, this was a Margate that is dusting itself down, picking itself up, and hopefully now on its way to restoring its pride.

Yes, until such time as aviation fuel pushes the price of flying off to the Med up so high that the British seaside suddenly becomes the only coastal option, it's unlikely that Margate’s wide sandy beaches will be as thronged as they must have been in the 50’s and 60’s.  But with a growing base of attractions for tourists, and at least a very decent Premier Inn it’s certainly got a lot going for it.

There's even now a real chance that the Scenic Railway can be scaring more children in the future.

Find out more about the campaign to save and restore Dreamland at