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 Post subject: Dreamland Scenic Railway reopens 15th Oct 2015
New postPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 3:34 pm 
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Location: Manchester, UK

The oldest roller coaster in the UK reopens today (Thursday 15th October 2015) after a 12-year battle to save the ride from demolition and bring it back into operation.

The Scenic Railway roller coaster at Dreamland Margate originally opened in 1920. After thrilling riders for 82 years, it was announced in December 2002 that the amusement park would be closed and the roller coaster demolished to make way for shops and housing. Oxfordshire-based planning consultant and visitor attraction owner Nick Laister set up the Save Dreamland Campaign, the aim of which was to save the Scenic Railway and the amusement park in which it sits.

Nick Laister says: “In 2001 I was concerned that the future of the Scenic Railway - a remarkable survivor from an early period of amusement park development - was uncertain as whole areas of Dreamland were being taken out of use. I wrote to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and asked them to consider making the roller coaster a listed building. They agreed with me and a year later the Scenic Railway became Grade II listed.”

This was the first time an amusement park ride had been given listed building status.

It was in the year that the ride was listed that the owners of Dreamland announced it was to close. Nick continues: “Once the Scenic Railway was listed I expected that its future was secure, but I was wrong. When it was announced that Dreamland was to close down for redevelopment, I was literally bombarded with emails from people asking if I could help. I set up the Save Dreamland Campaign and began campaigning for the Scenic Railway and Dreamland to be protected.”

Within weeks the Campaign snowballed, and was very quickly speaking on behalf of thousands of people, and Nick found that the Campaign had captured the sentiment not only of the people of Margate, but of roller coaster enthusiasts and people interested in built heritage around the world: “The Scenic Railway clearly meant a lot to many people. And with so many people behind us we were able to secure a place at a public inquiry in 2004, at which a Government Inspector agreed with the Campaign that the Scenic Railway should be protected in the Local Plan.”

But this was not the end of the matter. Although a policy was put in place to protect the roller coaster, nobody expected the arson attack of April 2008 which destroyed a large proportion of the ride. Nick explains that this was a turning point for the campaign: “The fire destroyed about 25% of the wooden structure, and even more devastating was the loss of the workshop with all the original 1920s trains, complete with carved dragons heads. What seemed at the time like it would be the end for the Scenic Railway and Dreamland actually turned out to be the biggest turning point in the Campaign, as the entire community came together and decided that enough was enough. The Council came firmly on board with the project and we were able to start looking towards getting the ride, and the park in which it sits, rebuilt and reopened.”

Nick and two other campaigners, Susan Marsh and Sarah Vickery, decided to set up the Dreamland Trust, which would not just campaign for the ride to be rebuilt. It would actually go out and secure funding for the restoration and take the lead in its delivery. Nick, who was appointed chair of the Dreamland Trust, was initially surprised how many people cared enough about the ride to get on board: “I travelled the country meeting various organisations, such as English Heritage, the Arts Council, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Government, basically with cap in hand. The Trust submitted a number of applications for grants to restore the ride and reopen the park. In the end, with public and private sector investment, we ended up with a £28m project to reopen the park.”

The rebuild was successful and the park reopened successfully in June 2015.

"The reopening of the Scenic Railway is the crowning moment of our 12-year efforts to bring Dreamland back, and I am sure it will delight many new generations of riders."


Information for Editors

Nick Laister is available for interview. Email nick@dreamlandmargate.com or telephone 07778 207036 to organise an interview.

Nick Laister is a planning consultant working in the visitor attractions industry, who advises a number of theme parks, zoos, safari parks, museums, holiday parks and farm attractions around the UK. he is also owner of Fairytale Farm in Oxfordshire, the UK's first commercial visitor attraction that is designed around the needs of children with disabilities. Nick originated the project to reopen Dreamland, is leader of the Save Dreamland Campaign and chairman of the Dreamland Trust, which sourced the funding for the project and created the concept of the world's first amusement park of historic rides.

The Save Dreamland Campaign was set up in January 2003 and speaks on behalf of several thousand people. www.savedreamland.co.uk.

The Dreamland Trust was set up to deliver a revived Dreamland and ensure that the park’s contribution to the regeneration of Margate can be realised. www.dreamlandtrust.org.uk

Details of the new Dreamland Margate can be found at the park's new website: www.dreamland.co.uk

The Trust, working in partnership with Thanet District Council, has secured a funding package of £18 million, which includes external funding from The Heritage Lottery Fund and the Sea Change grant, and match funding from the Council itself, to deliver the first phase of the project.

The Dreamland site is owned by Thanet District Council following successful compulsory purchase.

The Dreamland project plays a significant role in community engagement, education, training, sustainable employment and boosting the local economy. It is also a major component in the continued regeneration of Margate, spearheaded by Turner Contemporary in 2011.

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