Blackpool Illuminations come to Dreamland Margate!




L to R: Richard Ryan Head of Blackpool Illuminations, Lightworks Depot, Jan Leandro, Heritage & Engagement Manager, The Dreamland Trust, Wayne Hemingway, Gerardine Hemingway and Nick Laister, Chairman, The Dreamland Trust

Last autumn The Dreamland Trust and HemingwayDesign visited Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Blackpool Illuminations on what turned out to be a very rewarding research trip.

Whilst there we were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Illuminations HQ, archive and works depot by Head of Illuminations, Richard Ryan. The operation and scale of the collection is truly breath taking and we were thrilled that Richard agreed to donate selected items to Dreamland Margate.

Blackpool’s world famous illuminations came about in the 1870s when the council awarded £5,000 to experiment with electric street lighting.  Dr Siemens’ 8 dynamo-electric machines, powered by 16 Robey engines, were switched on, on the 19 September 1879,  to power 8 arc lamps on along the seafront emitting light equivalent to 48,000 candles with approximately 100,000 people from across the UK travelling to marvel at the spectacle – and there rest, as they say, is history…

We are now super excited to announce the arrival of some of Blackpool’s classic illuminations to adorn Dreamland’s park environs in 2015. Amongst the selection are fountains, snowflakes, angels, devils and all manner of sparkling decorative features.

Cllr Graham Cain, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for tourism and leisure, said: “The Dreamland restoration plans are is a real community effort and have attracted great support.

“It’s pleasing that Blackpool will be able to make a contribution to such a historic landmark.

“We wish all the Dreamland team the very best with their project.”

The Dreamland Trust will be working with the local community and volunteers to restore and up-cycle these pieces ready for installation next spring.

Eddie Kemsley, director at Dreamland, said: “We’re delighted that Blackpool Illuminations – one of the most iconic sights in British culture – has donated items towards Dreamland ahead of its opening next year.

“We plan to make good use of the items in very creative ways.”

20,000 visitors!

This month we celebrated our 20,000th visitor to the Visitor & Learning Arcade. What a surprise Kate McDonagh, from Erith in Kent, got when she was greeted with a roof-raising cheer and goody bag when she walked through the doors to the Dreamland Expo! Kate received a goody bag and said;

“Dreams Can Come True in Dreamland”.

Opened on the 25 May 2014 The Arcade and Expo have proven to be a very popular attraction and learning resource for the local community and visitors to Margate.

The Expo is an immersive and interactive experience for all the family, evoking Dreamland’s heyday, charting the revival of one of the UK’s best loved amusement parks and looking forward to things to come in the exciting lead-up to Dreamland’s opening next year.

Situated in a vintage style arcade, the Expo describes Dreamland’s rich heritage and plays host to a collection of 1950s and 60s arcade games and pinball machines, fairground and amusement park artefacts, bijou cinema and so much more…

The space provides a unique setting for community activities, school trips, presentations, celebrations and special events. The Arcade also supports a programme of pop-up exhibitions, talks, tours, entertainment and acts as an archive hub for collecting images, movies, ephemera and artefacts.

For more information about opening times and what’s on visit


Our congrats go to the new Margate Carnival Committee and Chair, Jack Packman, for a stupendous carnival this year and to Festival Director, Eli Thompson and his crew at the Westcoast for a stomping great Soul Weekender – oh how we danced!

Also our grateful thanks to Madam Popoff and Kiss Me Quick for sponsoring our Knobbly Knees competition; Lucy Gudgeon, compare extraordinaire; Lorraine Smith; bunting maker, MENCAP arts & crafts groups; Mark Beneyto’s Bali-Hai BBQ, and the award winning Phases team for the wonderful circus taster sessions in the Arcade funded by Kent County Council Arts Investment Fund.

Margate Football Club and the Dreamland connection 

The Royal House Crowd 27 March 1923 courtesy of Jeff Trice.

The Royal House Crowd 27 March 1923 courtesy of Jeff Trice.

Margate v The Royal Marines c1920 courtesy of Jeff Trice.

Margate v The Royal Marines c1920 courtesy of Jeff Trice.

Dreamland Firework Field post 1922 courtesy of Jeff Trice.

Dreamland Firework Field post 1922 courtesy of Jeff Trice.






So, what does dreamland have in common with football – well, we’ll tell you!

Margate Town Football Club, now known as Margate Football Club, was founded in 1896 at a meeting held at Holy Trinity School in Margate chaired by Colonel Rowland Hill and had two spells where the Hall By The Sea (to become Dreamland) served as the club’s home ground. Local historian, Jeff Trice, picks up the story from here.

Having previously played at a ground known as Northdown Corner – located where the Holly Lane parade of shops in Cliftonville stands today – Margate Town initially moved to a pitch in the grounds of the Hall By The Sea for the start of the 1912/13 season. The pitch had previously been used by local club St.John’s Guild and during their tenure there, which had started in September 1905, it had generally been known as The Eaton Road Ground. There was no stand or cover for spectators at the Hall By The Sea but deck chairs were positioned around the pitch on match days. A major problem was that the pitch was surrounded by higher ground where people could watch matches for free.

Margate Town continued playing on the same pitch until midway through the 1919/20 season when – according to the local press – the club were forced to move to a different part of the site following the change of ownership at the amusement park that saw it renamed Dreamland. The new pitch was on a field that was used for weekly firework displays during the summer season and it had a bank of uncovered tiered seating on one side. However there’s some debate as to whether Margate Town actually moved to an entirely different part of the Dreamland site or if the existing pitch was actually just resized /moved a short distance.

Margate Town left Dreamland at the end of the 1920/21 season and had a spell playing at a ground near The Hussar pub in Garlinge before returning to the firework field pitch at the amusement park in October 1924. There was still no cover at the ground and no hard standing for spectators but ‘duck boards’ were put down as the 1924/25 season progressed.

During the second spell at Dreamland there was a period when a firework would be let off each time Margate Town scored a goal and on 7th May 1927 a match against Northfleet United ended with a mini riot. Margate Town supporters invaded the pitch when the game finished and sticks and stones were thrown. The cause of the trouble was the poor performance of the referee, a Mr Edwards, and in the chaos he was hit by a brick and had to be rushed away in a motor car via a back entrance at Dreamland.

Margate Town stayed at Dreamland until the end of the 1927/28 season when it temporarily went out of business. After reforming as Margate Football Club in 1929 the club moved to Hartsdown Park where it remains to this day.

All Aboard!

Did you know, that you and your dearest could be the first to ride Dreamland’s fully restored Grade II*-listed Scenic Railway at the 2015 Grand Opening?

Yes, it’s true!  All our newsletter readers are automatically entered into a prize draw – all you have to do is  tell your friends, family, colleagues and neighbours, so they too have an opportunity to enter the draw by signing up to receive the newsletter on our website at

Hold on tight and scream if you want to go faster!

Cabaret is a hit!

Our first Late@theArcade with the Private Widdle Social Club was a magnificent evening of laughter, cocktails, sing-a-long, poetry, saucy dancing and general cheekiness hosted by the amazing La Voix!

If you missed this sell out event, don’t fret – there will be more… meanwhile here are some pics and our grateful thanks to our Dreamland volunteers and contributors – especially…

  • Peter King for stage and set build
  • Neil Sutcliff for sound, lighting and technical services
  • Laura, Dan and Lyn for working the bar
  • Greg for manning the doors
  • The Lifeboat
  • Burger Bros

For you diary…

We are flagging up some of the exciting events and activities taking place in the Arcade this autumn. Full details will be posted our What’s On page at In the meantime you may want to pencil some of these into your diary.

  • 6 September Busking at the Arcade
  • 11-14 September English Open Heritage Days – talk and tour of Dreamland’s iconic Grade II*-listed cinema complex and Sunshine Cafe
  • 27 September Gaming@theArcade with pizza and beer in the evening
  • 27 September – 4 November Exhibition of the Lost Cabinets curated by Dr Allen Meades + talk and presentation
  • October half term – Halloween@theArcade for all the family: ghost stories, pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, face painting and fancy dress competition
  • 31 October Late@theArcade Cabaret of Horrors

All funds raised through our activities, sale of souvenirs and donations help keep the Arcade open!

And finally…

We say a fond farewell to Howard Evans who sadly passed away this month.

Howard is remembered for his generous community commitment, lively chat at Academy fm, the nurturing of young emerging performers and not least his love of and support for Dreamland – he will be truly missed.







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