Important people

Left to right: Cllr Iris Johnston – Leader of Thanet District Council, Glenn Springett – Managing Director Topbond, PLC Group, Susan Marsh MBE – Hon Secretary, The Dreamland Trust, Grant Burton – Capital Development Manager, Thanet District Council, Eddie Kemsley – Project Director, The Dreamland Trust, Wayne Hemingway MBE – HemingwayDesign, Grant Forwood – Site Manager, Topbond PLC Group

On Monday the 15 September 2014, work began to reinstate Britain’s oldest surviving roller coaster to its former glory.

Dreamland’s iconic Grade II*- listed Scenic Railway is now being lovingly restored by Kent based contractors, Topbond Plc. Group to be ready for Dreamland’s grand opening in 2015.

This historic ride first thrilled visitors to Margate when it opened to the public in 1920. With a track of just under one mile, speeds of up to 40 miles per hour and operated manually by a brakeman, the Scenic Railway was an instant hit carrying half a million passengers in just thirteen weeks.

Dreamland 1920 II

Scenic Railway, Dreamland 1920

The ride continued to be a massive tourism draw and enjoyed a long run until an arson attack in 2008, which destroyed approximately 25% of the ride, the railway station, work sheds and trains. The Dreamland Trust and Thanet District council have secured Heritage Lottery Funding to restore and preserve this important part of British amusement park heritage.

Scenic engine shed

After an initial recording of the building and structure for historic purposes, the dismantling of the buildings and structures, commencing with the motor house (as seen in James Henderson’s images above), will follow a phased programme.

Restoration will include the replacement of the foundations on which the newly fabricated timber trusses will be erected. Secondary timber structures will then be fixed to the main structure. All the works will systematically follow the scenic in a clockwise direction.

Leader of Thanet District Council, Cllr Iris Johnston said, ‘It is very exciting to see work start on Britain’s oldest surviving rollercoaster. The Scenic Railway is synonymous with Dreamland and the Council is very proud to be leading the way, breathing life into Dreamland once again.”

Eddie Kemsley, Project Director at Dreamland, said “This is an important milestone in Dreamland’s history and is symbolic of the enormous achievement of the Dreamland Trust’s ‘Save Dreamland’ campaign. Work on the Scenic Railway is one of many crucial steps in our work towards opening a re-imagined Dreamland”.

During the re-building works, The Dreamland Trust will continue to host an exhibition on Dreamland’s history and future. The Dreamland Expo: a past, present and future, describes the revival of Dreamland – one of the UK’s best loved amusement parks.

Ahead of the anticipated 2015 opening, multi-disciplinary award-winning designers, HemingwayDesign led by Wayne Hemingway MBE, Gerardine Hemingway MBE and Jack Hemingway are working to create a re-imagined Dreamland as a unique vintage-style amusement park featuring restored historic thrill rides, classic side shows and destination dining set within a landscape capable of hosting national festivals and major events.

The new Dreamland will be a visual and sensual delight, delivered by creative thinkers and designers ensuring every nook and cranny is touched by the hands of artists and artisans. With a creative use of up-cycled amusement park artefacts and fairground paraphernalia creating an immersive, timeless environment.

Meanwhile, the Dreamland Expo is open free to the public at the weekends from 10am to 5pm and available during the week for pre-booked school visits, groups and community activities.

For more information visit the website at or email or telephone 01843 297755.


We’re about to embark on a large-scale community up-cycling project to help us interpret Dreamland’s rich heritage from its origins in the early 1860s railway boom to Victorian circus and pleasure gardens, 1920s modernist era through to the birth of British Youth Culture in the 1950s and the park’s heydays during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

We will be up-cycling a selection amusement park content and light installations, donated by Blackpool Illuminations, to create evocative set dressing, public realm and fill every nook and cranny of the reimagined Dreamland with visual serendipity and stunning photo opportunities.

In addition to these donations, Dreamland has, for the past year, been building a collection of fairground artefacts and paraphernalia from around the UK.

We will also salvaging material from the rides and park restoration process including ride parts and timbers from Dreamland’s iconic Grade II*-listed Scenic Railway.

If you would like to offer some time and your creative skills to help with this amazing project please contact the Up-cycling Project Manager, Ben Morton at or telephone directly on 07973 523 745.


All inherited resources which people value for reasons beyond mere utility: English Heritage website

lost cabinets

Coin-operated videogame arcade machines were the domination of many a youth’s pastime in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Who would have thought back then that these games would now be considered an integral part of our cultural heritage!

As gaming and home entertainment evolved, videogame arcades became less popular with many of their machines being lost from the historic record. So we were delighted when Dr Alan Meades of Canterbury Christ Church University contacted us earlier this year to say that he believed he had made a significant find of rare and unusual videogame cabinets deep within the Dreamland vaults.

Dr Meades has now catalogued and assessed the collection and will be presenting an exhibition of the lost cabinets in the Dreamland Visitor & Learning Arcade at the weekends from Saturday 27 September 2014.

Exhibition of the Lost Cabinets presentation by Dr Meades will take place at 6pm on Friday 26 September 2014 followed by a celebratory event of gaming with pizza and beer from 7pm to10pm also on Friday 26 September 2014 – tickets £5 available on the door.

Dr Meades has studied and written extensively on the subject and produced the paper below for our newsletter.

Dreamlands: Arcade Culture by Dr Alan Meades                       

I grew up on the East-Kent coast twenty-five years after the summer of the Mods and Rockers, so famously captured in British Pathé’s Whitsun Playtime news report. The film presents ‘longhaired youngsters …waiting apparently for someone to start something’, and the eventual descent into an ‘orgy of hooliganism,’ erupting on the doorstep of Dreamland’s Bali-Hai bar. What is curious to me is the difference between the events presented in Whitsun Playtime and my adolescent experiences in the same place separated by a quarter of a century. What I experienced, and what I now research, is Arcade Culture, how people grew up in and around videogame arcades, and the communities and behaviours these spaces enabled, including the arcade that the Bali-Hai bar was eventually turned into. I would argue that videogame arcades were one of the very last spaces in which young people could go about their business largely unregulated, and can be seen as an important transition between the youth culture of the Mods and Rockers, and of that of today.

Growing up during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Bemboms, and by extension, Margate seafront, existed in two modes: the short, colourful, hot, energetic summer season; and the long, grey, drizzly months either side of the holidays. We always visited Bemboms a couple of times each year – often after carnivals where discount cards were generously distributed from the Bemboms bus – as locals, but our trips on the Looping Star, The Mary Rose, or The Scenic Railway, were an occasional treat. Even with the huge crowds, visits to Bemboms were public, we’d bump into school friends, acquaintances, and family, and all too often, on returning home would be informed that we’d been seen by someone while we were getting up to no good. For me, Bemboms, Marine Parade, and the sands were therefore excruciatingly public spaces. In those adolescent years this visibility felt both stifling and embarrassing, and like every adolescent I clamoured for spaces beyond the judgemental adult gaze where we could simply be – and for me and my friends videogame arcades offered this invisibility. 

Videogame arcades were largely free from adults, entirely free from mothers, and mostly free from the utterly perplexing influence of teenage girls. Instead boys could congregate, play videogames, plan adventures, form allegiances, oppositions, scuffle, and be free. Whatever the season, whatever the weather, the arcades were open, welcoming, and electric, and we found camaraderie and meaning through the adventures and experiences we shared upon videogame screens. 

We raced Ferrari Testarossas in Sega’s Out Run, weaving through traffic in Coconut Beach and Devil’s Canyon, a digital blonde girlfriend by our side – until the car inevitably crashed and flipped. I remember Bemboms had a deluxe Out Run machine, and each time someone climbed into the huge, sit-down game, a crowd would form. As it lurched and shifted during turns, we would nod in mute support at good players, or share smirks and the odd heckle to those who were bad and did not belong. Elsewhere we zapped alien Space Invaders, chomped power pills and ghosts in Pac Man, doled out rough justice to Mad Gear gang members in Final Fight, and smacked down cocky opponents in Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat. With every credit we used we built reputations as better players and felt more at home in the arcades, building and sharing knowledge about strategies, cheats or lame moves, and developing an awareness of the risks and dangers of the arcade space itself and its other residents. It is important to point out that the spaces, freedoms and experiences depicted in the games felt as meaningful and urgent as those in real-life spaces. In turn we used our experiences of videogames as ways of thinking and making sense of everyday adult life. I’ve continued this relationship with videogames ever since my experiences in those videogame arcades, and I’ve a strong suspicion that many others of my generation have too.

For me Bemboms offered distinct spaces that enabled different groups to do different things: there was the amusement park itself, full of families, friends and girls, where you were always seen; there were the videogame arcades, frequented and dominated by adolescent boys, largely free from interruption; and then there were the digital spaces and landscapes that existed on game screens and in our imaginations.

By the late 1990s however, largely due to the development of more powerful home videogame systems, videogame arcades became less popular. In the same way that videogames had replaced pinball machines in the 1980s, arcades began replacing videogames with more profitable fruit machines and ticket redemption games where players swapped prize tokens for trinkets like stuffed toys. As the makeup of the arcade changed it no longer offered the invisibility it previously had – ticket redemption brought families, children, adults and girls, and as fruit machine stakes were raised the gambling took on a more serious adult tone. With the influx of adults I believe adolescent boys returned to the confines of their bedrooms and invisible digital meeting spaces.

Looking back at those days, twenty years removed, I can begin to see the arcade spaces for what they were. Firstly, videogame arcades were some of the very last spaces where adolescent boys could congregate and socialise without from interruption and the judgement of adult society. Secondly, they represent a way that digital technologies were introduced to people, where with a few 10p coins anyone could experience the pleasures and potential of computing. And, finally, videogame arcades can be seen as a key point marking the shift from physical adolescent play spaces to digital ones – the move from youths congregating on Margate main sands or Dreamland …waiting apparently for someone to start something’ to now congregating on Facebook, Xbox Live or Twitter.

Videogame arcades are socially, culturally and historically important points in the development of youth culture, serving as a connection between the open confrontation of the Mods and Rockers in Whitsun Playtime and the pokes, Trolls, and memes of youth culture today. I am currently working with Dreamland to explore arcade culture, including the intended restoration and archival of arcade videogame machines (including that Out Run deluxe).

If you would be interested in contributing, if you have stories about videogame arcades, or even arcade components, PCBs or cabs, please do get in touch at




Presentation of the Lost Cabinets by Dr Alan Meades 6pm followed by gaming, Pizza and Beer from 7pm to 10pm Friday 26 September 2014 – tickets £5 on the door

Exhibition of the Lost Cabinets

Dreamland’s lost cabinets on public exhibition from Saturday 27 September 2014 every weekend between 10am-5pm. Free entry.


Four days of free family fun activities in the Arcade from Monday 27 October to Thursday 30 October from 12pm to 2pm. Scary stories, face painting, mask making and apple bobbing. Get a map and follow our ghost trail around Margate to claim your free spooky prize!  No need to book, just drop in!

Late@theArcade: Cabaret of Horrors

Following the sell-out success and back by popular demand – The Private Widdle Social Club returns to the Arcade to entertain, thrill and make you blush!

The Cabaret of Horror hosted by the exuberant La Voix and supported by an abundance of Widdle talent from Miss Blackendecker on the Musical Saw; hybrid impersonator, Frank Sanazi; the fabulous Fire Eating Miss Jones, taxidermy puppeteering, gothic poetry, Jugs of Bloody Mary, the Nutty Professor’s test tubes, meals in a basket, peculiar raffle and more!

VVIP fairground round stall enclosure, VIP Whip Cars, allocated tables and standing tickets all now available at  Adult entertainment. Booking is absolute essential. Club rules: there are no rules.



At the end of a fantastic summer season, with over 30,000 visitors to the Visitor & Learning Arcade, The Dreamland Trust would like to thank all our volunteers for their time, talent, skills and commitment and our dedicated supporters for their contributions and resources. Our special thanks go to Peter King, Neil Sutcliff and Kapo – thanks guys 🙂

The Dreamland Visitor & Learning Arcade autumn opening times are now 10am until 5pm every Saturday and Sunday.

The Arcade is open mid-week for pre-arranged school visits, groups, community activities, presentations and celebrations. Contact for more information.


To make a contribution toward rebuilding Dreamland for future generations, please email

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