Less than a year after its £18m restoration and grand re-opening, Margate’s Dreamland has gone into administration with debts of more than £14m. The theme park continues to trade and has now scrapped the entry fee, instead charging per ride in a last-ditch attempt to lure more visitors. But its future remains uncertain.
Dreamland’s desperate scrabble to stay afloat seems unlikely to succeed without a radical rethink. The park’s regeneration was well-intentioned with enormous effort put into restoring its original rides, in particular the famous Scenic Railway, the 1920s wooden rollercoaster, Dreamland’s main attraction. But at the opening gala in June 2015, the over-riding impression was of jumping onto a tired "vintage" bandwagon, amid a palpable air of last-minute panic.
As it turned out, the Scenic Railway was not ready in time for the opening, much to the dismay of the organisers as well as the locals who had come out in their droves to witness the revival of this Margate landmark. It came as no surprise that Wayne Hemingway, who was hired to design the revamp, has since claimed that the entire project was underfunded from the start.