The reinvention of Margate

The birthplace of the British seaside is undergoing a renaissance and the town is beginning to bloom again. A sunny day was spent sampling Margate’s seaside experience including David Chipperfield’s Turner Contemporary Centre and Dreamland, the oldest surviving amusement park in the UK. With Wayne Hemingway at the design helm, the restored funfair has woken up the sleepy seaside town and given back the buzz it once had in its heyday.

Since opening in 2011 to mixed local reaction, Chipperfield’s gallery has attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists and launched a vibrant gallery scene in the old town, along with a host of welcoming cafes, vintage stores and other independent retailers. Margate’s seafront is not quite Brighton yet, but it has generated a bit of the energy found there.

The new retro theme park is reassuringly authentic, the rides, lights and décor are sourced from parks around the world, with a kitsch and playful backdrop of candy stripe colours and lots of upcycled furniture and fittings. The roller room turns into a venue for bands and DJs, and a large outdoor concert arena is planned to open next year, providing much needed entertainment options for the area.

Having grown up in East Kent, and spent many hours working at and enjoying the previous incarnation of Dreamland before it closed in 2003, it is great to see the sad, run down seafront in Margate get a new lease of life.

By Beverley Gibbs