A Midsummer Night’s Dreamland – the Spark Summer Day Out 2019
There are a host of reasons why Spark has an annual summer day out. There’s the chance to get out of the office and take a break from the 9 to 5. The chance to bond over food and drinks. The chance to do something out of the ordinary and give people an experience they haven’t had before. The chance to give everyone an opportunity to suggest ideas, agree on a destination and ensure that they feel the day is something they have helped create, instead of just forced fun from on high. And sometimes, there’s the chance for a heady Proustian rush of childhood holidays and half-remembered scenes.
In 2019 we combined all of these with a trip to Dreamland Margate – home of vintage 1920s rollercoasters, the 1989 Only Fools and Horses Christmas special, Five Star’s video for “Crazy” (although not their more-famous Going Live phone-in), and subject to a series of closures, redevelopments and arson attacks that should really be made into a film.
So after an entirely pleasant train ride down – marred only by leaving two bottles of Prosecco at St Pancras M&S and having to tightly ration the on-train mimosas – it’s time for the entirely unbiased review of Margate, Dreamland, and Ziggy’s Rooftop Bar and BBQ.
- Quite a nice roundabout by the station, one very big tower block, exciting range of buildings on hills behind the beach, and I’m sure the Turner Contemporary gallery on the seafront is lovely. Plus a Lido, which is also a winner. Anyway, the people I follow on Twitter who live there all rate it. Rating: Five stars
- Private cabins: Commanding location with a view of the entertainment stage and rides; well-stocked fridge; and comes with an unlimited rides wrist-band which, it turns out, also allows entry to the fast track queues. Wish I’d worked that one out earlier than 4:30. Rating: Five stars
- Food: Very nice selection from the barbecue trailer, although other options are available throughout the park. Rating: 8/10
- Rides: Waltzers are always entertaining. Pinball X is the best waltzer/rollercoaster combi I’ve been on since the Yokohama spin-coaster. Nobody let themselves down on the Pendulum. Spinning teacups gave a good upper-arm workout. Almost nobody got told off or had their sunglasses run over on the dodgems. Dreamcatcher spinny-go-round was strangely relaxing. Rating: A+
- Tina Turner’s Giant Head: A sure conversation-starter for any dinner party. Let down by the fact that the karaoke brain-box isn’t open on Fridays. Rating: 50% River Deep, 50% Mountain High
- Scenic Railway rollercoaster: Worth its own entry for being a bona fide historical artefact, complete with extremely wooden noise and trusting that the ride attendant is handy on the handbrake. Also has the thrill that T S Elliot might have ridden it while composing The Waste Land. Rating: April is the cruellest month
Ziggy’s Rooftop Bar and BBQ:
- Barman didn’t act weird when certain people hit that point in the evening and started ordering tequila tonics, so it’s automatically a 10/10 from me. The fact that it’s around the corner from Dreamland; does a very nice line in fried chicken and deep fried gherkin; and has views that I could only really describe as spectacular (see accompanying photos) really was just the icing on the cake. So much that I’d happily go back under my own steam. Rating: Currently 4/5 from 8 reviews on TripAdvisor, placing it 84th out of 135 restaurants in Margate.
The 9:53 from Margate to St Pancras:
- Supported a very nice nap propped up against a window.
Of course, the big question is what next year might bring. With bubble football, speed boats, canal boats, slow boats, show boats, vineyards, escape rooms, picnics and axe throwing already crossed off the Spark Bucket List, we’re always looking for fresh suggestions. Except for Diggerland, which keeps getting vetoed for some reason.