In Pictures: The art of Dreamland, Margate

HemingwayDesign, led by Wayne, Geraldine and Jack Hemingway have worked closely with local artists and Margate enthusiasts to recreate the sights, sounds and even the smells of a good old fashioned seaside fun park. The result is a visual feast for visitors of all ages.

Dreamland Margate, 49-51 Marine Terrace, Margate, Kent, CT9 1XJ
Mon to Weds 10am-6pm, Thurs to Sun 10am-9pm
Admission Adults £17.95, Children 3+ £14.95 (advanced online concessions available)
After 5pm Adults £7.49, Children £4.95 (Thurs-Sun, until the end of August) half price admission after 5pm

5 arts-inspired family day trips from London

If you’re still feeling that your world has shrunk a little too much since having kids, the summer months are a great excuse to venture further afield, with a reduced rush hour, no school run traffic and (hopefully) more hands on deck. Here are 5 family day trips from London with fantastic arts appeal:

1. Explore Henry Moore’s giant sculptures in the open countryside

Henry Moore was an early pioneer of modernism and large-scale public art in the UK and a visit to his former home in Perry Green, Herfordshire offers the chance to be dwarfed by over 20 of his monumental sculptures in the setting that he always intended. Kids will love exploring the 70 acres of sheep-filled gardens and fields, as well as curious barn-based galleries and studios.

The Henry Moore Foundation, Perry Green, Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, SG10 6EE
Sculpture garden’s open Weds-Sun & Bank Holidays, 11am-5pm, 1st May to 25th Oct 2015, admission £15.70 for a family of 4

2. Visit an artist’s enclave with a difference in Dungeness

This other-worldly outpost on the Kent coast has so much for visiting families; a historic lighthouse with panoramic views, a ride on the small and rickety Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway and incredible bird life but curious beachcombers will love treading the delicate pathways to marvel at the curious collection of flotsam and jetsam in the garden surrounding late filmmaker Derek Jarman’s house. Particularly if fish and chips at The Pilot pub lie at the end.

Prospect Cottage, Dungeness, Romney Marsh, Kent TN29 9NB
Lighthouse open daily throughout August, 10:30am-4:30pm, admission adults £4, children £2.50, under 5s free

3. See how Charlie & Lola started life at Mottisfont house and gallery

It’s never cheap visiting any of the magnificent National Trust properties that grace our home counties, but Mottisfont is proving a big draw this summer with an opportunity to explore The Art of Lauren Child. The award-winning creator of Charlie and Lola will be exhibiting 50 original art works in the gallery of this stunning medieval riverside property, alongside other objects that helped inspire the stories, such as Lola’s pink milk glass. Activity weekends extend the theme with craft activities, storytelling and face painting. Outside in the grounds, kids can also try their hand at building a den in the hidden hide out of the Wild Play Trail.

Mottisfont, Hampshire SO51 0LP
The Art of Laurent Child until 6th Sept. Gallery open daily throughout August, 11am-5pm, admission adults£14, children £6.50, National Trust members and under 5s free

4. Seek out hidden street art in Brighton

You don’t need many excuses to jump on a train to Brighton with the kids this summer. Since the development of the amazing seafront boardwalk scattered with artisan stalls and loved by kids of all ages, from roller-skating teens to scooting pre schoolers and bumbling toddlers, Brighton has started to feel like the UK’s answer to Venice Beach. But who’d have though just a few metres back from the seafront, hidden in a the sneaky side streets off of Trafalgar Road, as well as between George Street and St. Andrews Churchyard, and North Laine would be Brighton’s answer to San Francisco’s Mission district? Street art in Brighton really brings to life a different side of the city’s arts community. Be sure to see the incredible music mural on the side of the Prince Albert pub. The kids might not recognise most of the subjects but that didn’t make it any less impressive.

Street art is free to view by all ages, all over the city of Brighton, but Visit Brighton’s top picks is a great place to start.

5. Re-imagine a theme park as a Pleasure Park at Dreamland

Following a 12 year campaign led by The Dreamland Trust and £18m in public funding, the once popular theme park is back from the dead having been stylishly restored under the watchful eye of internationally renowned designer and local resident Wayne Hemingway. Rather than simply create just another theme park, Dreamland pays homage to the golden age of British seaside holidays by recreating the entire experience; right through to the sights, the sounds and the smells. The result is a visual feast; carousels adorned in original traveller art, lovingly restored rides and amusements (including the famous Hurricane Jets), a ballroom, a roller disco and a plethora of sideshows. It needs to be seen to be believed.

Dreamland, 49-51 Marine Terrace, Margate, Kent, CT9 1XJ
Daily, 10am-5pm, admission adults £17.95 adults, children £14.95. Reduced admission Thurs to Sun after 5pm.

How art is transforming Margate for families

My position on amusement parks has changed very little in 30 years. When I was growing up, i was always excited about the spectacle of the funfair, the heady collection of sounds and smells that made up the ultimate family day out, far more so than the nervous energy and anticipation that resulted from ‘rolling-up’ to test your wits against the Whip, or hold your nerve on the Ghost Train.

I’m now very pleased to report, that the seaside town of Margate will soon unveil a brand new amusement park that is just my cup of tea. An amusement park where reluctant thrill-seekers like me can choose whether to get involved or just enjoy things from the sidelines. In actual fact, the restoration of Dreamland, one of Britain’s oldest surviving amusement parks, is one of a number of ways that art is slowly transforming Margate, from a scruffy old south coast town, to a vibrant seaside destination for family visitors.

Dreamland has seen over 10 years of adversity. To the backdrop of Margate’s own depressing picture of 20% unemployment, empty properties and a deserted high street, the site ran into disrepair, and was finally closed in 2003. Threatened by redevelopment, The Dreamland Trust rapidly formed and came to the rescue with a bold vision of restoring it to its former glory. Having overcome other major setbacks, such as an arson attack in 2008, the trust has worked tirelessly to secure £12m of public funding to not only restore the unique Grade II* listed Scenic Railway but reinstate other historical assets such as the cinema, the menagerie cages and a host of original rides. World-class designer Wayne Hemingway is also leading the charge, promising a truly immersive experience to visitors, where the lights, sights, smells and sounds will deliver what he refers to as a “sense of wonderment at every turn”.

When Dreamland is finally unveiled later this year as a celebration of the quintessential seaside experience, it won’t, however, be the first time that the community has chosen culture-led regeneration as its saviour.

At least 20 years earlier, local resident and former Chairman of the Margate Civic Society, John Crofts conceived the idea himself, through his vision of celebrating the town’s association with artist JMW Turner, in a bid to reverse its fortunes. With funding from Kent County Council, building on the landmark gallery began in 2008 and was finally completed in 2011. Today, perched at the end of Marine Drive, the brutalist structure of Turner Contemporary stands proud, celebrating the sea and the skies that inspired Turner’s long and loving relationship with Margate, whilst boosting the invigoration of the historical Old Town through retro and pop art influences.

To the family visitor, Turner Contemporary delivers everything that we have come to expect from a leading art gallery. Packed with world-class exhibitions, the gallery offers a luxury of space for young visitors to explore, along with a well-thought out education programme to encourage visits from schools and community organisations. All this for free, and without compromising the integrity of any of the artist work displayed. Then there’s the views, and for the views there’s the the ‘skying’ mats, giggling along with family visitors and encouraging them to enjoy the space in their own way.

This story of art-for-all has now continued into the Old Town. As well as a host of bijou galleries and creative cafes, it is home to the unique public art space Artist’s Alley; a pop-up gallery for practising artists and art students, dominating the cobbled streets between the Mayor’s Parlour and the museum, alongside the celebrated Margate Bazaar (Mar-Sept, Sunday, 11am-4pm).

A week ago the Duchess of Cambridge visited Margate. As well as visiting the Turner Contemporary, she explored a range of other arts projects and exhibitions around the town, cementing Margate’s growing reputation as a centre for art and artists, and recognition that the town is well and truly on the up. But if you’re thinking that Royal visitors and swanky new galleries has upgraded Margate to Monaco overnight, then rest assured; this Margate is not just for the second-homers or property developers. This Margate is still firmly rooted in its stoic community, a community that has stood by it through thick and thin.

This is not a community that has had art imposed on it, a community that’s the victim of the middle classes trying to gentrify it beyond recognition. It’s a strong savvy community, alive with personal stories and visionaries who have seized the opportunities that lie in Margate’s past and are committed to bringing them into the future for a new generation of visitors to enjoy.

So when it comes to Margate’s reversal of fortune, don’t be led by my fairground trick of standing on the sidelines. Join me and other families and get well and truly involved.

Dreamland Margate is due to open in late Spring 2015. See website for the latest on the redevelopment, or visit the Dreamland Expo (weekends from 10am until 4pm. Free entry, no booking required).