Of all the pleasures associated with the seaside, one that’s become much harder to find is the pinball machine. On Britain’s windswept piers and promenades there’s no shortage of fruit machines, video games or mechanical claws, but pinball, long the favourite arcade game of teenage toughs, is rarely seen. Not so at Dreamland Margate, where the situation is rectified gloriously with an array of vintage machines pinging, whirring, clanging and blinking. There’s a Rolling Stones game, an Elton John one, even The Bootles (sic) are represented. But it’s the Tarzan-inspired Jungle Lord that’s the favourite of aficionados, requiring just the right combination of skill and luck. The assembled collection also includes racing games, mini golf and shooting games, each one a glorious canvas for garish graphics and carny come-ons.
This array of mechanical fun is part of a visitor centre dedicated to Dreamland, the town’s moribund amusement park that’s due to reopen in its first stage next year. It will be some time before Dreamland is returned to anything approaching its mid 20th century peak, when it was among the country’s top attractions, but with Margate back in the ascent thanks to the arrival of Turner Contemporary and the council’s generous terms for small businesses, it doesn’t seem the impossibility it did in the attraction’s miserable final years in the early 2000s.