When I saw Dreamland's Scenic Railway on fire yesterday I felt sick to my stomach. Yet another piece of Thanet's heritage up in flames. Watching the smoke hang over the town is a sight I will never forget. Fortunately there was no loss of life, but even so it all seemed as vivid as 9/11.
The fire is being treated as suspicious and rightly so. It constitutes nothing less than an act of terrorism against the people of Margate, a town already on its knees. The Scenic was synonymous with Dreamland, and Dreamland was synonymous with Margate. The town used to be a place where people came for a fun day out. Now it's nothing more than a sick joke. It's fast becoming the arson capital of the UK, and much of what hasn't been burnt to the ground is boarded up.
Unlike a terrorist act, however, I doubt that any substantial resources will be applied in bringing the perpetrators of this crime to justice. As in the past, we're unlikely ever to know who the culprit was, as there is a strong suspicion that the local police and the council are, to put it very mildly, less than motivated.
Personally I would like to see this crime investigated by a senior police officer from outside Thanet, preferably from outside Kent. I would also like to see a full, independent audit of the council's conduct over the development of the Dreamland site, as happened following the May 1998 fire at Pleasurama in Ramsgate. They will bleat that it was 'out of their hands because Dreamland was privately owned.' Bollocks. It's a prime, seafront site in Thanet's largest town, and through woeful dithering, collusion and incompetence they have let it rot, then burn down.
Meanwhile, the Save Dreamland Campaign say that only 25% of the Scenic's track has been destroyed and that, seeing as it was a Grade II listed structure, it should and will be restored. It may seem harsh, but my response to that is 'dream on'. Who's going to pay for it? And how many other listed buildings in Thanet have been destroyed and restored? Brighton's West Pier was a Grade I listed building, and that's been a rusting hulk since the 90s. Sorry and all that, but it just ain't gonna happen.
So on a much more practical and realistic level, may I suggest that we commemorate this dark day in our history with an annual 7/4 bonfire on Margate's beach? We could even put an effigy on the top. Any suggestions as to who?