Dreamland is set in Margate on the south-east coast of England, but this book is not about the town’s amusement park that lent the project its name. It’s about a state of mind: the desire to transform, re-imagine how the world sees you.
Margate was largely forgotten by holiday-makers. Hotels, guest houses and boarding schools had become blocks of bedsits in varying states of disrepair, each doorway marked by a tangle of doorbells. The town was labeled a social dumping ground. Its seafront was a patchwork of closed businesses and the guts of the high street had been transplanted to an out-of-town shopping centre. Dreamland itself had been eviscerated. It was a ruin of an amusement park at the heart of the town, a gaping hole occasionally used as a car park. A bleak, inescapable reminder of what the town had once been.
In the summer of 2013, when these images were made, Margate was at a turning point. The Turner Contemporary art gallery had been open for just over two years. A burgeoning creative community profited from Margate’s cheap property and the space and light JMW Turner had discovered over two hundred years earlier. There were great plans for reviving Dreamland itself. Work would soon be underway to transform the abandoned landmark into a playground for nostalgia by filling it with vintage rides and resurrecting the wooden scenic railway that had been Dreamland’s signature in its heyday.
Dreamland is a portrait of tension. It shows Margate poised in a vulnerable, liminal state; drenched with hope and determination but tempered by the burden of memories of its glory days. The images presented here have been partnered with extracts from marketing material produced over the decades, such as the beautifully crafted annual guides packed with florid prose promoting Margate as a premier resort.
Dreamland depicts the push and pull of nostalgia against the reality of modern Britain as captured in 2013. It marks a moment in Margate’s attempt to seize control of its own narrative and forge a sustainable future.
Published by Lone Cloud Media
First published in 2019
210 x 260 mm
42 colour photographs
Photographer & Author: Danielle Peck