Coney Island inspired mermaid parade planned for Margate

Margate's festival is inspired by the Coney Island mermaid parade

A taste of Coney Island could be coming to Margate with plans for the town’s first mermaid parade.

The ‘Mergate’ event is the idea of native New Yorker and now Margate resident Daphna Rowe who hopes to bring people together and also raise funds for Rise Up Clean Up and the Margate Coastguard volunteer rescue team.
Daphna, 47, and husband Jason, moved to the isle from London in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit.

The pair had been in town the previous year for the funeral of Jason’s aunt and decided to get out of London and settle in the town where Jason’s family live.

Fragrance business owner Daphna says the idea for the Margate Mermaid Parade was prompted by her search for a Halloween costume.

She said: “I was thinking about Halloween, I’m American so it’s a big deal, and being by the seaside was googling costume ideas for that  and remembered the mermaid parade in Brooklyn.

“I grew up in New York City and went to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade and loved it. Once I found out that Dreamland here in Margate was inspired by the Dreamland of Coney Island, I thought we should have a twin parade.

Coney Island parade

“I put a post on facebook with a bunch of mermaid parade photos and the response was incredible with hundreds of likes and about 100 comments saying to do it.

“My husband and I started talking about it and it seemed a really good way of bringing the Margate communities together.  I have noticed a bit of a divide between DFLs and local which is a shame. My husband’s family live here and his cousins have been here their whole lives but his family also welcomes the DFL community and we thought this could be something to bring us all together.

Coney Island parade

“We also want to uplift the voices of those protecting our beaches. The nominated groups who will receive the funding we raise will be Rise Up Clean Up and the Margate Coastguard volunteer rescue team.

“My husband’s cousin Mark Gambrill is a coastguard volunteer and when we fist came here we stayed with his family and he would be up and going out at nights (for the Coastguard). He’s incredible.”

Daphna in her sea siren outfit

The aim is to hold the parade on June 3 next year starting by Turner Contemporary and going to the Oval Lawns for a day of events. Daphna hopes it will be an annual event.

To get the project underway Daphna has launched a Crowdfunder with a £5000 target. The aim is to raise initial costs for the day and begin the collection for Rise Up and Margate Coastguard.

Businesses have made donations so there are Crowdfunder rewards.

Find the fundraiser at

Coney Island and Dreamland Margate

First Dreamland staff outing 1920s

Just before Christmas 1919, and almost exactly one year after the end of the Great War, John Henry Iles purchased Margate’s The Hall By The Sea, initiating the history of what would become Dreamland.

Iles, said to be inspired by an amusement park on Coney Island, had a vision for turning the dance and music hall, previously run by the colourful showman ‘Lord’ George Sanger, into a leading attraction. This vision would come to shape culture, employment, architecture, politics and entertainment in Margate for most of the next century.

Iles bought the site for £40,000 but spent £500,000 developing his vision, which is the equivalent of about £15million today. As a mark of intent he built the now iconic Scenic Railway amidst the pleasure gardens and amusements. The wooden roller coaster was a unique addition to the town and 500,000 visitors sampled its climbs, drops and bumps in the first 3 months of opening in 1920.

He named the attraction “Dreamland” to reflect the glamour of Coney Island, New York, the home of the world’s leading amusement parks and fairground rides, which between 1904 and 1911 included a park of the same name.

John Henry was born in Bristol in 1871 and died on May 29, 1951, after living his final years in Cliff Road, Birchington.


  1. I’ve been a participant of the Context Island Mermaid Parade since 1983! I would love to lend any assistance/advice, just ask! It’s a lot of fun, but there are also a lot of logistics to consider.

    Also, contact Dick Zigun (via Facebook or other social media) as he is the founder of the original parade here!

    Best of luck!

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