Dreamland in the Bembom years of admission fees and the Looping Star

An illustrated Bembom Brothers map via Dreamland

Actor David Jason takes a walk down memory lane this weekend in a new series looking at his life.

During that programme, on Gold over the Bank Holiday weekend, the actor will reminisce about the filming of the Only Fools and Horses Jolly Boys Outing episode in 1989.

In those years Dreamland, which features in the classic episode, was trading under the name of Bembom Brothers Theme Park.

The Dutch amusement park operators took over the site in 1981, just a year after the delivery of the 180-ft high Big Wheel.

Bembom Brothers  then set about introducing more, high excitement rides including the white knuckle looping coaster the Looping Star; a Pirate Ship; the Ladybird children’s coaster and Cinema 2000, which was an early 3D cinema set up.

 

Bembom’s new approach meant all the park’s bars were closed to create a more family-friendly environment. This new move attracted more Muslim visitors, with the brothers setting aside a grassed prayer area facing Mecca to accommodate them.

But there was another, less welcome, introduction – the admission charge! Once you were in all the rides were free, though the charge meant that many youngsters who went for one or two rides were priced out of a visit (unless, like most of us, you snuck through the fencing or shared one paid-for hand stamp friends).

The park started and ended the decade as the star of television, with 1989 seeing it providing a backdrop for part of the Only Fools and Horses Christmas special The Jolly Boys Outing. In 1981 it had been the setting for BBC children’s drama A Break in the Sun, with the tense finale filmed on the Astroglide.

The Romford-based band Five Star shot the majority of the video for their 1984 single “Crazy” at Dreamland.

Dreamland got its full name back in 1990, when the Bembom Brothers decided that a minor revamp would be best promoted by the name that most still recognised and used to describe the park.

More greenery was added to the landscape around the rides and the cinema was renovated.

Free admission to the site also returned in 1995, though it was not long before the Bemboms were moving on, as Dreamland was sold on to Jimmy Godden, owner of the Rotunda amusement park in Folkestone.

David Jason – My Life on Screen will be on Gold this Saturday, Sunday and Monday (August 26-28) at 6pm.

History with thanks to Dreamland

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