Halloween in Margate

Halloween is coming and Margate's got your day out sorted! My suggestion is that you get into the spirit (ha!) with two of the town's biggest attractions; Dreamland and Turner Contemporary.

Last week, I went to the preview of Screamland - the seriously scary event that has taken over the lovely pastel-coloured retro happiness we all know and love about Dreamland. Forget what you know of the world's first heritage theme park; darkness has rolled in and a lot of strange and frightening characters have arrived with it.

Visiting at night, there was a totally different feel to the place. Red and green lights flood the park, and gone are the cheerful team of welcomers. Instead, you'll need to be prepared to encounter ruthless zombies and to keep looking over your shoulder for those pesky clowns. This doesn't feel like Margate, it's like being in your own adventure film and you've got to overcome all the horrors to make it out alive. An extremely creepy soundtrack plays throughout; transporting you to abandoned funfairs and sinister circuses.

Walking into 'Festino's Forgotten Funhouse', a maze within a big top tent, I felt like I was on American Horror Story and that Twisty was going to appear at any second. There's a lot of variety as you navigate your way around; each section takes on a different fear. Walking in to a room full of clown masks, just knowing one was going to be real, was horrifying! I've never done anything like this before so was a little nervous going in, and although it's scary, it's so much fun that it makes you more determined to conquer the tent!

Screamland echoes Dreamland's past and the fantastic 'Monstrous Menagerie' felt like a little escape from being pursued by the walking dead outside. It comes to something when entering a tent filled with massive pythons, scorpions and tarantulas feels safer than being anywhere else! It was great fun and the people were really friendly and knowledgable.

The launch of Screamland coincided with the long-awaited return of the magical Scenic Railway. It was so exciting to finally be able to go on it again, particularly at night when the park looked so spectacular. It's such a good ride and goes to show that you can have great fun with the old as well as the new! 

'The Final Cut' (set in an old cinema) and 'Dead and Breakfast' (think a dirty weekend to Margate in the 1940's) are the scariest parts of Screamland. The set design in these mazes is absolutely incredible. The realistic feel to the environments you enter, with their authentic smells and believable characters, really did impress me. After all, I find that the more convincing things are, the scarier they are. It has been so well thought out and the actors were fantastic. I don't want to tell you too much about it because it would spoil the experience, but I was so taken with these sections, so don't miss them out. I was surprised by how genuinely brilliant a time I had at Screamland. I've never felt entertained by being scared before, it was a completely new experience for me. My survival tip for Screamland is to make whoever you're with go first!


Over to Risk, the new exhibition at Turner Contemporary. One for the curious, the show has a huge range of artists, including works by Ai WeiWei, Marcel Duchamp, Yves Klein and one of my all-time favourite painters, Gerhard Richter. There are pieces that will surprise, provoke, test and shock...things that I think fit the Halloween theme rather well! It's not at all scary in the way Screamland is, however, I found myself feeling constantly uneasy and the sense of physicality in some of works is extremely powerful.

Several things are interactive at Turner Contemporary for this show. When you first arrive, you can have a go in one of Thomas Heatherwick's 'Spun' chairs. It's a comfortable seat but I found going all the way backwards to be somewhat terrifying! I am a bit of a wimp though; most people will actually think it's fun. Next to these is 'Disarm' by Pedro Reyes. An arrangement of unique musical instruments made from weapons that were seized by the Mexican government during a gun amnesty, it plays short sounds intermittently. However, if you can make it along on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday at 12pm, then you'll really see it come to life as it plays an impressive, extended musical piece.

The interaction continues upstairs and Eduardo Basualdo's piece 'Island', like Screamland, allows visitors to enter an alternative environment that requires them to explore in very low light. There are no scary clowns here though! Watching Francis Alÿs running into the eye of a tornado is astounding; the film seems so far removed from normality, it's like it is some sort of magic trick. 'Ball on a Pedestal' by Jeppe Hein features a stainless steel ball moving around the edge of a base, as if it's about to fall. It never actually does, but sensing the possibility and uncertainty made this one of my favourite works in the show. 

Marina Abramović and Ulay's 'Rest Energy' is a video piece that features both artists with a stretched bow and arrow loaded and pointed at Abramovic's heart. The weight of their bodies maintained the tension. Describing the piece, Abramovic has said: 
"I was not in charge. We had two small microphones near our hearts, so we could hear our heartbeats. As our performance was progressing, heartbeats were becoming more and more intense, and though it lasted just four minutes and ten seconds, I'm telling you, for me it was forever. It was a performance about the complete and total trust."

Works that generated a direct physical response were the ones that I enjoyed most in Risk; like the instinct I had to stand back while walking past Jeppe Hein's work, in case I caused it to fall, even though it was intentionally positioned like that. I was engaged in Lucy Wood's piece 'Can't Play Won't Play' before I had even seen it. Hearing that there was a large trampoline that has glass in place of the canvas provoked an instant reaction for me; not only did I sense the danger of the piece, I really disliked trampoline lessons when I was at school. When recalling experiences of being on one, my memories were transformed, as I considered the glass being there. From a personal perspective, the work took on a different meaning; it was as though I felt some sort of relief.

I think Risk is a fresh and exciting show. It's great to see a large amount of performance work within the exhibition. Despite the theme of the content in the show, there's room for personal interpretations of the pieces and it's great to have seen it being explored in so many different ways. I feel that it will bring a new audience to Margate and gives us all a chance to see something really different in the gallery. You can find out more about the exhibition in this video.

So those are my recommendations for Halloween-inspired day in Margate!
Enjoy...if you dare... ;)

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