Don’t let this family attraction’s advancing years fool you, Blackgang Chine is continuing to spark imaginations with its innovative and interactive experiences.
It’s a little-known fact that the leisure industry grew out of the industrial revolution. With factory owners making money (and working classes gradually accruing more rights including time off), the need arose for people to enjoy their downtime – and remnants of these early days of leisure are still with us.
Blackgang Chine on the Isle of Wight is the oldest theme park in the UK. Having first opened its doors in 1843 – the same year that the first Christmas card was designed – the park is named after the Chine, a spectacular gorge in the cliff face beneath the village of Blackgang, stunning views of which attracted wealthy Victorians, including Queen Victoria, who used the island as a bolthole.
“We’re the favourite place of Ron Weasley, we have to make sure that we’re keeping that position for the next generation.”
Blackgang Chine is now a magical wonderland filled with an eclectic mix of attractions, theme worlds and exciting rides – something for all the family and the generations of families who continue to visit year after year.
Alexander Dabell – current owner and a fifth-generation descendant of the park’s founder, with whom he shares his name – says the park is: “‘The land of imagination,” and imagination is as relevant today as it was in 1843.
“For 175 years Blackgang has created an environment in which visitors of all ages can create family memories and exploration within our lands of imagination, from pirate ships and Cowboy Town to walking with dinosaurs,” he says.
Rob Holgate, the park’s managing director, explains the careful balance the park sustains between the old and new: “In-home digital entertainment and gaming are how many young people experience the world today, “ he says. “However, this also offers an opportunity for attractions to provide distinctive, authentic and unique family experiences that can’t be replicated elsewhere – certainly not on a smartphone.”
Mr Holgate is, therefore, keen to make sure that the attraction updates and stays on-trend each year, without losing what makes it special: visitors can still see the park’s very first “attraction” – the skeleton of a whale that had been washed up onto the beach and is still on display.
“Across the attractions sector, there are signs that customers want more innovative, immersive and interactive experiences which provide value for money,” he says. “We’re always looking to innovate. I think it’s great that we’re the favourite place of Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series: we have to make sure that we’re keeping that position for the next generation too.”
For more information, visit blackgangchine.com