Interview With Nick Laister
Why a book about Joyland?

Why indeed! I had better start by telling you a bit about myself, and then you may start to understand! I write for a variety of national and regional newspapers and journals, usually on the subject of tourism and leisure. My specialist area, if you could call it that, is amusement parks. So that is always my starting point. So, why Joyland? Well, Joyland is one of the oldest amusement complexes in the UK, starting life in the 1930s, and it is still going today as the Forum. In its heyday, it was the largest privately-owned amusement arcade and funfair in the UK.

So, its size and history make it special?

In terms of amusements in Bridlington, it is very important. It wasn't the first amusement arcade in the town centre. That was Bay View (now John Ling). But it was certainly the second. It quickly grew to become Bridlington's most-visited tourist attraction. And what makes it really special to me is that as a child I was one of its visitors! After writing so much about the amusement world, I thought it was about time I wrote about my own memories as well!

When did Joyland open?

It started life in about 1932 as "Luna Park". The name "Joyland" didn't appear until 1936.

So it almost has 70 years of history?

Yes, and my book will go back before that time and tell the story of what was there before Joyland. And there are some interesting stories to tell.

Has anything been written on the subject of amusements in Bridlington before?

No. This will be the first book on the subject, and I think it would be a missed opportunity not to tell the full story of amusements in Bridlington. So that is what the book will include. It will be centred on Joyland, but it will tell you all about the growth of amusements in the town as a whole. The full background, in other words. In fact, I have been helped by many of the town's amusement caterers, past and present.


Yes. The Brown family, who owned Joyland from the 1930s, have been a great help with the book. The present owners, the Nobles, have also helped. Of course, Nobles own a number of arcades in Bridlington and elsewhere in the north east of England.

Which other Bridlington amusement arcade operators have you spoken to?

I have interviewed Audrey Black, who is the daughter of Raymond Gibson. He owned Bay View, the town centre's first amusements. I have also talked to Geoff Gibson, the owner of South Cliff Amusements. Interestingly, he is the grandson of the Firth family, who owned Joyland in the early 1930s, so he was able to pass on some very interesting information about the early days, and about amusements in Bridlington in general.

Do you think that residents of Bridlington have a sense of pride about their amusement heritage?

Definitely. A number of museums have sprung up in the last few years celebrating that heritage. An excellent museum about Bridlington's tourist past, called "Beside the Seaside", is located right in the town centre. This was a significant investment for the town, and includes a section on amusement arcades. There is another new museum, called "Old Penny Memories", which is packed full of old amusement machines, some of which are from Joyland itself. The owner of this museum, Chris Parcell, has also helped with the book. There was until recently another museum of vintage amusement machines in the town. Unfortunately, it has recently closed down, but its owner, Ian Dixon, gave me a tour of the museum, and again, provided me with a wealth of information on Bridlington's amusement heritage. So, yes, this will be the first book of its kind about this important aspect of Bridlington's history, and I do hope it will reflect the very real sense of pride that the people of Bridlington have about their amusement heritage.

Have you spoken to people who worked in Joyland?

Yes. I have been helped by people from every era, from the 1930s right up to the present day. They have some interesting stories to tell, believe me! From its 70 year history, I have uncovered numerous funny, sad, dramatic, even tragic stories, and they will all be in the book.

What would you say were the biggest changes in Joyland's history?

There were two really big changes since it first opened. In 1980, Browns bought the old Lounge Cinema and expanded Joyland into the yards behind the cinema and into the cinema itself. This created a indoor and outdoor amusement park, with a wide variety of fairground rides. Incidentally, I will be including a full history of the Lounge Cinema in the book as it is now an integral part of Joyland. So there is something of interest for cinema enthusiasts as well.

What was the other big change?

The other change must be the development of the three-screen cinema. Although this didn't happen overnight, it was really the icing on the cake for the Nobles and marked the end of many years of investment which have left the place unrecognisable from its days as the draughty, concrete-floored Joyland of old.

Who is the book aimed at?

Two main groups, I think. It is aimed firstly at local people who have an interest in Bridlington's history. It is also aimed at those who are interested in amusement arcades and fairgrounds. And, believe me, that is quite a large group. There are a number of clubs and societies across the UK and, indeed, some members of those societies have helped with this book. I have even had enquiries from the USA and Canada. In addition to that, I think it should also be of interest to those who have holidayed in Bridlington and have fond memories of Joyland.

How would you sum up Joyland?

I think it had a real atmosphere, almost a sense of magic, something that you rarely find in amusement arcades and amusement parks these days. I hope to be able to recreate some of that atmosphere in the book. So many people have come forward with their memories. I have had an absolutely massive response to requests for information in various newspapers and magazines, and on the internet. I think it is clear that Joyland played a major part in a lot of people's lives. It is not just its historical importance that will draw readers to the book; sheer nostalgia will be the main draw, I think.

Will it include photographs?

Oh, yes. It will include photographs of the site before it became Joyland when part of it was a stables. It will have photographs of Joyland itself, inside and outside, and photos of several of the attractions. I have to say, however, that finding photographs has been the hardest part of my research, and I am still on the lookout for more. Very few photographs were ever taken of Joyland. Therefore, perhaps I could use this interview as a way of making a final plea. If anybody has any photographs of Joyland, or knows where I might find any, please contact me.

Finally, what next?

After completing the history of Joyland, I will then move onto a major project which will be the first ever history of British amusement parks. Research has already started on this project, and I have had a phenomenal response from the public, local historians and park operators, but the book is unlikely to be available until 2007.

Good luck with your research, and thanks for talking to us.

STOP PRESS: Pennies by the Sea author, Nick Laister, will be giving a talk on the history of Bridlington's amusement arcades at 7pm on Wednesday 24 May 2006 at Bridlington Reference Library, King Street, Bridlington. Free admission and refreshments.

If you can help Nick Laister in his search for photographs of Joyland, please email us and we will pass your information on to him.


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