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Never Never land

 

The area of land opposite Royal Terrace overlooking Peter Pans Adventure Island was originally known as “The Shrubbery” for most of the year it was a tranquil green park with a stream feeding waterfalls and seats for people to sit and relax but each summer season things would change and the rest andrelaxation would be replaced by shrieks of fun and laughter for a little bit of magic would turn the park in to a whole new attraction one that was called Never Never Land.

The magical world would open for just a short part of the summer season, owned and operated by Southend Council the park was transformed in just a few short weeks to include model cartoon characters, goblins, smoke breathing dragons, fairies with magical castles, thousands of multicoloured lights and a model railways running throughout the park, one of the trains pulled three carriages a First Class, a Second Class and No Class!

Originally opening in 1935 the heydays of Never Never Land was during the mid-1950s when people would queue for hours to visit the park, but as the popularity of big brash white knuckle theme parks and the foreign holidays grew the numbers wanting a more sedate visit to Never Never Land dropped.

The magical park was finally closed at the end of the 1972 season, the models, the castles the lights and railway were all ripped out and scrapped, the area was then returned to an open park for the public to walk and sit away from the hustle and bustle of the High Street and the loud brash amusements of the seafront.

 

The site remained as an open public space for 15years until in 1987 and with visitor numbers to the town raising the council again looked at re-opening the site as a world of enchantment and so Never Never Land was re-born.

The new look Never Never Land cost £250,000 to install the new attraction saw a number of castles built and model figures of an enchanted forest including Carlton Cat, Bruce Bear, Cyril Squirrel & Moxy Mouse placed around the park.  The castles could hold 20 or so people at a time behind a glass panel sat a diorama of well know nursery rhymes, a holographic face beamed onto a white bust would tell the story of the scenes in front of spectators.

On the opening day queues formed for almost a mile along the sea front to see the re-launched park, to celebrate the re-opening of Never Never Land special flags were produced, you could also pick up a badge of Moxy Mouse.

The initial visitor numbers were high for the first three years but they began to tail off in 1990 prompting the council to lease the park out to a private operator whilst retaining ownership of the land.

Never Never Land never re-gained its popularity of the 1950’s and due to increasing costs and vandalism to the displays closed its doors for the final time on Tuesday 16th January 2001.  Unlike the previous closure the creatures of the enchanted forest survived culling and were donated to local primary schools, the castles however were demolished, the site was turned back into public open space.

Despite the site being cleared and returned to public open space some elements of Never Never Land still survive at the old park, the waterfall now just a trickle still babbles over the rocks and the Fairy castle still stands at the entrance to Never Never Land. However in 2011 Never Never Land once more became an attraction all be it not in the way it used to be.

 

Artist Keith Farquhar set up a temporary public sculpture exhibition in the old Never Never Land site the ‘More Nudes in Colour, Southend’ ran from 17th January to 2nd April 2011.  The installation was the first of its type held outside a traditional gallery. The work saw several plinths being erected on top of these were a number of cut out photos printed on to flat screens but printed in such a way that the image appeared 3D.  All five of the exhibits were parts of the models body.

At the end of the exhibition the bottoms were removed and the site reverted back to quite gardens.

                The "fariy castle" as it is today (photographed 2011)

 

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