It’s always sad when a little bit of your past is lost forever.
That’s how I felt this week with the news that Camelot Theme Park is to close down.
I’m proud to have played a small part in its 30 year existence and owe it a great deal for providing me with a wonderful springboard for my career in entertainment.
That latter word ‘entertainment’ is what I believe the park was exceptional at. It was a ‘theme park’ in the true sense of the words, in that it had a real Arthurian theme running throughout; from rides to burgers and shows to shops.
As Mad Edgar I performed well over 2,000 juggling shows and above 1,000 jousts in all
Rweathers and I can honestly say I enjoyed every single one. It’s very rare that you get the opportunity to perform to over 2,000 people in a purpose built arena and even if only 10 per cent of the audience appreciated my humour that was still 200 people! (I like to think the percentage was much higher, I hasten to add!)
In addition, the small theatre in which I performed my Crazy Juggling Shows was often full and provided me with an area to ‘experiment’ for years.
I’ve dressed as an owl, encountered aliens, kissed blokes dressed as princesses (thanks Paul Howell and Martin Pemberton - you were both always a bit too keen for my liking) and even juggled over the heads of the audience while suspended from a wire.
I’ve juggled guitars, fire, umbrellas, bowling balls, axes and even horse manure!
Many of the tricks and gags I first used in that small theatre I have since gone on to perform in more illustrious venues and even in the Royal Variety Show.
In a broader sense, the whole park provided the first real work experience for generations of Chorley’s young people, in a whole range of areas, including catering, maintenance, janitorial, personnel, operating rides, and of course entertainment. Many left after only one season but others became addicted to the unique atmosphere and remained there until the end, rising through the ranks of whatever department they chose. Friends like Steven Harrison who began as a 15-year-old work experience stable hand went on to become Sir Lancelot, for example.
No matter how short or long you stayed at the park as an employee you got the sense of belonging to one big happy family and with a nightclub and hotel on site that feeling was often extended beyond opening hours. Many met and married their future wives and husbands there, and for those of us who lived on site in static caravans the place really was our home.
Inevitably, with such strong competition from the likes of Alton Towers and nearby Blackpool Pleasure Beach, the park was regarded by many as an “inferior” product. However, it was a unique family entertainment centre where the past came to life and children were both entertained and educated.
Where else could you go and have so much fun on rides, witness fabulous shows and have a history lesson at the same time?
Camelot has had its financial scares in the past but unless someone can “Pulleth the ‘cash’ from the proverbial Stone” and rescue it, its reign as one of the country’s great theme parks will be over. Camelot has had a roller coaster ride and the final plunge has become too steep to climb out of. However, just like the Arthurian Legend it will remain in our hearts and memories for years to come.