Camelot "zombie experience" could be the first of several events at the abandoned theme park - this is what former jester Steve Royle thinks about it
The company behind plans to resurrect the Camelot theme park as a “zombie experience” says that it hopes its pop-up horror events will put the much-loved attraction back on the map.
The landmark site in Charnock Richard has lain derelict and deserted for almost a decade since it was forced to shut down in the face of falling visitor numbers.
Over the course of nearly 30 years as one of the biggest tourist destinations in the North West, the venue often echoed to the sounds of screams from those terrified by some of its scarier rides. But when the site welcomes visitors next month for the first time since the end of 2012, there will be terror at every turn, with drive-in guests greeted by marauding zombies and treated to a selection of zombie-themed horror films.
Lancashire tourism bosses have welcomed plans for the month-long series of events – dubbed “Camelot Rises” – and say they hope it will help boost the county’s tourism recovery after the visitor economy was hit hard by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the man leading the living dead into Chorley says he wants to create an event worthy of the heritage of such a special site. Russell Feingold, events director for One Agency Media, also told the Lancashire Post that he hopes the site could stage other attractions in future.
“We want to bring so much business to the local community and we’re looking at [using] local suppliers to be able to deliver our food and drink offering. We think it’s really important to be able to give back to the community – and this is a huge opportunity to put the site back on the map.
“Everyone knows Camelot and I think it’ll be great to have an influx of people back into that area.
“Everything we are doing is to try and reinvigorate [the area] post-Covid. People are looking for new things to do – and this site is a great place to be able to deliver safe, engaging and fun events.
“Hopefully, the local community will reap the benefits, which is really important to us. We would like to be able to do other exciting things there, but right now it’s all about getting this one off the ground – and we’re looking forward to people supporting us with that,” Russell said.
Camelot Rises claims that it will offer a “fully immersive, interactive zombie experience” – with fear, films, food and drink all on offer across a series of dates from 5th February until 6th March.
The Post understands that the necessary licensing application has been submitted to Chorley Council and One Agency Media says that it is in “open dialogue” with the local authority and the police about its plans.
Russell Feingold says that the drive-in concept was born out of the safety precautions demanded by the pandemic – and it is one that the firm has successfully deployed in Manchester.
He also told the Post that the company has contacted former Camelot staff via online forums – and might even be able to offer some of them work at the new-look attraction.
One now-famous former employee who is unlikely to be tempted back is legendary Camelot court jester – and Britain’s Got Talent finalist and comedian – Steve Royle, who appeared at the park for 13 years from the early 1990s and even lived there for much of that time.
However, Steve says he is delighted that the venue is making a comeback – and is grateful for the chance that Russell has given him to get a guided tour in advance of the opening night.
“I’ve recovered from many a death as a stand-up comedian,” Steve laughed.
“But it’s great to see that it is actually being used for something in entertainment, given all the things that have been talked about [for the site] in the past, like housing estates.
“It was famous back in the day for giving people employment, especially young people – I was young at the time – and this is a good, fun idea.
“There was a nightclub on the site, the Park Nightclub, which everyone remembers, and I used to go out many a night and then early next morning I’d be stood on the gate, juggling, looking like a zombie – so I think it’s more than fitting.”
Rachel McQueen, chief executive of Marketing Lancashire, said of the plans: “The prospect of a new opportunity for the site is good news for Lancashire tourism and we’ll be watching developments closely.
“There’s no doubt that horror and fantasy attractions are popular and lucrative visitor experiences all over the world and there have been several, successful, seasonal events across Lancashire around Halloween. We also have the must-see Blackpool Tower Dungeon which thrills many thousands of visitors throughout the year.
“Innovative and above all well-organised and safe experiences for visitors to Lancashire are always welcome. Especially now, as we look to rebuilding visitor numbers post-Covid. I look forward to hearing more about the proposal and this interesting plan for the old Camelot site.”
Councillor Alistair Morwood, cabinet member for planning and development) at Chorley Council, said: “We’ve been in contact with the event organisers over the last month and they have applied to license the event which will go through the usual processes prior to approval.”
The Post understands that the site remains in the ownership of the developer Story Homes.