#EventProf of the week: Eddie Kemsley, Dreamland

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Each week we will focus on a StandOut individual who has been extraordinary within the events industry. This week it is Eddie Kemsley, CEO of Dreamland Margate.

How did you get into the events industry? Where has your career taken you and what roles have you enjoyed?

Throughout my time at university in Bristol, I was involved in promoting club nights, working in bars and late-night venues which sparked my interest in events and hospitality. I then moved to London, working in commercial development launching venues such as Babushka, Bed and Nylon. Throughout my career, I’ve worked in all sorts of environments from city centres to suburban and rural settings and all sorts of events in clubs, venues, launches, start-ups, weddings, corporate, charities, you name it. It’s been a rollercoaster with some stand-out moments like being part of the LoveBox launch team and opening London’s iconic KOKO.

I then entered the world of visitor attractions. First for The Aspinall Foundation, a conservation charity with two wild animal parks in Kent, Howletts and Port Lympne. As head of comms and development, I worked on a master plan for the two large sites (100 and 600 acres) which included developing a new events strategy, accommodation and a new style of attraction model.

My passion for live music led me to introduce a festival-style events space on a large grassland area at Port Lympne, hosting many different styles of music festivals. We even managed to put on a 15,000, three-day festival with only one week’s notice.

I then moved to The Hop Farm near Tonbridge, Kent, a 350-acre entertainment venue with a licence for 50,000 cap events, as interim CEO. The venue has hosted some amazing artists over the years, but probably the most challenging was an annual military show which ran for five days welcoming over 100,000 visitors.

Dreamland in Margate followed soon after and as CEO, I orchestrated the re-opening of this much-loved UK visitor attraction. A public/private funded project with multiple complex stakeholders providing a vintage amusement park experience and seaside family entertainment. The site first opened in 1880 with some entertainment rides and then in 1920, “Dreamland” was launched with the opening of the scenic railway wooden roller coaster, which is still fully operating today.

From the beginning, I could see the potential for bringing festival-style music events to Dreamland for today’s audiences, having hosted some of the greatest bands over the decades – the Rolling Stones, The Who, Lulu, Tom Jones, and Status Quo, to name a few. It was brilliant to welcome Tom Jones in 2023 and Status Quo are playing this summer, both over 50 years since they first played at Dreamland.

I spent a couple of years running Kidzania in London, a children’s role-play learning experience, working with more than 50 big brands such as BA, Global and Renault, but ultimately my passion for working in large events drew me back to Margate and I returned to Dreamland in 2019.

What is it about your job that you love doing?

Developing an exciting commercial business, exploring new revenue streams, and managing a great team whilst preparing for the inevitable, unexpected! Every day is completely different and often curve balls come out of nowhere! I can be discussing a festival set up one minute and then dropping everything to ensure that a not-to-be-missed filming deal gets over the line, followed by a call to home a new Banksy piece which has appeared overnight on the side of a house round the corner. I love the freedom to be creative and build brands and events.

Dreamland is unique and I feel really lucky because I love my job. The informality and flexibility, that are the nature of Dreamland, means I get to do and be involved in some amazing things.

What key pieces of advice would you give to someone starting in events?

The events industry is not for everyone. You’ve got to have thick skin and not get overwhelmed. You’ll need to love hard work and learn to live on very little sleep. Eat well and often and make sure to take time for yourself too. Always, always, wear layers and invest in good footwear! And be nice. It’s a small industry and you’ll bump into people time and time again along the way.

Finally, don’t get stuck in a rut, be brave. Try everything.

If you would like to nominate someone for #EventProf of the week, please email marketing@standoutmagazine.co.uk.