Monday, 8 December 2008

Theme Parks

Last week, the most extraordinary story broke in the media. Apparently, punters who had paid more than £25 each to visit Lapland were demanding their money back. This was not the town in remotest Finland, however, but a Lapland theme park in the New Forest.

Punters had arrived at the park to find it resembling a muddy building site, alongside some painted hustings and a Christmas bazaar that resembled a car boot sale. It didn’t stay open for long. What has astonished me, however, is that there are two other, more successful ‘Laplands’ in Great Britain, in Kent and in the West Midlands.

I do not knock ersatz experiences, generally. Most developed parts of the world are done up to look like someplace else. Pastiche is here to stay, and that is my point exactly. Christmas is defined by pastiche. At this time of year every department store and shopping mall has its tinsel-strewn, fairy grotto, complete with Santa Claus and elves.

Electronic carols jingle everywhere and there is no shortage of goods for sale. Instead of going to another theme park, why not just gather together any hard-saved cash and take the kids for a jolly fine, seasonal shopping spree? The only appeal, I suppose, is the remoteness of the Lapland venues, the fact of undergoing a journey to a place that is off the everyday beat?

But when I think of what the real Lapland must look like (sadly, never been there) – herds of reindeer in silhouette against a barely-risen sun, loads of real snow and everyone speaking authentic Finnish – I can’t help feeling that the Lapland theme park punters are missing the point.

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