A long time ago, Andy Plant and I went to 'Blackpool
Pleasure Beach' (the entertaining name of their s theme
park). We came out fantasising about building our own rides. One we
particularly enjoyed was called 'The Haunted Swing'. (The pleasure beach
still runs, but the haunted swing has gone.)
Many years later Andy suggested we could possibly make one based on a
caravan. At first I thought it wouldn't be big enough but I quickly became
enthusiastic about his idea.
We spent a week on it in 2010. This is the interior
of the caravan that we persuaded Ali Wood to give us. It was made in 1969.
At first we felt like vandals, ripping out the interior. It was amazingly
well built. We had to break everything into matchwood to get it out.
We strengthened the remaining 'box', put a shaft
through the middle and added counterweights to balance it. We were
amazed how easily it spun - we had assumed it would need gearing and pedal
We then made the bench seat and welded it in place. I
wondered about doing a sum to find how much the box section would
deflect when fully loaded, but we decided it would probably be OK,
particularly as the bearings are self aligning so a little deflection
With the bench seat in place we could try it out for the first time.
It was so exciting seeing people's reactions.
We had already bought a bigger scrap caravan chassis. Once we
had got our caravan spinning we jacked up the frame and slid in the
chassis. It all went amazingly smoothly.
Andy wasn't sure what to do with the interior but my
instinct was to remake it as a caravan. I spent a happy fortnight buying
fittings from £1 shops, fabric from remnant shops, rebuilding the
cupboards and screwing down all the accessories so they would stay in
place when upsidedown.
We had talked a lot about what to call it but nothing had seemed
completely right. I had the idea of 'The Astronauts' Caravan'
while doing the interior. I'm pretty obsessed by the moon landings and
Neil Armstrong is a hero of mine. I had recently been looking at the wonderful
old Life magazines of the first lunar landing so the caravan now has
lots of photos of astronauts etc.
After its success at its first outing, we decided to
embark on the bureaucracy of getting it certified as a fairground ride.
This included loading the caravan seat with bricks to measure the
deflection under a full load.
It was an expensive process (£2,000) but
the inspector was really experienced and helpful so I ended up feeling
really proud that we had managed to get it certified. I feel much more
proud of the actual certificate than any graphics or film awards
I've got in the past.