How Vekoma helped kick-start the British theme park

Corkscrew arrived at Alton Towers in 1980

Today they are often criticised for rough ride quality and lacking innovation, but decades ago Vekoma helped put obscure theme parks on the map by bringing stunning rollercoasters to the UK.

In 1980, the Alton Towers as we know it today was born with the introduction of Corkscrew, Europe’s first double-inverting coaster.

Indeed, when it was demolished for something far more technologically advanced in 2008, the park decided to display its trademark inversions as a monument of its importance to the modern Alton Towers’ early years.

And in the north, crowds flocked to Flamingo Land when another Corkscrew was brought in, beginning the zoo’s transformation into a joint theme park.

Lifeblood to the small-time

The two Boomerang models at Pleasure Island and Pleasurewood Hills – both on the east coast – are those two park’s signature attractions and without them they’d undoubtedly struggle to survive.

Vekoma did and still do enable parks with less financial clout to install the biggest crowd pullers – large inverting rollercoasters.

Even in a market and adjacent to caravans, Jubilee Odyssey is a sight to behold

While as enthusiasts we can all be guilty of slating the Vekoma Suspended Looping Coaster as a headbanger, they capture the imagination of the public and are the lifeblood of the parks at which they are installed.

At nearly 170 feet, the sight of Jubilee Odyssey at Fantasy Island stirs excitement from when it first becomes visible several miles away on your approach to the park.

While a Bolliger & Mabillard coaster might offer a smoother experience, only Thorpe Park and Alton Towers have the money to buy and maintain them. The same can be said for the equally popular Intamin launching coasters such as Rita and Stealth.

They may no longer be favoured partners in groundbreaking projects, but Vekoma’s products helped to kick start the UK theme park into the big time, and today they provide affordable thrills to the independent park.