Floating islands hauled by unicorns and a 20-storey boat fuelled by laughter are among the more imaginative ideas for an East Anglian theme park, dreamt up by schoolchildren in Norfolk and Suffolk.

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Seven schools have been set an Inspired Youth challenge to come up with inventive ideas for a theme park in a project aimed at releasing their creativity and entrepreneurship, and opening their eyes to the importance and possibilities of the tourism industry in East Anglia.

The challenge was most recently taken up last Tuesday, March 13, by students at North Walsham High School.

Teams of children within each school have been competing against each other, supported by local tourism businesses, and the seven winning groups will be set a new challenge when they meet in July’s final at City College Norwich.

Organiser Robert Whitwood, managing director of North Walsham-based business consultancy firm Inspired Change, said they expected to have worked with about 1,100 students, mostly aged 12-13, by the end of the academic year.

He hoped the experience would open some of the children’s eyes to the job opportunities within the tourism industry and help them, at a critical stage, to make future exam and career choices.

Among those backing North Walsham’s day was local visitor attraction Wroxham Barns, which sponsored the event.

Ian Russell, Wroxham Barns director, said tourism provided employment for around 49,000 people in Norfolk and contributed £2.6bn to the local economy.

He said: “The industry offers a fantastic range of job opportunities. At Wroxham Barns we are very keen to encourage young talent to stay in the county and develop careers in tourism.”

A group dubbed the Totally Terrific Tourism Team clinched first place at North Walsham High, particularly impressing judges with their made-up song selling East Anglia’s charms, according to Mr Whitwood.

Since November, challenge days have also been held at Taverham High School, City Academy Norwich and Wayland Community High School, in Watton.

Further events are planned at Cromer Academy on March 23, Sir John Leman High School, Beccles, in May, and St Benedict’s Catholic School, Bury St Edmunds, in June.

Mr Whitwood said it was especially interesting to see how local factors influenced children when they planned their theme parks.

City Academy students had included shopping experiences in their plans, while pupils from rural Watton and North Walsham had imagined attractions such as poultry farms and a giant flying tractor.

He added: “I wonder if crabs and lobsters will feature when we go to Cromer.”

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