December 7 2013 Latest news:
By MARK BOGGIS
Monday, September 30, 2013
It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in East Anglia, which recently marked 30 years of thrilling hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Next month, East Anglian entrepreneur Joe Larter will take to the stage to talk about Pleasurewood Hills at a special event in Lowestoft as he launches his autobiography.
More than three years or writing and research, some 80,000 words and more than 60 pictures later, the legacy of one man is being showcased.
Serendipity – A Journey with Joe Larter is being unveiled at a free evening of entertainment on October 15.
An evening with Woody Bear and his Dad! will take to the stage at Lowestoft’s Marina Theatre as the creator of Pleasurewood Hills recalls the birth of a theme park that has attracted visitors from across the globe.
Mr Larter’s life and times in business in Lowestoft, and across Norfolk, are being serialised in his autobiography which has had six drafts and is being printed this week.
And ahead of the launch of the new book, and the special show on October 15, Mr Larter, 74, admitted he is keen to hear from readers – with their early memories and pictures of Pleasurewood Hills American Theme Park being sought.
Mr Larter said: “We’re appealing for people’s memories and pictures of the early days at Pleasurewood Hills and would love to hear from any original employees.”
Mr Larter’s fascinating life story, from when he was born during the wartime at Martham in 1939 to becoming the youngest elected councillor in Norfolk and creating Pleasurewood Hills – features many trials and tribulations along the way.
It also features Joe’s involvement in numerous business interests, including creating Norfolk Sealife Centres, the Bure Valley Railway, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and The Village Experience – along with an involvement in attractions and businesses around the world.
And speaking about the book and its title, Serendipity – which means “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise” – he said: “I want people to understand that in life, whether you are an entre-preneur or a working family, there are ups, downs and lots of challenges, and it’s how you deal with them that really matters.”
In the book’s introduction Mr Larter states: “Serendipity – happy and unexpected discoveries by accident – and that, I think, has been the thread through my life.”
Mr Larter refers in the book to two “serendipitous” moments that changed his life.
He said: “One was picking up a UK couple from a broken down taxi in Antigua and the other was the arrival of the Dutch family, Bembom, in the early days of the theme park. From Antigua we were led to Switzerland, then the Bahamas and to 35 years in the USA. From Bembom, we got major rides, introductions to the industry and benefits way beyond expectation.”
Speaking about the inception of Pleasurewood Hills, Mr Larter said: “We opened in June 1983 and nobody came. I said wait for the summer holidays and with the schools breaking up it would be better – but still no-one came.
“We got to the first weekend in August, and 2,500 visitors turned up on the Saturday... by the end of the year, a quarter of a million people had been,” he recalls.
Encouraging fans of Pleasurewood Hills to attend the free launch evening on October 15, which will include the original Woody Bear girls and others with fond memories of the park, Marina chief executive Martin Halliday, said: “It is important to recognise that Joe Larter has left quite a legacy in the area. Joe has been a fantastic board member of the Marina Theatre Trust. I worked with Joe very early in my career and I felt we needed someone with his enthusiasm and drive on the trust’s board.
“It is an absolutely fantastic book which we wanted to launch at the theatre. I have read a couple of chapters (in draft) and looking at the birth of Pleasurewood Hills as a small attraction, to the growth of what it is today – that legacy is still there 30 years on.”
Mr Larter added: “The show is free but we are encouraging people to give the Marina Trust a minimum £5 donation.
“Please bring your Pleasurewood memories and stories for audience participation at the Marina show. There will be lots of history, a bit about the area and my family.”
For more fascinating tales from Mr Larter’s book, order online at www.serendipity-joelarter.co.uk
To be part of the ticket only free show at the Marina on October 15, when the book will be launched, call the Marina box office on 01502 533200.
Send your Pleasurewood Hills memories (with prizes for the best picture, best memory/story about the park) to Maxine at Pleasurewood Hills, Leisure Way, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR32 5DZ – including your name, age, address and contact numbers – by Saturday, October 12.