Summerland anniversary should be ‘defining moment’ for Island

Events planed to mark 50 years since leisure complex tragedy

The fiftieth anniversary of the Summerland disaster should be a ‘defining moment’ for the Isle of Man.

That’s the view of the deputy chief minister who has described the tragedy – in which fifty people died – as a ‘profoundly sad chapter’ in Manx history.

Jane Poole-Wilson says commemorations this year will focus on ‘people rather than place’.

She told Tynwald this week she understands, and shares, frustrations that the site at the end of Douglas Promenade hasn’t been transformed ‘appropriately’.

The entertainment and leisure complex, which opened in 1971, was destroyed by fire on 2 August 1973.

Government has outlined how it is planning to mark the anniversary.

  • A national service of remembrance will take place on 30 July at St George’s Church in Douglas
  • A presentation, on the eve of the anniversary, to formally recognise the emergency services and hospital staff for their response
  • Culture Vannin will produce a new oral history project presenting memories from those who experienced the fire and its aftermath
  • Manx National Heritage will also launch an online exhibition called ‘Remembering Summerland’

On 2 August Douglas City Council will host a service of remembrance at the Kaye Memorial Garden.

Chief Minister Alfred Cannan said: “The Summerland tragedy is one of the darkest days in the Island’s history. 

“Almost half a century may have passed since this harrowing event, but the tragedy continues to cast a long shadow and resonate in the lives of many – whether they be survivors, relatives or descendants of those who died or suffered, residents or visitors.

“Those who carried out vital duties on the night or witnessed the fire also carry painful memories – which in turn have affected their lives and families.  

“The fiftieth anniversary is an important moment for reflection on an event we must not and will not forget.”

Minister Poole-Wilson said it was important to educate future generations: 

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