Lightwater Valley theme park is located near Ripon, North Yorkshire, UK. It is perhaps best known both locally and further afield for being home to The Ultimate - the longest roller coaster in Europe. The park boasts 40 rides and attractions including five roller coasters and two water rides. For the 2010 season the park launched ‘Raptor Attack’.
We caught up with Ashley Young who is the Marketing Manager at the park.
Firstly, can you explain a little bit about your role at Lightwater Valley?
My job title at Lightwater is ‘Marketing & Customer Relations Manager’ which basically involves overseeing all marketing, sales and PR activity, corporate / consumer events and front of house areas (admissions, guest services). Thankfully we have a team of 6 in the department so I don’t have to do it all by myself …
The job is very operational through the summer months when we’re open to the public (looking after events, dealing with customer issues) whereas the winter period is where all the marketing planning takes place.
Did you always want to work in the theme park industry or was it something that just happened?
Actually, I did always want to work in the theme park industry as it’s been a passion of mine from an early age. When I was growing up, the annual family trip to Alton Towers used to be the highlight of my year and I suppose my obsession with roller coasters has developed from there (to be fair, a trip to any theme park is still a highlight!).
I arrived here at Lightwater very much on the off chance – as with many job applications, I saw the position advertised, sent in a CV, came along for an interview and was offered the job. It was very much a case of being in the right place at the right time, but I certainly wouldn’t swap it.
For 2010 the park launched ‘Raptor Attack’ which incorporates some elements of ‘The Rat Ride’. Was it a difficult decision to relaunch one your signature rides?
I think re-launching The Rat Ride as Raptor Attack was always going to be a risk as people had such fond memories of the original attraction (it was almost an institution). What we wanted to do, however, was to restore the ride to its former glory and to bring back the level of theming that existed when the ride first launched in the early 1980s.
Initially a few enthusiast groups seemed sceptical when we announced the new theme for the ride, but we hope that people now see Lightwater Valley as a park that knows how to theme an attraction properly and that desperately wants to move forwards.
Reaction to the new ride seems to have been good. The special effects and theming within the ride are certainly something the park has been lacking. Do you think we will see a similar approach to future projects?
Given the overwhelmingly positive response to Raptor Attack, I think we’ve realised how important theming is and how much guests appreciate the effort and the little touches. This approach is definitely the way forward as we’re keen to move away from being the theme park without a theme …
Lightwater, more than most UK parks has taken to using Facebook to communicate with fans and visitors. How does this change the dynamic between visitors and the park? It seems as though people enjoy communicating with your team before or after a visit?
Social networking has been a new direction for us this year as we wanted to better interact with our customers, to encourage people to share their opinions with us and to ‘open up’ a little more. A corporate website is all well and good, but Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Blogger give people the opportunity to be more involved with the park on a day-to-day basis and we genuinely value their feedback. We’re a very friendly and approachable bunch of people and we hope this comes across through our social networking …
Last year saw the launch of ‘Frightwater Valley’ for halloween. The event is being repeated this year. What’s in store for 2010?
The inaugural Frightwater Valley was a resounding success for the park and, although we knew that Halloween hysteria was growing in the UK, we had no idea that the event would be such a huge success. As such, we’ve expanded to 2 days this year and we hope that Frightwater will become a week-long event in time. This time round, we’re adding extra theming around the park, as well as a new maze called ‘Dracula’s Labyrinth’ and the opportunity to ride the ‘Frightwater Express’ ghost train after dark.
Finally, it’s hard to believe that The Ultimate is turning 20 years old next season. How are you planning to celebrate this important anniversary of your signature ride?
The Ultimate is a legendary and iconic ride that remains as unique and relevant today as it did when first launched in July 1991. We’re discussing several options at the moment but again I can’t reveal any secrets at this stage!
Photographs courtesy of Ashley Young & Lightwater Valley