Legoland is Vegas4Kids and the concentration camp of our times

If Dante Alighieri had been born towards the end of the last century he would have added another circle of hell to his Inferno if he had ever descended into a British theme park.

I had the displeasure of doing so this week when my wife and I took our nine-year-old to Legoland. I can report there were no Beatrices in sight for Dante to write home about, only the corpulent flesh of overweight automatons, Boudiccan tattoos and the ghost of temporarily sober John Barleycorns.

Legoland is Vegas4Kids, it has the same psychogeographic dystopia that drives people insane while directing them, not to fruit machines or blackjack tables, but to places where thou will buy plastic bricks.

I went on ten rides that worked out about £4.40 per ride, and the hotdogs, jelly babies and other swill nearly sent me over the edge into Berkshire madness. In the distance was Windsor Castle and I could have sworn it was made from LEGO… maybe it is.

In future years these places will be seen as the concentration camps of our times. Treat people like LEGO and they will act like it. Queue for up to an hour to go on a ride that is benign and beset by the voices of bored attendants who were spawned when Health and Safety had a dodgy shag some years ago… then go a few yards before doing it all again.

And the rides were crap, no adrenalin apart from the false buzz concocted by sugary food. Everything was shabby and weathered. The mini-city of London looked as if it had been designed by Twiggy or Dick Van Dyke, the ‘Vue Cinema’ was there, as was Carnaby Street, but no Shard.

I would have thought the Shard would have been a perfect project for Legoland, its building could have been replicated by the gradual adding of LEGO bricks, but that idea was probably too creative for its designers.

And one expects better from LEGO. It is the anti-Nokia story, the plastic phoenix that rose from the ashes of a dying business. LEGO products are expensive and not reassuringly so. When I lived in India it cost more than opium or gold, but its constant reinvention and relationships with huge brands keeps the bricks building.

Who would have thought that LEGO Star Wars would have become such a success? Not only the bricks, but also the mobile and video games. Soon the likes of Angry Birds and Moshi Monsters will take over at Legoland and the incubus will continue.

As I came to the end of my six-hour stint with a delighted son and the permanent rictus of parenting showing signs of wear, I wondered where LEGOLAND should fit within Dante’s Inferno. Should it be between the Seventh and Eighth circles of Violence and Fraud or where souls are trapped in burning tombs.

Finally I decided it should be between the Third and Fourth Circle of Gluttony and Greed and then I walked out of the LEGO Divine Comedy and across the Styx where all memories of such experiences are forever expunged… until the next (inevitable) time.

Monty (632 Posts)

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.