Aaron Jones is co-director of Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, alongside his brother Jamie, as well as being a full-time footballer for King’s Lynn Town FC. Ahead of Fairground Frights starting on Wednesday, he explains how he tackles working for both – and how he plans to take the tourist attraction forward
For Aaron Jones, the working day is very much a game of two halves. In the morning, you will find him training for King’s Lynn Town Football Club and then, in the afternoon, you will find him at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach where he is co-director. It could be said that working for the family-owned theme park on South Beach Parade was always going to be a foregone conclusion for the 28-year-old.
The park plays hosts to approximately one-million visitors per season and has been under the ownership of the same family since 1954. Aaron says: ‘I was born into it. ‘My dad, Albert Jones, is the Managing Director and before him my granddad was and before him my great grandad was.’
Aaron was born down the road at James Paget Hospital. But football was his first love. ‘To be honest I was always football orientated. I’ve played football since I was five years old – I was in Ipswich Town Academy for 10 years then went to America to do a football scholarship.’ He has been a defender for King’s Lynn, which is in the National League, since 2018.
‘In 2019 I decided to join the family and be hands on with the Pleasure Beach,’ says Aaron. ‘It was a really strange time to come back as we were just about to go into the Covid pandemic.’
As well as being a professional soccer player over in the US, studying economics equipped Aaron with plenty the transferable skills to become a co-director, along with older brother Jamie, who has been at the Pleasure Beach since he was 16. We – myself and my brother – are now the fourth generation.’ Although he adds: ‘My dad is still very much involved. My mum runs the catering – it’s very much a family affair.
‘I’m head of Business Development and do a lot of things. In terms of growing the brand online, it’s massively my responsibility,’ he says. ‘The quality has always been there but it’s reflecting that to people who don’t know.’ Nowadays Pleasure Beach has its own YouTube channel.
But he makes the point: ‘It’s so important to keep the heritage side of the Pleasure Beach – the scenic railway opened in 1932 so it’s 90 years old.
‘It’s one of the oldest-running, wooden roller coasters in the world – with the original structure. There are only two in the country, and it is Grade II listed. It’s still our most popular ride it still packs a punch. I go on it a couple of times a season and forget how fast it is!’
Add in other retro rides, such as the Gallopers and the Snails, which have been around since the ‘60s, alongside all the family rides and thrill rides, and the aim is for people to want to come back year after year with their children – and their grandchildren.
In July, families from Great Yarmouth Charter Academy came for the day for free. Aaron explains: ‘One of my friends is involved with the Soul Foundation we provided 120 tickets for these families to get them all in for a free day at the Pleasure Beach. It’s something that we wanted to do – give back to the local community. And we want to do more.’
So how does Aaron juggle his day and flit from one side of the county to the other? He lives in Norwich, just over an hour’s drive from King’s Lynn. ‘I get there at 9am, train at 10, finish at 12.30/1 and be on site by 2pm,’ says Aaron.
‘My days off are Wednesdays and Sundays but during the summer season I’ll spent all day at the Pleasure Beach.’ Out of season, he enjoys having Sundays off. He admits: ‘It’s difficult trying to balance the two things.’
The season will finish on October 30, but before that, there’s Fairground Frights to look forward to. Aaron says: ‘In 2020 I pitched to my dad, brother and other management that we need to do more for Halloween – Fairground Frights is the result. We debuted in 2020 it was successful. We employed 20 scare actors that first season we won a European award.’ The initiative won the Best Scare Zone and Roaming Characters category at ScareCON 2021.
This year’s event runs for five nights, from October 26 to 30. Once again, several attractions will take on a spooky new look and live actors will roam the Pleasure Beach – it will culminate with an end-of-season firework display on Sunday.
‘Then the winter maintenance programme will start,’ says Aaron, ‘we strip down the rides and the inspectors come in and check.’ That all happens between November and March.
He hopes he’ll continue to be able to play football until his mid-30s, ‘then I’ll be full time at the Pleasure Beach. ‘Something me and my brother always talk about is legacy and leaving it in even better shape than we found it in.’
Having joined just before the pandemic, he says: ‘It’s been a testing few years.’ But he adds: ‘We’ve got lots of plans for development of our site in 2023 and the way we operate.
‘I’m looking at ways we can reduce our carbon footprint with solar and wind power. This is a recent project – with rising energy costs we need to look at some other options and see how we can power the park in more sustainable way.’
And he adds: ‘We’ve definitely got at least one new ride coming we’ve made a recent purchase I can’t disclose what it is just yet some of our staff don’t even know!’
Featured image of Aaron Jones (pictured right) with brother Jamie. All images supplied