The Isle of Man this week honoured the victims, survivors and those who lost loved ones in the Summerland disaster.

Two memorial services to mark the 50th anniversary of the fire were held in Douglas at the same time on Wednesday.

Douglas Council held a service in the Kaye Memorial Gardens, while Tina Brennen organised a service at the former Summerland site.

Large crowds gathered at both to pay their respects to the 50 people who died and 80 who were badly injured in the blaze at the former leisure complex on Douglas promenade.

Summerland, before the devastating fire on August 2, 1973, was a five-storey amusement and leisure complex that included restaurants and bars, swimming pools, amusement arcades and a theatre.

When opened in May 1971 it was deemed as ‘the jewel of seaside resorts’, described by many as the biggest and best in holiday entertainment. But when a fire rapidly spread through the building, thousands of people were left stuck inside with no means of escape.

Nobody has been held officially responsible for the disaster, which continues to divide people to this day, with campaigners feeling a sense of injustice.

This divide is prominent every Summerland anniversary each year, with two separate memorial services being held merely metres apart at the same time.

Wednesday of this week was no different, with local councillors, government members and some of the survivors marking the occasion at the Kaye Memorial Garden, just under 200 metres from the Summerland site, while others decided they wanted to meet at the site, choosing to commemorate those who died at the exact location they lost their lives.

The memorial at the Kaye Gardens, which consists of three irregular grey standing stones inside a low wall, was unveiled ten years ago by Douglas Council.

Many survivors and campaigners continue to express their disappointment with the memorial, wanting it moved to the site of the disaster.

At the Kaye Gardens memorial service on Wednesday the Mayor, Councillor Natalie Byron-Teare, was joined by Lieutenant Governor Sir John Lorimer, Chief Minister Alfred Cannan, Chief Constable Russ Foster, Chief Fire Officer Mark Christian and a survivor of the fire, Ruth McQuillan-Wilson, in laying a wreath.

Following this, Mrs McQuillan-Wilson and other survivors and families of victims read out the names of the 50 people who perished at Summerland.

After technical trouble with the public address system, Mayor Natalie Byron-Teare went on to thank survivors for their bravery, followed by prayers by Father Andrew Coleman and a minute’s silence.

The service at the car park of the Summerland site also saw a minute’s silence, followed by Ellan Vannin Pipes and Drums.

Crowds gathered to listen to speeches from long-time campaigner and service organiser Tina Brennen and survivor Jackie Hallam, as well as place floral wreaths and bouquets on the tarmac of the car park.

Jackie was just 13 when she lost her mother and friend Jane in the blaze, and emotions were extremely high when she took to the microphone to discuss her experiences and honour those who lost their lives.

Tina Brennen spoke about her and other campaigners’ frustration at the state of the site, which has been unused since it was demolished in 2016.

The 3.81 acres of land has been for sale since 2008, categorised as a ‘prime development site’.

She said: ‘So many times over the years we’ve heard the words forgotten tragedy mentioned by the press, but has this tragedy been forgotten by us on the island? ‘No, it hasn’t!

‘We remember it, but successive governments up until the 40th anniversary made sure we had no means of commemorating it in any significant way. ‘Now they’re speaking up, it’s 50 years too late.’

Chief Minister Alfred Cannan recently apologised for the Summerland fire in a statement made to Tynwald, with him saying it was ‘the right moment for this government to offer an apology for the suffering caused by the wrongs of the past’.

He said he was ‘sorry for the pain and suffering felt by everyone affected’.

Tina Brennen questioned the apology at the service, describing his words as ‘cheap’, as well as adding her disapproval at him and other government members for attending the Kaye garden memorial rather than her one.

She said: ‘Exactly how sorry is he?

‘If the Chief Minister or any member of our government was truly sorry for the deaths that happened on this site then wouldn’t there now be a memorial here instead of this appalling eyesore after 50 years?

‘His words are hollow and it seems they’ve been issued under duress from the UK government.’

‘This is a commemoration of huge national significance here and further afield, and it shouldn’t be for me to stand here and acknowledge it, so I apologise.

‘I apologise that we have a chief minister who does not have the courage to come here to this site and truly look this tragedy in the face.

‘But who prefers instead to stand down the road and pay lip service to his sorrow in what he calls “the legacy of Summerland”, from all the way down the road in the Kaye gardens.’

Across the week of the anniversary several other events have taken place across the Isle of Man to pay tribute.

An exhibition titled ‘Summerzand 50 – remembering the future exhibition’ took place at the Loch Promenade Church to highlight the disaster and explore the years before and after with various photos, art and music on display.

The Summerland site has also been lit up at 10pm in the days leading up to and including the anniversary.