Banksy is one of the world’s most premier street artists. After watching his Academy Award nominated documentary film “Exit Though The Gift Shop” I swore to myself that I would attend his next big art event. My opportunity came along in 2015. Banksy announced the opening of Dismaland Bemusement Park in Weston-super-Mare. Tickets were going on sale in a few days at 4 am EST (my time) and I was determined to purchase both day and night event passes.
By 4:30 am EST I had secured 2 day passes and 1 night pass to Dismaland.
Lodging: I decided to stay in a tiny bed and breakfast in Weston-super-Mare called Seafarers B&B the price is about 91£ =$118.44 USD The room came with free Wi-Fi, parking and breakfast which was sublime. I would walk to and from the B & B down the boardwalk to Dismaland each day and night.
Below are the sites I passed on my daily walk to Dismaland.
One of the cool things I discovered while visiting Dismaland (I’m positive Banksy wanted everyone to learn this too) is that Weston-super-Mare has an annual Sand Sculpture Festival. Check their website for sculpture building times. Its located on the seaside between the Observation Wheel and the Sea Aquarium.
Sand Sculpture Site Times
The sand sculpture viewing grounds are open daily from the 30th of March until the 7th October 2018
Daily: 10:00am – 6:00pm (last admission 5:30pm)
Adults: £ 4.00
Students £ 3.50
Children £ 3.00 (15 and below) (under 3’s free)
Family £ 10.00 (2 adults, 2 children)
Weston-super-Mare also has the second biggest tidal range in the world – second only to the Bay of Fundy.
The spot Dismaland now stands was once The Tropicana. A vibrant waterpark during the 80’s. Prior to that the area served as a high diving hangout for resident Seasiders and vacationers for decades.
Rumor has it Banksy vacationed here as a child (Weston-super-Mare is only a short train ride or car ride from Banksy’s home town of Bristol).* He came to the town as an adult only to discover the dismal state of the town and the udder deterioration of the amusement park. The area had been hit hard by the financial collapse of the markets and vacationers had been going elsewhere for years. Banksy’s heart was broken. This is when the idea to use his fame and artistic genius to create an event that would drive revenue and bring people back to his childhood vacation home was born.
Here are images of the Amusement Park Banksy would have remembered from childhood. Dismaland now stands in place of this once majestic waterpark.
Banksy is great at making you want whatever he is selling. As you walk towards Dismaland you start to see signs of his presence. Once inside Dimaland does not disappoint. There are very few things that can generate pure joy in adults – Banksy is a master of creating such an experience.
Below is the photographic evidence of my Dismaland experience. It was worth every bit of the price I paid to cross the pond.
I rode every ride, played every game, watched every performance even during an constant of rain. There was not one piece of art I did not experience at least twice. I read every sign, drank plenty of pints and bought a t-shirt, a program and a poster.
But unlike Disneyland my visit to Dismaland had life lessons that would forever be tethered to my memories. The hard lessons of letting the place you love crumble around you – that beauty of this planet is everywhere yet we take it for granted because we see it everyday – and how the words greed and new easily persuade us from what is right and virtuous.
Pickled Unicorn-Damien Hirst
Dismaland At Night
After Hours In Dismaland
Thanks to the copious amount of time I spent in Dismaland over a three day period I ended up becoming friends with one of the artists-Darren Cullen of the PayDay Loans installation. On my final night in Dismaland myself, Darren and another bloke drank until the wee hours and enjoyed a completely empty Dimaland. Here are the images of the almost completely dark Bemusement Park.
Finally Don’t Forget To…
The End of a Journey: I flew back to Toronto with my heart full of art and good will. Banksy has announced that wood and fixtures from the park’s dismantled castle will be sent to the Jungle refugee camp, in Calias, France to build housing structures for the 7,000 refugees living in the camp.
The people I met in Weston-super-Mare throughout my stay were overjoyed with the amount of tourists flooding to their town. They were even more excited that Banksy had chosen them. I can’t wait to see the overall impact Banksy’s Dismaland Bemusement Park has on this beautiful seaside town.
Update: It’s November 1, 2018 and I have been researching Weston-super-Mare and more specifically the space Dimsaland once occupied.
I have many questions as I look back on my Dismaland experience through a three year window: how much economic growth did Dismaland bring to the town of Weston-super-Mare? Have the people been rewarded with city infrastructure upgrades thanks to the tax dollars that poured into the town over the five week event?
According to local newspapers Dismaland attracted 150,000 visitors over its five-week run and brought an economic boost of an estimated £20million to the local economy.
The North Somerset Council has pumped hundreds of thousands of pounds into improving the building that once housed Dismaland to turn it into a now favorite entertainment venue in the town. The newly renovated venue has the following facilities:
- Café – café tables and comfortable lounge seating area, male, female, disabled toilets and separate baby changing facilities, seated capacity of 120
- Bar area –combined seated and standing capacity of 350 in bar and raised seating area
- The Gallery – standing capacity 800
- Green Room – Seated capacity 100 standing capacity 150
- Outdoor Arena– standing capacity of 3,800 in a unique open air setting. A walled space of 6,000m², with raised sea facing terrace with male, female and disabled toilets
The venue has been used for art shows, concerts, and last winter it was turned into UK’s biggest outdoor ice rink in the lead up to Christmas. For really good vibes head over to The Tropicana’s website to see what has been going on since Banksy left the rejuvenated space to the people of Weston-super-Mare: www.tropicanaweston.co.uk
As far as I can tell the people of Weston-super-Mare have reaped the rewards of Banksy’s vision.
*See my post Hunting Banksy’s in Bristol