This is a fairly hefty report written for those who can't make the event. For those who are thinking on going it's loaded with spoilers. You've been warned.
2015 had been a pretty quiet year for Banksy with just a small number of pieces coming from a trip to Palestine finding their way onto the internet for all to see. So it was a nice surprise to read of rumours of a show in the UK being confirmed with the announcement of Dismaland, a parody of a company who's parks I enjoy, but who's money making I don't. So something theme park related and from my favourite artist, I'm sold! So when the event was announced I rearranged my plans to get there on the first day.
Using Bristol as a base it was an easy 30 minute train ride down to Weston-Super-Mare where the event was being held, on the site of the former Tropicana Lido. On the way I passed this first installation.
(pic from http://www.tropicanawestonsupermare.co.uk)
The Tropicana opened in the 1930s and was a very popular place which like a lot of seaside attractions fell into decline and eventually closed in 2000. For a lot of the locals it was nice to see the site being used for something...
Setting the scene appropriately. The queueing took 3-and-a-half hours, which passed relatively quickly. The mood of the crowd was really good with no trouble or impatient people attempting to queue jump. The cliche sayd that if there's something the Brits do well it's queue, and today we lived that stereotype perfectly. A tip, on a hot day bring water for the queue. There were people selling bottles but they could only reach the end of the queues and they sold out quite quickly.
I got my wristband, part way there. Now the second cattlegrid.
Be prepared to wait.
After the wait it was then my turn to get in. Yay!!!
The staff are as dismal as the park names and have little interest in ensuring you have a great day, despite the Mickey ears. It set the tone perfectly!
Entrance to the park is through an installation from Bill Barminski with actors playing security staff who's job it is to ensure your visit starts off as crap as possible. They were intentionally splitting groups up through the gates, insisting you stared into the video camera and asking some security style questions. I got "Why are you here today?", "You're not carrying any guns or bombs, are you?" and "What are you smuggling in".
Once in the park this guy handed you a leaflet and then told you to "have a great day" full of sarcasm and said as if he'd rather be somewhere else.
I bought a souvenir brochure from here. The guy took my money then slammed the programme on the counter before turning his back on me tutting as he did so.
None of these children rides worked, or looked like they'd been operated in years. Some people were heard suggesting they must have come from the original park.
This one I recognised as a Banksy piece that appeared on the south coast a few years back.
A rather large installation by entitled Big Rig Jig steals some of the skyline. This was put together by Mike Ross and similar pieces have appeared at Burning Man and Coachella, although at those it was possible to climb up inside it. It didn't appear possible to do that here.
As you enter the park down the left hand side is a number of galleries featuring a number of pieces from a wide range of artists. This is by Jenny Holzer who also provided a number of messages played over the park PA by a young girl who said things like "Private Property is the Cause of Crime".
This studio piece by Andreas Hykade ran a rather weird morph of cartoon characters. As someone whose final dissertation was on morphing this was of interest to me but it was so fast it hurt a little to watch.
The James Joyce installation was a huge smiley forever stuck in a spin cycle.
Growing plants in ready meals. A piece by Caroline McCarthy.
The Banksy dodgems installation was supposed to have a Grim Reaper on it but he was missing today. I did check back in the afternoon but he still wasn't there. I'm assuming it was being used for promotion elsewhere.
Some nice juxtaposition pieces by Josh Keyes
These were my favourite pieces and I'm seriously considering buying one of them, although I guess the price will have risen sharply given their appearance at this event. These are by Jeff Gillette, who also made the distressed Mickey ears worn by the staff.
A seaside reworking of Damien Hirst's "History of Pain" piece.
Minimalist art from . I like the flashing Heisenberg! These are by Brock Davis.
Bizarre! I'm sure someone thinks this is amazing. Perhaps someone with a foot fetish.
Some more weird minimalist reworking of every day items.
This one was too Jackson Pollock for me. I get it's some of the dwarves but it's all over the place and too scattered for me. It's by Barry Reigate.
A clever series of pieces where took a turnstile to some beautiful places.
I thought this one was a Banksy, at least it looks like his style and humour but it's by a Spanish guy called Paco Pomet. I think I might have to research him a bit more!
A couple of damaging the environment pieces.
I think these ones are Zaria Forman's
The gallery was pretty decent actually and I found myself coming back several times to check the pieces out.
Yes, they are carrying a body with half their head missing. I totally missed this the first time.
Cute but not cute!
A children's playhouse made from a nuclear explosion, because why not? This installation is by Dietrich Wegner. He also did a vending machine with a baby in it but I couldn't get that one to photograph due to it being too dark.
Random car crash by (this one goes on a bit) Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene. She uses power tools to embroider cars. Insane!
Some of the most photographed pieces were these tattooed ceramic dolls by Jessica Harrison. They missed a trick not selling these as a lot of people commented they'd have bought them.
The gallery space.
Maskull Laserre's rather scary bear-trap chair.
One of the more controversial pieces was shown here. "After Washing" by Palestinian artist Shadi Al Zaqaouq had previously been removed from an exhibition in UAE and the artist is banned from visiting the country. The Arabic translates to "leave". The programme makes mention to other pieces being denied entry into the UK. I wonder what the message in those was?
I think this is another Caitlin Cherry piece.
Rioting by Neta Harari Naven
This is by Ben Long.
A great Banksy piece.
Jani Leinonen did this cereal box reworking. Cereal fan DJ Yoda is due to play here next weekend. So gutted I can't make that!
Perplexing people on the beach by leaving footprints modified with paw prints.
The most powerful piece is this amazing piece by Amir Schiby, which I had read about. The four boys depicted in this were killed on a Gaza beach by Israeli shelling. Innocence, not lost, but taken.
A nice Degas parody.
The back corner of the gallery contains a huge installation by the KLF's Jimmy Cauty and I spent a good half hour just taking in the detail in the piece. 3,000 riot policemen were made from other figures to complete the piece, and all the police lights flash on and off.
No idea who did these but they're great!
Back outdoors now and there are random scattering of art all over the place.
There's a pop-up cinema which was showing short movies on a loop. In the weeks to come they'll be holding comedy and live music, including Massive Attack
The Big Rig Jig looks insane!
The hook-a-duck game was a hoot, with nigh on impossible to grab ducks surrounding an oil covered pelican and run by an operator who'd knock your rod, disturb the ducks and spent a lot of his time calling out that there was no prize if you won.
The Sleep of Reason tent was another art exhibition space.
The resting animals are by Dorcas Casey
The rather scary dinner service is by Ronit Baranga
The animal in formaldehyde has to be a Hirst piece.
Polly Morgan does some amazing things with taxidermy.
and Scott Hove does some utterly bizarre things with cake.
Not sure who did this but the animatronic bunny makes me think it's Banksy. I didn't realise the jacket belonged to a vanished magician. I thought it had been dumped by someone.
The final piece was a can with what appeared to be pubic hair around the opening. Odd!
One of the more controversial pieces is the bumper boats attraction full of refugees. Quite a number of people found it hard to put the pound in to control the boats. Some didn't care at all!
Nettie Wakefield does portraits...of the back of your head.
The working carousel has a horse being readied for Lasagna. Dark!
The cool bench was one of a number of pieces by Michael Beitz.
My favourite attraction was the Topple the Anvil game. This installation entitled "Winning is Strictly Prohibited" is by David Shrigley who had a great exhibition on the South Bank in London last year. In this you're given 3 ping pong balls with which to attempt to topple the anvil. Do so and you'd win the anvil, fail and you get a meaningless rubber wristband.
I know that because that's what it has printed on it.
The centrepiece to the park is Banksy's reworking of the Disney castle. Probably still taller than the one in California it looked, well, dismal.
I love the reflective reshaping that Banksy put on the mermaid.
Within the castle there's my favourite piece of the whole event. A reconstruction of the death of Princess Diana using Cinderella. Quite literally a dark piece with only the strobe lights of the paparazzi flashlights illuminating the room, this is Banksy at his best.
Even darker, there's an "on-ride photo" of the attraction.
I think this one was by Caitlin Cherry. Keep pushing mate!
Wasted Rita did the fly posters. Some of those are quite amusing, if dark!
Another Michael Beitz installation.
These guys were pulling together a protest, although they didn't know what about. Later in the day they were walking around collecting fist bumps.
A clear nod to Blackfish, another Banksy piece.
No idea who did this piece. At one point I swear I saw someone climbing out of that lake.
In the back-right corner a pop-up library was set up.
This converted bus carries an installation entitled "Museum of Cruel Objects" and has been pulled together by Dr Gavin Grindon and gives an overview on industries that sell social control, from spikes to deter homeless sleeping (probably the one we all know) to the business of fences that keep people out. Probably the most education piece here. Whilst queuing for this one of the staff came up and whispered "fuck the system and go in the exit" into my ear, which I did.
Create your own protest.
The Comrades Advice Bureau was a collective of organisations who specialise in protest.
I'd seen some of their work around London such as these bus shelter posters.
Fake hi-vis and keys to open the poster boards up were available for sale. There was as a rather nice story from a man fed up with seeing McDonald's ads when walking his son to school that he bought a kit and put up his kids artwork instead.
A geodesic dome contained an array of protest posters from Ed Hall, Huda Beydoun, Joanna Pollonais and Fares Cachoux amongst many others. This is the attraction that elicited the most laughs. There is some great humour in these posters!
This scaffolding horse is another Ben Long piece.
A real riot van has been turned into a fountain and comes complete with a children's slide, although no children attempted to use it. Another Banksy piece.
As well as the carousel, the big wheel was operational. There was a sound of a kid screaming coming from it. I can't tell if that was legitimately someone screaming or part of the experience.
Mini Gulf is an oil caliphate themed golf course. The programme makes the claim that hte grass comes from the hockey pitch at Cheltenham Ladie's college.
A little nod to the huge fan at Glastonbury, this one didn't turn at all. It as at one side of the children's play area, a small sand pit.
At the other end stands a children's loan centre, an installation by Darren Cullen.
The humour throughout this installation was hilarious from the Paralysed Action Man with "Non-functioning legs" to the "Commute scalextric".
The puppets were put together by Paul Insect and Bast. You go upstairs to operate them.
A popular attraction was the selfie-hole. A someone who doesn't do selfies I'm sorry to say there's none of me.
The terrorist one next door was so unpopular I didn't see anyone use it all day. Perhaps that's the point.
The Punch and Judy show is apparently brought up to date making reference to 50 Shades of Grey and Jimmy Saville but I didn't see it as the show didn't start at the advertised time. When it does show it's been put together by Julie Burchill.
The fireplace is started with the pages of a different Jeffrey Archer novel each day. One that probably happens when it gets dark. I didn't wait around to see today, and a small shower starting as I left probably put paid to that anyway.
Some views around the park site. No attempt had been made to clean up the historical damage that had gathered since the Tropicana's closure.
It was hard to tell what was art and was waste.
I'm guessing this is another Micheal Beitz.
The dismallest place on earth!
Another great Banksy installation and a popular photo op!
This shooting range looked like it had been well shot up! It was a mess.
The astronaut's caravan is the smallest version of a Vekoma Madhouse that I've ever come across and was put together by Tim Hunkin and Andy Plant. Apparently it cost more to licence as a fairground ride than it did to build.
Another genius piece by Banksy making great use of the scenery.
I found another couple of Banksy's I'd missed the first time around. They're both down the end of the main gallery.
Some final panos.
A nice plug to the DVD marks the way out.
They even manage to have a couple of pieces in here.
and they had merchandise! As someone who never buys park merchandise I will admit to going into my wallet and buying some stuff here. It would be pretty exclusive although I doubt very much I'd be allowed into a Disney park wearing it.
And that was Dismaland. Classic Banksy humour and some amazing pieces of art from some other artists that I now need to go and research. Being a huge Banksy fan my opinion is biased but the overall feeling from the crowd was very favourable, and a lot of the locals were just happy to see the Tropicana being used for something. I guess its been seen as a bit of blight in a city that is going through some redevelopment elsewhere. Given the size of the crowd the interest is certainly there and should bring quite a bit of tourism into the city for the duration of its 5-week run.