Dear readers, I’m sure a lot of you have heard about the notorious Dismaland by now. (If you haven’t where have you been?!) It’s been all over the news, trending on Twitter and it’s the most talked about Modern Art show in the world right now.
It’s a temporary pop-up art exhibition organised by famous street artist Banksy, constructed within the Tropicana, a disused lido, in the seaside resort town of Weston-super-Mare in England. Only 2 hours away from us we couldn’t let the opportunity to see some great modern art escape us. It’s a spoof theme park on Weston-super-Mare’s promenade called Dismaland as opposed to Disneyland.However, what a struggle it was to get tickets! Absolutely dismal! High ticket demand caused the Dismaland website to crash repeatedly in the first couple of days. We wondered whether or not this had been deliberately contrived by Banksy as part of the irony of the Dismaland experience. Finally, after hours of pressing the refresh button my mummy managed to secure 1 ticket to see the show. She was over the moon. It was probably best I wasn’t coming anyway, a toddler in all that disarray would have been a nightmare.Dismaland has been classed by the press as “a sinister twist on Disneyland”. It opened during the weekend of 21 August 2015 and Banksy himself has described it as a “family theme park unsuitable for children.” While Dismaland was being set up in the sleepy seaside town of Weston-super-Mare locals were told a Hollywood blockbuster was being filmed on the site to add to the mystery. Local press were the first to revealed its true purpose and thousands have flocked from around the world to see the spectacle since.
My folks are big fans of Banksy and it’s not often you get an exhibition like this within easy driving distance. The difficulty and exclusiveness of getting tickets also added to the appeal. Dismaland has all the tell-tale signs of a traditional Banksy event from the shroud of mystery to the artistic themes of anti-consumerism, anti-establishment and social critique on popular culture and the police. Unlike other Banksy events it wasn’t a one man show though. Banksy created ten new works and funded the construction of the exhibition himself but the show features another 58 artists. It is scheduled to run until 27 September 2015, for 36 days, with 4,000 tickets available for purchase per day.As mummy drove to the exhibition she wondered…Of all the places in the world why did Banksy choose Weston-super-Mare to host his exhibition? I suppose it was the perfect place to put a faded, worn-out fairground attraction. It’s heyday has been and gone. We wonder whether Bristol born Banksy had visited Weston-super-Mare when he was a child and had come back as an adult and found the place depressing? A perfect spot to hold this event.It takes my mummy 4 hours, as opposed to 2, due to a motorway accident, road works and getting lost to get to Dismaland. So far her experience had been pretty dismal, she’d got lost several times, nearly wee’d herself in the car waiting in traffic, couldn’t find anywhere to park and was running an hour late for her scheduled entrance! She heading towards the promenade, sweating and cursing under her breath as she was late for her 11am session. The queue snaked around crowd barriers when she arrived and she was grumpily told to head to the back of the queue and she wasn’t surprised that even with a pre-booked ticket she was instructed to wait further. All the staff were suitably sullen and depressed and it was all part of the experience.Daytime entry was at 11am or 2pm (park closes at 6pm). Evening tickets were at 7pm or 9pm (park closes at 11pm). Tickets on the door were limited and priced at £3 and she watched desperate people trying to get in. Tickets can still be bought in advance online for £5 including booking fee up until the 23rd September 2015 when the last lot go on sale.By the time my mummy reached the front of the queue to Dismaland she was fed up and was amazed that people without tickets were also queueing. 30 minutes later and she was in, past the sad Dismaland stewards who looked like they didn’t want to be there and totally disinterested when they scanned the barcode on the piece of paper she held so dearly.The security guards were super grumpy and quite intimidating especially the girls that scanned her and checked her belongings. She had to scramble to get a map as she didn’t know where she was going as she entered the old Tropicana. Queues of people, like swarms of bees, entered the site and it was a bit frantic!It was a bright sunny day and it was busy, queues stretch out across the park and she joined the nearest one having no idea where it ended up at. Luckily for her it took her straight into the Dismaland Castle! Everyone was snap happy taking photos and selfies, so my mummy decided to join the sheep and took some photos while she waiting in the queue for 10 minutes. She studied the map and here are the places she visited during the 3 hours she was there.
Cinderella’s Castle – This was her first stop and the epicenter of Dismaland. A creepy take on the Disneyland Castle which is universally recognised and used on all of Banksy’s branding for Dismaland. However, this castle is burnt out and overgrown, like something out of a horror movie. It doesn’t look safe either… and my mummy puts her hand on the outer wall and wood flakes off between her fingers. It’s too late to back out now and the queue pushes her forward into the dark.
Lawyers at Disneyland must be having a fit! A small TV screen is playing Disney’s classic Cinderella. As my mummy steps further inside the fairytale castle it was eerily quiet with only the sound of clicking cameras, as the paparazzi and her start taking photos of an overturned pumpkin carriage with Cinderella inside. The scene depicts Cinderella and her horses dead with paparazzi madly taking photos while strobe lights evoke the flashing of paparazzi bulbs. It was quiet shocking and a true reflection of the hounding and stalking that the paparazzi still inflict on celebrities and the Royals to this day. No prizes for guessing which historical event is being alluded to there. It’s a real grim image.
Warning – Below video contain strobe lights.
As people leave they get their own souvenir photograph in front of the carnage to take home, but the queues are out the door and my mummy passes on this. She hasn’t much time and there were so many photo opportunities and places to sit and soak up the atmosphere within Dismaland. My mummy spends some time just people watching and looking at the map and was amazed at the amount of distance some people had travelled to see the show. Sitting next to some American’s and over hearing their journey spread across 24hrs. It’s not all dismal and grim at Dismaland though…There is much to laugh at too – she had a chuckle at the “I am an imbecile” helium balloons and the shuffling Storm Trooper which gave a cheeky nod to the new STAR WARS film being released this year. One of the largest queues was to get into the main gallery and my mummy wished she had spent more time browsing inside. However it felt like a bit of a conveyor belt as people were moved from room to room and told to keep moving.
As you can see from the photos some of the artwork was amazing and thought-provoking, some of the installations made my mummy feel uneasy and that’s the point I suppose. My mummy isn’t an art critic, far from it, but she loves pieces of artwork that make her question her views on a particular subject. These are some of her favourite pieces of artwork that caught her eye on the day.
The Main Gallery contained contemporary art by 58 different artists including Damien Hurst, Dietrich Wegner and Lee Madgwick who were some of her favourites.
Once my mummy had walked through the main gallery she was lead into the Miniature Model Village. Sprawled across a raised platform was an amazing display! A whole city in view. Each cluster of miniature people told a story. From the emergency services conducting an investigation into a Road Traffic Incident, to riot police moving angry protestors back. If there was a major incident in this country this is what she thought it would look light. Flashing lights everywhere! My mummy could have spent hours in there studying the people.
The Model Village was amazing and Jimmy Cauty’s hand crafted miniature world was an amazing sight and the attention to detail was astounding. It’s just a shame to learn that people were nicking figures to sell on eBay!!
Water Cannon Creek was around the Castle moat and there was a real armour plated riot control vehicle built to serve on the streets of Northern Ireland. Equipped with sniper posts, grenade launchers and now – a children’s slide. It was very random and proved a very pretty water feature in the grounds The water looked horrible though and my mummy couldn’t imagine anyone dipping their toes in the murky green slim. They even had deck chairs set up so people could sunbathe!
Considering how Dismal the site was supposed to be it was actually quiet colourful. The Giant Pin Wheel which was jokingly commissioned by Banksy to power the entire site was his funny take on his own wind farm. People online had also joked that every time a person hit the refresh button on the Dismaland ticket website the pin wheel would turn! Hahaha
Being a toddler I would have wanted to visit the Kids Enclosure, my mummy thought it looked lovely and colourful too, actually better than her garden LOL. However, my mummy sadly didn’t see any little folk playing in the sandpit. Dear Mr Banksy if you are reading this please can I have the bucket and spades?😉
The Carousel was a big draw and source of amusement for visitors. People enjoyed riding on it and having their photos taken. We think the merry-go-round was supposed to symbolize the Tesco fiasco surrounding horse meat used in lasagna and the consumers being lied to by this big corporation. I hope the ponies on the carousel weren’t scared that they might get chopped up too!
My mummy enjoyed the Circus Tent and seeing some modern gothic sculptures. This was more her kinda thing. She’s a big fan of unicorns so imagine her delight at seeing a real one created by Damien Hurst! Shame she couldn’t take it home with her!
One of the most uncomfortable moments spent looking at these amusements was the Banksy’s Mediterranean boat ride – Modern art often has social commentary on the state of life and the boats full with immigrants looking solemn as they float into the abyss are some such artworks. Thought provoking stuff, especially this week when the pictures of the little dead Syrian boy washed up on a beach graced front covers of the national press. I must admit it made my mummy very upset and she had to turn away when she saw a visitor laughing at the boats😦
A sculpture that impressed my mummy due to its imposing size which towered over the site was the Big Rig Jig by Mike Ross – supposedly showcasing two juggernauts performing ballet. This looked scary and dangerous and at first my mummy did everything to avoid going near it for the fear it would tumble. I wonder what the artist will do with that after the show – I doubt an art dealer will get that on a back of a lorry!!
Last but not least my mummy was seduced by The little Mermaid outside the Dismaland castle. If you look closely at the reflection it is beautiful and almost perfect. My mummy thinks it represents the view that people have of each other. We are always striving for perfection. Our distorted view of others. This shows that the little mermaid may not be perfect on the surface (on dry land) but the image she reflects (in the water) to others is always perfection. It’s not a clear-cut mirror image, when you stare into the water you can see that the distorted mermaid is whole and beautiful. It makes my mummy wonder if she is like the little mermaid always putting on a flawless facade on social media and when you actually meet her in real life she is nothing like the image she projects. This will be the image from Dismaland that my mummy will remember for a long time.
My mummy missed a lot of other attractions at Dismaland, there was far much to see and do in 3 hours. But for a short amount of time she fully emerged herself in the experience. Organisers say the show will offer “an escape from mindless escapism.” What does it all mean? “I guess you’d say it’s a theme park whose big theme is – theme parks should have bigger themes,” said Banksy, quoted from a national newspaper when the show began.
Would my mummy recommend this place to others? Yes, it was amazing and I’m sure she didn’t see everything she wanted to. My mummy wished she had more time to explore and she might go one evening before the exhibition closes (if she can get her hands on those elusive tickets once more).
We hope you like looking through our pictures!
Love Baby Isabella x
Disclosure: We are not professional reviewers, just a normal family finding the beauty in everyday things.