Dismaland Bemusement Park was a temporary art project, created in secret by the graffiti artist / street artist Banksy. It ran from 21st August till 27th September 2015. The pop up exhibition was constructed in the unused, old lido called the Tropicana in Weston Super Mare, Somerset UK. Banksy described Dismaland as a “family theme park unsuitable for children”, as it was simply a sarcastic, sinister copy of the world-famous Disneyland. Dismaland contained works from Banksy himself and 58 other artists.
Who is Banksy? Banksy’s true identity is unknown, although we do know that he is an English based graffiti artist. He is thought to have been from Bristol, UK, and approximately late 30’s to mid 40’s in age. Banksy began as a freehand graffiti artist from 1990-1994. He was part of Bristol’s DryBredz Crew and worked alongside other artists. He began working with a photographer called Steve Lazarides, who later sold Banksy’s art pieces. Word was that Lazarides became Banksy’s agent. By 2000, Banksy decided to use stencilling in order to create his graffiti pieces, as it took less time to create a piece and by doing so, he was able to avoid capture from the Police, and was able to hide. One of Banksy’s first well known public wall murals, was in Stokes Croft, Bristol. It was called the ‘ Mild Mild West’ and was painted in 1997. It depicts a teddy bear, throwing a Molotov cocktail at three riot police. A second well known Banksy wall mural is on Park Street, Bristol. It depicts a naked man hanging by one arm from a window as a man in suit looks out, supposedly trying to the man the woman is having an affair with. It is located on the side of a sexual health clinic, and Bristol City Council have been made to let it stay after a popular demand for it to remain.
How was it created in secret……? Local residents of Weston Super Mare were originally told that a Hollywood film company called Atlas Entertainment were producing a new thriller film called Grey Fox. Questions weren’t really asked, as signage went up around the Tropicana saying ‘Grey Fox Productions’. It wasn’t until early August that questions began to arise, and news footage aired, due to a large fairy-tale castle and other large sculptures being erected in the centre of the Tropicana.
Once the large DISMALAND signage on the front of the building appeared, it was clear that this wasn’t a film production. I remember the news footage advising us that it was in fact an exhibition created by the local artist Banksy. Banksy quotes in regards to Dismaland ” It’s with great pleasure we throw open the doors of the Tropicana once again, I’ve dreamed of installing a theme park on this site ever since I walked past the building six months ago and peered through a gap in the fence. But this is not your average sugar-coated fantasyland selling scrapings from the Hollywood floor, No, we couldn’t afford the license for that”
The news coverage told us that only local residents were invited to see Dismaland, and in order to gain entry, they would have to collect a cut out ticket in their local paper. People who weren’t residents of Weston, including myself, were disappointed that we would not be able to see the exhibition. News coverage showed the vast queue of residents waiting in line, tickets in hand, to visit Dismaland on the first day of opening. Below are two online news articles which show the opening day of Dismaland.
A day or two after the opening for residents only, news coverage told us that Dismaland was now in fact open to the public. A website was created called Dismaland Bemusement Park, and tickets were to be purchased online via this website. They cost £5 each per person or you could buy tickets on the door for £3 each per person. A vast difference in price from Disneyland. Like many others, I decided to go on the website to purchase tickets. I was confused as to why the ticket area was ‘Stuck’ somewhat and I was unable to click on anything to buy a ticket, even though it showed them being available. I thought it was perhaps a prank that was being played by Banksy in order to make people attempting to purchase tickets ‘Dismal’, giving us the similar feeling to children not being allowed to go to Disneyland. I decided to give up, and perhaps I would try again another time.
News coverage confirmed that I was not alone, in fact the website had crashed, not allowing anyone to purchase tickets. This happened for days if not nearly a week or more. I gave up trying to purchase a ticket. I saw the daily queues on the news and this also put me off. 4000 tickets were sold a day, so you can imagine how many people were queuing from the 11am opening to the 11pm closing, not including the vast quantity of people who arrived to stand in the queue to purchase tickets on the door. Dismaland was becoming famous worldwide and thousands of visitors from all over the world attended including celebrities.
Many of my family and friends managed to book tickets and were able to see Dismaland and said it was amazing. I was disappointed that I was unable to do so and that I was unable to go. A friend told me that the last but one batch of tickets were going on sale on Wednesday 16th September at 10am. I knew that I had to try to book a ticket, so I set an alarm early, preparing myself to be disappointed again or for the website to crash. I was fortunate to have been able to book 2 tickets, purchased and paid for them at exactly 10:01am. I was determined to go! 20 minutes after I purchased mine, the website sold out again. I was extremely happy that I had secured tickets to go and visit this famous bemusing theme park. All I had to do was wait.
Wednesday 23rd September 2015 – My Dismaland Experience!
Living in Bristol, Weston Super Mare is only 1hr or so away from where I live. I used to visit Weston regularly and still do so I’m familiar with the place. My time slot for Dismaland was 7pm. I arrived down in Weston at approximately 5:30pm and decided to go straight from the bus stop to the queuing area of Dismaland. There was only 15 people in the queue in front of us which I was completely surprised about, especially as I was waiting for thousands to be queuing already. I queued for over 1hr and a half.
Banksy created Dismaland to be a satirical take on Disneyland. In order for Dismaland to work, staff were advised to be as dismal, miserable and rude as possible. A shear opposite to the staff at the ‘Happy’ Disneyland. This bemusement park was meant to be a dismal, miserable experience for everyone that worked there and attended as visitors.
We arrived at the miserable looking ticket scanners who hurled abuse at the crowds telling us to ‘Get your tickets ready, we haven’t got all day, hurry up’ then moving us on to the ‘Security’ section just inside the front doors. A cartoon style, air port security awaited us. Miserable and rude staff welcomed us into the cardboard cut out security area. They made people jump and hop through the useless security scanners, made you do star jumps, scanned you with their cardboard cut out metal detectors and good luck if you laughed or smiled at them, you would either be told to stand against the wall, or be made to go to the back of the queue. This was hilarious! The staff members were extremely funny and it was so hard not to laugh at them, plus, I wasn’t prepared to go to the back of the queue, so I made sure my face stayed dismal.
As soon as I was let through the security, I was whispered ‘Welcome to Dismaland, Have a nice time’ by two dismal staff who reluctantly wanted to speak to me. Just outside of the door as you walk through to the main area, there is a burnt, old, wrecked ice cream van. Inside was a dismal staff member who sold the souvenir programmes for the theme park. They don’t speak to you, you just ask for how many programmes you would like, hand over the money, then they either throw the programmes at you, play tug of war with you or ignore you all together and make you reach inside to get them yourselves. Either way, it was funny. I ended up playing tug of war to get my two programmes.
After purchasing my programmes,
After purchasing my programmes, I decided to make my way over to Cinderella’s castle. I knew that this was one of the popular exhibition areas, and would be full of visitors. I was fortunate to be one of the first in Dismaland, which meant that Cinderella’s castle was empty. This was my chance to go and see it before the queue ended up around the ‘theme park’.
Cinderella’s castle was designed by Banksy himself. On the leaflet it quotes ‘Step Inside the Fairy tale and See How it Feels to be a Real Princess’ ‘Souvenir Photographs Available’. The outside of the castle was illuminated by large spot lights. A large Ariel figurine was situated in the water surrounding the castle. The Ariel figurine was made to look distorted and blurred, so when you photographed her, it would appear distorted in your photograph.
In the water surrounding the castle, old wire mattresses and old shopping trollies were placed against the walls, with rubbish floating around in the water. Not something you would expect from a princess’ castle. The castle was battered and falling apart. We waited in line to be let in.
The animated Cinderella film was playing on old broken televisions, hanging from the corner of the wall. Once you were guided through the ‘ Souvenir Photograph ‘ section, you were in complete darkness. All I felt was sand or gravel under my feet. You could hear a recording of police sirens, ambulance sirens and noises from camera flashes and chirping of birds on a loop. As soon as the lights from the camera flashes began, you were able to see what was inside of the Cinderella castle.
A huge overturned carriage, with broken wheels, fallen horses and mist bellowing out from behind it, was situated in the middle of the room. A mannequin of Cinderella was draped, hanging out of the window of the carriage, being pulled up by her two blue bird companions. Her blonde hair fell against the door of the carriage. The recording played on repeat, the chirping from the birds accompanied by the sirens and flash noises haunted you. The comparison to Princess Diana’s crash was obvious. This was most definitely a piece which portrayed the crash and death of a Princess, who was then hounded by photographers and paparazzi, all wanting to snap that one special photograph.
It is hard to say that this is my favourite piece of Dismaland, but somehow it is. Seeing the sheer size of this piece up close was intense. The atmosphere with it being dark, only a recording playing, and a swarm of mist engulfing you, made you feel uncomfortable, yet somehow this piece struck me the most. I remember the death of Princess Diana, I don’t think any one will ever forget. Banksy has created a piece which is shocking, but manages to put the truth before us. He shows us the side which we wanted to block from our minds, the reality of what actually happened and the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death and the crash. He does it in a way which uses the Disney character we all know, which again makes it personal to each of us. We all know the happy ending of the Cinderella fairy tale, so to see something like this representing what actually happened to a real life Princess, is sad. Some have argued that they don’t like it and are against this piece all together, saying that Banksy has created a disgusting, un-tasteful, insensitive piece. However, others like myself, found it shocking yet somewhat interesting and unique. I suppose it depends on how you view this piece. It is definitely a talking piece and something which Banksy will be remembered for.
Attempting to photograph this piece was extremely hard as one, I had no tripod, so setting my camera to shoot indoors with no lighting would mean extreme camera blur and movement from camera shake. The lack of light, and only relying on the camera flashes meant that I could only shoot when they were. I suppose this is so we are made to feel like one of the paparazzi’s ourselves….? We were also being told to move along as there was now a queue beginning to form, therefore, I was unable to photograph a clear image of this piece. I did however manage to get my Mother to record it on my second camera, so I may be able to get some clearer stills from the video. I have included the video recorded by my Mother, onto YouTube for you to look at.
Outside the exit of the castle, you were met by a large killer whale statue, leaping from a toilet pan, through a hula hoop, into a paddling pool. Sounds crazy, I know, but this was designed to represent the small aquariums which are used in sea world.
This was a large piece, so gained a lot of interest which is good in some way, because it brings light to the small aquariums being used in Sea World.
Behind the castle, close to this piece, was the rest of the water which surrounded the castle. This back area contained an old broken speed boat which was surrounded by rubbish. On the wall of the castle was a poster which reflected into the water. It was symbolizing the wealth and greed of politicians and the helplessness of the less fortunate. The poster was positioned lopsided with the politician being represented as heavy with greed and the family at the other end representing the poor, with nothing. This was a very striking, controversial piece which was talked about a lot.
A second poster of Prime Minister David Cameron was also on the other side of the Theme Park. It symbolises the downfall of his work as Prime Minister, as it is a poster of London with David Cameron toasting his success, being rolled up. In other words, being rolled up and discarded, ready for the next poster to be put up.
Banksy produced a large wheel which you could take a ride on, if you dared. It was battered and broken, but thankfully still safe enough to use. I watched people later that evening, take a ride on the big wheel. It was made to purposely stop every now and then, leaving the people on it dangling in the air, waiting for it to start. It was a funny joke aimed at all of the working big wheels seen in theme parks world-wide. It was a piece which really stood out. You could see the lights shining from the big wheel as you were walking down the path to the Tropicana.
There was a small indoor shop area called ‘Pocket Money Loans’ designed by artist Darren Cullen.
Pocket Money Loans was a satirical take on Payday Loans, Mortgages, Loans, Money Lenders and much more. Rather than aiming this at adults, this was aimed at children, hence the ‘Pocket Money’. Darren Cullen, the artist, aimed it at children in order to send us as adults or parents, the message that in this day and age and in the future, our children will be applying for loans, mortgages and pawning everything they can in order to get money to survive.
On the outside of the ‘Shop’, there was a large sand pit play area, full of broken toys and rubbish. There was also a space for pram parking. This added to the effect of it being aimed at children. There was a giant sand castle with a huge windmill on the top, designed by Banksy. This was another favourite of mine.
On the door of the pocket-money loan shop, there was a poster advertising for bailiff jobs. School bullies were wanted during school holidays, to earn money being bailiffs. The whole message surrounding this shop was the truth that in this day and age, money is the main focus of day-to-day living. From loans, benefits and much more, everything on the TV, in magazines, news coverage, is aimed at this. It is very sad, but unfortunately true.
On the inside of the shop, they had toy action men for ‘Sale’, because every child wants a Barbie doll or an Action Man, however, these were real life Action Men. They were toy models of paralysed soldiers and P.T.S.D Soldiers. There were several advertising posters around the walls which were extremely thought-provoking and on the floor of the shop was a trampoline with balls from the ball pit underneath. I watched several people in front of me and behind me, fall over or bounce on without knowing that it was there, typical adults…. whereas if children were they, they would be jumping up and down on it. Where it was placed was also thought-provoking, as it was placed close to the counter where you paid for any items purchased. Children normally have trouble reaching counter tops in shops, therefore, this hidden trampoline would allow children to bounce up and down in order to reach the counter top to pay. Very interesting and thought out very well! They have also created a ‘Real’ Facebook page.
I purchased a few items from the shop and picked up a few free business cards.
There was a large, working carousel with dismal, rude staff running it. I’ve always loved carousels, mainly because of the ‘Pretty Lights’. However, this wasn’t your average carousel. The music playing on the carousel was slow and ‘strange’. The actual meaning for this carousel was to highlight the horse meat scandal…..horses on a carousel and horses in our lasagne. There was a mannequin of a slaughter man, sat on boxes which had been labelled ‘Lasagne’. Behind the mannequin was a hanging carousel horse. This was a very thought-provoking piece. I loved the carousel, but perhaps not the mannequin, it looked too real, especially the face. Not many people were bothered by the mannequin and were still riding the carousel. I have included my video which I have uploaded onto YouTube for you to watch.
Another favourite piece of mine, was the Big Rig Jig, designed by Mike Ross. This piece took seven people, three months to build and construct. They went on a hunt to search and find any dis-used, broken trucks. This piece could be seen for miles and stood out amongst the crowds of people. The shear size and craziness of it is what made it one of my favourite pieces. I have no idea how they managed to construct this piece, but I loved it. My Mother even mentioned that the giant windmill and this, would look great in her garden.
There were several stalls situated amongst the large pieces. Every stall was different and contained different games for you to play, for example ‘Topple the Anvil with a Ping Pong ball’ and ‘Hook a Duck from the Muck’. This is very similar to what you find at fun fares and travelling circuses. However, this was Dismaland, and of course you were not going to win, if you did manage to win on one of these games, you were extremely lucky. I decided to have a go at ‘Hook a Duck from the Muck’
This game was similar to hook a duck and win a gold fish in a bag. However, this one had a twist. The ducks in the muck were representing the oil spills we have in our seas and oceans, hence why there is a statue of a pelican bird covered in oil. The ducks were floating upside down, or had no hooks in them for you to hook, so hooking a duck would be impossible. I decided to have a go anyway.
I was given a small length of bamboo pole, with a piece of rope tied to the end. There was a hook on the end which was turned up so much, it was near impossible to be able to hook a duck. I handed over the money to the dismal staff member, and they threw me the pole. I attempted to win a cardboard fish finger in a bag, but every time I managed to get close to hooking a duck, the staff member bounced the water, which moved the duck. She then threw every duck I managed to hook, making me not win. But that’s what Dismaland is about, your not allowed to win. I never managed to win a fish finger in a bag. The pole was then taken from my hand before I had finished my time slot and they slowly walked off to pinch someone else’s pole.
I spent more than a few hours in the outside exhibition areas, however, I then decided to go into the indoor exhibition areas, as the crowds outside were beginning to pile up. One of the indoor exhibitions was a model village created by Jimmy Cauty. This model village was constructed over 9 months and every single piece was hand painted and details added.
This model village was amazing. The size of it filled a whole room, so I can fully understand how it took 9 months to construct. Each piece is so detailed, it looks realistic. It is almost as though you are looking at photographs of real scenes of crime. This was one of my favourite pieces. Unfortunately we weren’t able to stay long inside this exhibition, as grumpy staff members were moving us along, but I would have loved to have stood and looked at each piece properly. I picked up some leaflets for this exhibition piece.
Another in door exhibit was The Dance of Death. This involved a grim reaper mannequin driving a bumper car. Sounds strange, but I really enjoyed this piece. Every 15 minutes, this exhibition piece would ‘Begin’. You were standing in the pitch black and suddenly grim music began. Out from a door way, a bumper car appeared and began driving slowly around, until it reached the viewers. It drove along the front where we stood and the scythe nearly hit me around the head, I never realised just how close it actually got to us. All of a sudden, the music stopped and the Bee Gees song Stayin Alive began. The grim reaper began driving the bumper car around, almost dancing to the music. I tried to photograph this, but unfortunately the strobe lighting and the movement of the car was too fast, so some of my photograph are unclear, therefore, I filmed most of it instead. However, I have uploaded my video to YouTube and have included the link for you to watch.
I know this is very macabre, but it made me laugh, probably because of the music which they put to it. It is something completely different and unique which I have never seen before.
My Dismaland Visit:
Previous to Dismaland, I haven’t really taken much notice of Banksy or his work. I do own a his Wall and Piece book, but I am yet to read it in full. Living in Bristol, I see pieces of his work on a daily basis, spray painted on walls in the city centre and in streets nearby where I live. Visiting Dismaland, and seeing his art work and the art work of others has really opened my eyes to what Banksy actually creates. He creates pieces which are unique and thought-provoking. He focuses on what is in the media at that moment in time, and shows us his opinions on the matters. Many object to Banksy’s work, and think of it as just rubbish spray paint which is illegal, however, some of his work is really good.
I had a fantastic time at Dismaland, even though it was meant to do the complete opposite, I think a lot of people who were lucky enough to go, actually enjoyed themselves. There was so much art work, art pieces, sculptures, games, tents full of posters and much more, that I can’t physically write about all of it which is a shame. Each piece that I viewed that evening was amazing. Some pieces had hidden messages which made you think about the piece and try to figure out the hidden meaning, whereas others such as the horse meat lasagne carousel, were open message pieces.
I was fortunate enough to be at the front of the queue that evening, so when we arrived into the main part of Dismaland, it was empty, allowing me to be able to photograph as much as I could before the crowds of people appeared. Towards the end of the evening, it got very dark and cold, especially as we were in the open air and on the beach, so I was trying to steady my hands from shaking because it was freezing cold. I took hundreds of photographs that evening which I haven’t put on here. I will be able to use photographs from my visit for future exercises or assignments.
I did struggle with changing my camera settings a lot due to the change in the weather and it being dark. I had to make sure that I changed settings from each piece and remember to avoid camera shake and blur. There was hundreds of people in Dismaland that evening, so crowds of people were everywhere which is understandable. I had to be patient in order to take my photographs as I wanted to make sure that I captured the ‘Perfect’ photo. It was hard at some points, as many people would either walk in front of my camera, or they were pushing and shoving people, so I had to be patient a lot.
Banksy created something amazing, which bought thousands of visitors to Weston Super Mare who spent thousands of pounds in local businesses and hotels, enabling them to stay open this winter. I was unable to visit Banksy’s exhibition in Bristol museum back in 2009, so when Dismaland opened, I knew that I had to visit this as I doubt we will see anything like this again in the near future.
Banksy and other artists ‘Hid’ pieces of art work around Dismaland for visitors to find and take with them. Many people found spray painted canvases rolled up or stuck behind objects, strange objects, toys and much more. I was unlucky and didn’t find anything exciting such as art work, although I wasn’t really looking for hidden art, and the art which was visible, I wasn’t going to take as I didn’t know if it was part of an exhibition or not. I did however, twist my foot on something near the horse meat lasagne carousel. When I looked down on the floor, I noticed a tool shaped object, discarded close to the wall. This was covered in mud rock fingerprints, which I spotted as I used to use mud rock in my art work, so I knew this was one of Banksy’s ‘Hidden’ art pieces. I decided to take this piece as it was discarded on the floor and wasn’t part of an actual exhibition piece, so I knew it must have been something left for someone to take. Who know what it is, I cant really decide what it is, but it is unique and it reminds me of my visit to Dismaland.
If Banksy is to open something like this again, I will try my best to attend as I really enjoyed Dismaland.
- Dismaland Online News Articles
- Cinderella Castle Exhibit Online Articles
- Cinderella’s Castle Exhibition – YouTube Video – Taken by Myself on 23/09/2015
- Pocket Money Loans – Darren Cullen
- Horse Meat Lasagne Carousel – YouTube Video – Taken by Myself on 23/09/2015
- Dance of Death Exhibition – YouTube Video – Taken by Myself on 23/09/2015
- Banksy Wall and Piece Book