Dismaland is Banksy’s latest art exhibition, situated inside the old Tropicana site in Weston-Super-mare. Given that the location is just down the road from us (we’re based in Burnham-on-sea in Somerset) and that we’re huge fans of Banksy art, we just had to go and brave the queues.
With the website having crashed (or tickets never actually having been available to buy via there if you believe the conspiracy theories) myself, my husband and our teenage daughter headed in to Weston-super-mare to stand in line.
The weather was good and although queues were fairly sizeable, it wasn’t as bad as the media made out. We stood in line for around an hour and a half and you could use portaloo’s at the end of some lines and also buy bottled water while you wait.
The fun begins when you finally make it to the Dismaland entrance. You are greeted by suitably dismal and sarcastic security guards who make silly demands and ask you a bunch of questions such as “did you pack your own bag” even to those who had no bag! Some people were taking this part far too seriously and being quite rude with their responses to the staff/actors. Just get involved, it’s part of the experience and bloody good fun at that! This certainly built the hype for what was to come.
Once past ‘security’ you are greeted by the BEST theme-park staff I’ve ever encountered. Droning voices and unenthusiastic grunts are accompanied by dismal expressions that you just can’t help but laugh at!
It’s not until you get inside the gates that you realise the true extent of what lies in wait for you from here on in. Dreary music plays over tannoys all around the park and the whole place is crammed full of activities, exhibitions, art and generally bemusing sights!
We decided to head into the artwork exhibits inside first. These are all in various areas of the park in tents and covered buildings. The experience is jaw-dropping and the artwork is simply breathtaking. You feel like you can’t quite take it all in so we had to really take our time to explore, resisting the temptation to just walk with the flow of the crowd and take photos. We wanted to really see these pieces of art up close and to take our time. You can see a few snaps of some of my favourite pieces below (click on each pic for a bigger view) but I deliberately haven’t posted too many as these are things that you really need to see up close if you can.
There’s a ferris wheel, bars and even somewhere to eat inside Dismaland. You can play totally pointless games like duck in the muck and topple the anvil. These can win you an array of crappy prizes. The staff who run these stands are so in character it is amazing.
The guy on the hook a duck game was deliberately pushing the ducks away so that no-one stood a chance of getting them and at one point just came and stood right up close to my daughter and muttered complete gibberish at her. Play along and you’ll really see how much fun you have. Not everything in Dismaland is as dismal as it seems.
The twisted take on some of the Disney inspired art is definitely one of the highlights. Outside the front of the castle sits a deformed version of Ariel from The Little Mermaid, surrounded by a sea of murky water.
Inside the castle you will find one of the most thought provoking and beautifully disturbed pieces of the exhibit. A princess carriage lies toppled over, surrounded by paparazzi photographing her dead body as the Disney birds try desperately to pull her out of the wreckage.
It is open to interpretation, as with all art but you can see obvious similarities to princess Diana’s death and it feels like you are part of something strangely disturbing and emotional.
Everything is so dark inside that when you leave the castle you’re a little disorientated from the strobing of the photographer lights. We all felt very mixed emotions. It was just unlike anything I have ever witnessed before and is something that just has to be seen first hand.
Banksy fans will appreciate having to ‘exit through the gift shop’ and you actually do have the opportunity to bag yourself some pretty cool Dismaland merchandise on the way out.
We left feeling astounded by the amount of things we’d just seen and as we gazed across to the grass outside the venue at around 5:30pm the queues were still going strong. Trust us though, it is worth every dismal moment of standing in line. Go, experience it, take it all in and embrace the dismal bemusement that is Dismaland for yourself. You definitely won’t regret it.
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