Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Dismaland Revisited

I've often extolled the virtues of living in the South West of England.

I live in the beautiful county of Somerset where we are surrounded by stunning countryside and hills as well as being close to Exmoor national park.

We are within an hour of the dramatic Jurassic coast, a natural world Heritage Site.

It's not much further to the North Devon and Dorset beaches and I can be right in the heart of Cornwall in 2 hours.

But the one place you would be unlikely to hear me raving about or suggesting you visit is Weston-Super-Mare.

It really doesn't have a great deal to recommend it and locally it's known as Weston-Super-Mud.  It does have a sandy beach but it's situated on the Bristol Chanel which has a large tidal range and the low tide mark is about a mile from the seafront.  At low tide large and very dangerous mud flats are exposed.

Despite that it does seem to be a fairly popular family holiday destination with it's Pier and amusement arcades.  There also appears to be a certain amount of regeneration taking place in the town itself as a quick wander around yesterday proved.  I actually think Weston is generally a much nicer place after dark and out of season but it's certainly not one of my 'go to' places.

Until ...

Well, you'd probably have had to have been living with your head stuck in a mud flat not to have heard about Banksy and his latest venture, Dismaland.

Banksy is a local lad and hails from Bristol (just up the road).  He is a satirical street artist, political activist, film director, and painter.

Much of his artwork is politically motivated.

Well, I am not a political animal but I AM a lover of art and of being challenged and much of Banksy work is certainly challenging!

Dismaland is housed in the derelict Lido  on Weston's seafront.

The Lido used to look like this:

Image credit

The site was first developed in 1937 and had an Art Deco diving board and was the largest open air swimming pool in Europe.

 In 2000 the Tropicana closed and since then there have been a number of unsuccessful attempts to re-open or redevelop it.

Earlier this Summer it was announced that Banksy would be hosting an exhibition at the Lido.  He called it a,  "family theme park unsuitable for children".

Well of COURSE I wanted to go!!!

The exhibition was to run for 5 weeks with tickets released in tranches and 'walk up' tickets available on the day.

The website crashed in spectacular style in the first weeks leading many people to believe that it was all part of the 'dismal' experience.

However, SD knew of many people who had bought the 'walk up' tickets on the day and so, a couple of weeks ago that is what WE decided to do.

We arrived in Weston at about 5.30pm, the next entry time was at 7pm and I really wanted to see Dismaland in both daylight and at night.

We eventually found a parking spot and, as we walked towards the seafront I mentioned a fairly urgent need for a loo.

'You'll need 20p said SD', the toilets in Western are NOT free, 'have you got any change?'.

Well, I hadn't brought my bag.  I'd heard they were doing bag searches as you went in and to be honest, I couldn't be bothered to clear out all the used tissues etc.

At that moment SD realised that he had forgotten to pick up his wallet and in fact, WE HAD NO MONEY!!!

After some debate we decided we would drive home again, pick up some money and come back.

Some time after 7pm we returned and joined the queue.

The QUEUE ...!!!

I don't know HOW many people were queueing.  The grass area across the road had been reserved for queueing with a series of fences set up in a chicane fashion.  There may have been as many as 1000 people there.

SD (who has much better long vision than me) saw a sign in the distance saying 'no walk ups today'.

It could have been a joke ...


We went for chips and admired the lights from Dismaland from outside ...

So anyway, to cut a what is becoming a very long blog post short!

Last Thursday I hopped on a train.  Got to Weston at about 1:30pm.  Followed the signs on the pavement:

Joined a HUGE queue.  Was convinced my chances of getting in on my third attempt were very slim when!

An angel named Caroline came to the queue and asked if anyone wanted to buy some tickets.  She and her daughter had both been on line hoping that one of them would get lucky and they BOTH did so she had some spares!

I almost bit her hand off!!!

By 2:30 I was inside Dismaland and, well, the photo's in my earlier post speak for themselves but I'll re-post a few and talk you through them.

Dismaland isn't ALL about Banksy although there are many of his works around the place.  It's actually a collaboration of more than 50 artists, sculptors and photographers some, like the Big Rig Jig by the American artist Mike Ross were on a HUGE scale:

The sculpture was created from two unused tanker trucks that have been hollowed out and made into a vertical tower.  It's impossible to see what keeps it up and it's hugely impressive as well as being huge!

Some are just small bits of paper tacked to the walls with messages on like these by Wasted Rita who uses sarcastic words and dark humour:

Not sure why this is appearing upside down - consider it part of the dismal experience if it gives you neck ache trying reading it ...

 To me it  would have seemed wrong to live so close and not to visit Dimaland whatever your views might be on Street Art/Graffiti and the subversive nature of many of the artists.

There were a lot of serious points being made, some with (dark) humour:

Cinderella's upturned carriage inside the castle was surrounded by paparazzi taking photos and for many was too reminiscent of princess Diana's accident.

This guy formed part of the carousel which was open for rides as he sat on boxes filled with lasagna with a carousel horse suspended above him

To be honest, there WASN'T any light humour although much of it would have passed over the heads of many of the younger visitors.

The children seemed to enjoy hook the duck where plastic ducks swam in an oil filled pool with an oil covered cormorant hanging down and the dismal 'fairground worker' shouted, 'hook a duck from the muck, win a fish finger ...' as she squirted visitors with oily water:

And I saw plenty of people playing Mini Gulf where the obstacles included a crashed helicopter and an oil slick:

On a lighter note, I DID get chatted up by Tom one of the workers as I stood at the top bar overlooking the sight.

He offered me half his baguette (which I declined) and covered my cold hands with his very warm ones as I tried to make the puppets below dance:

I did question his cheerfulness in the face of all that was Dismal and he told me that he had had 5 weeks of scowling at people and being rude and unhelpful.  He also told me I had nice eyes and a lovely smile and if he were ever in Taunton he would like to take me for tea and cake.

There has been much talk of what might now happen to the Lido.  The thought of turning it into a centre for art might just be a knee jerk reaction to the huge success that was Dismaland and the fact that it is purported to have brought 20 million pounds to the local economy.

What would I like ...

Well, I think the absolute best thing that could happen is for the original Lido to be restored to it's former Kitchness.  Weston needs somewhere you can swim when the tides out as far as Cardiff!

Failing that it would be a great place for open air concerts on the 3 evenings a year you would want to be at the seaside in the UK at night.  Or maybe the suggestion that Wetherspoons turn it into a pub isn't such a bad thing if they kept it as much as possible as it is now in it's dilapidated state.

The one thing I hope doesn't happen is that it just fades from the spotlight and slowly decays until it's pulled down.  That I think would be a great shame.

Anyway, that's about all folks apart form these two videos.  One is a spoof which made me laugh (but be warned, there is a LOT of bad language and it IS very puerile ...).  


The other is a clip from the BBC news and guess who gets 2 seconds of fame???

No, not ME!!

Miss Mac and her friends were interviewed and after the edit they get a couple of seconds air time.  All I could think when I saw it was that those 18 months in braces had been a great investment in Miss Mac's future (on the far left) - GREAT teeth my sweet!


Young at Heart said...

how utterly brilliant..... am so envious it looks wonderful ....didn't make it there but did go to Dreamlands, the newly re-opened, retro, fabulous funfare in Margate... perhape Weston will get one too!!

Sarah said...

It was an amazing experience, so glad I went! I've just googled Dreamlands, what a fantastic place, I'd never heard of it! So much history surrounding it too. I do hope they manage to do something similar for the Tropicana.

joeh said...

I think I would prefer Dismaland over DisneyLand.

Sarah said...

Me too Joe, I've never been but I don't think that Disneyland would really do it for me

Vicki Boster said...

Sarah---- I can't even imagine this display!!! Wow does not cover the emotions!! You are very lucky that you could work your way into that crowd to see the art show!!!
Thanks for the story and photos...

Sarah said...

I feel very lucky that I live so close and was able to go Vicki.