The Aftermath of Banksy’s Dismaland

Banksy’s Weston-super-Mare bemusement park came and went six years ago – but it had a quiet aftermath…


Banksy’s Weston-super-Mare bemusement park came and went six years ago – but it had a quiet aftermath…

In the summer of 2015, a derelict lido in the seaside town of Weston-super-Mare in England found itself at the centre of the international art world.

Behind its walls in the July and August of that year, a piece of work started to spring up, leading quickly to rumours that it was a new art installation from the brain of renowned, mysterious artist Banksy.

As a BBC report in the middle of August 2015 noted, local residents had been told that it was the work of a Hollywood company (under the front name Grey Fox Productions), but also that the jig was up. The strong rumour was that Banksy was at work, building on reports that had been rumbling for some time. 

It was all confirmed on August 21st 2015, when the doors opened for the first time to Dismaland. This was a theme park construction that boasted ten pieces of new Banksy work amongst its attractions. Described as a ‘bemusement park’, Disneyland was clearly in its crosshairs. Dismaland was a lot cheaper though: £3 per ticket, 4000 tickets a day, and 36 days of being in business.

It was a sensation. Queues sprung up quickly, and pictures of the art installation travelled at speed around the world. People who couldn’t get into the park went along to just buy a souvenir programme, and for a while there was quite a trade going in on them on eBay. To this day, memorabilia from Dismaland litters the online auction site, albeit most prices tend to leave change from £100. 

As Banksy would tell the Sunday Times, “this is not a street art show. It’s modelled on those failed Christmas parks that pop up every December – where they stick some antlers on an Alsatian dog and spray fake snow on a skip”. Its run could have sold out many, many times over.

Yet the plan was always for Dismaland to come and go, and on September 27th 2015 it closed its doors for the last time, with a reported 150,000 people passed through its cardboard security check across its 36 days. In fact, in equally quick time it appeared to be gone, taken away from the skyline of Weston-super-Mare as swiftly as it arrived. Within a month of it closing, it was all but gone from the old lido site.

The less reported story was what happened afterwards. Within a day of it closing, Banksy had confirmed that he was dismantling the park, and that the materials would be reused. In fact, there were to be sent to Calais on the north tip of France, to be repurposed as shelters for the migrants held at a camp by Calais’ port. The Dismaland website teased the arrival of ‘Dismaland Calais’, and by December it was in place.

As this piece at Dezeen reported – with pictures – Dismaland was in France, albeit with one addition. Bansky added a mural to the Calais site of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs. The image had Jobs with a black sack over its shoulder, carrying one of his earliest computers in his right hand.

At the time Banksy was reported as saying, “we’re often led to believe migration is a drain on the country’s resources but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant. Apple is the world’s most profitable company, it pays over $7 billion a year in taxes – and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs”.

Some works from the exhibition, it should be noted, were sold to collectors. But in all, the materials from the Dismaland site that were sent to France were in turn used to built a children’s play park and a dozen dwellings in the Calais camp.

It didn’t just help shine a light on what was happening at the French port, but it actually contributed something practical too.

Cinderella’s Crash

Six summers on, Dismaland may be long gone from the seaside town, and the world has moved on in lots of ways of course. But there’s a legacy and a memory that remains there.

A piece of art that combined surprise, impact, scale and a huge level of enthusiasm from those who perhaps otherwise might not have been tempted to such an attraction. It proved a lot cheaper, and more memorable, than a trip to the parks it was clearly influenced by.

The website, incidentally, remains live. You can see it here.

Leave a Reply

More like this