Thursday, 1 October 2015


Dismaland made for a surreal, immersive experience making such a broad range of statements I left hating Seaworld, seagulls and David Cameron in almost equal measure. From consumerism to neo-liberalism, there weren't many modern-day 'isms' that escaped Banksy's brilliant ridicule.

© Ryan Chapman

Wearing their most despondent frowns, Dismaland staff were suitably dismal: from the abrupt security guards, to the cheating hook-a-duck-from-an-oil-slick attendants, to those offering maps of the site before tossing them on the floor in front of you. All staff were primed to be terrible except the bar staff. 

It would seem Banksy knows the British public well: we’re so fanatical about queuing that we’ll wait in line anywhere, and for anything; we find being demeaned by theme park staff curiously amusing; and we resolutely tolerate puddle-ridden festival-standard toilet facilities. However, we will not, under any circumstances, accept poor bar service or a low quality drinking experience. That would have been a step too far.

© Ryan Chapman

Everything from the piped music to the lighting was carefully crafted to compliment Dismaland's (un?)attractions, dotted around the dilapidated Disney-esque castle centrepiece. This housed arguably the main installation: Cinderella, slumped lifelessly out of the window of a crashed and upturned pumpkin carriage, lit only by the incessant flashing of photographers documenting her demise in an unmistakably Parisian paparazzi style.

The most sobering of the installations was billed as Banky's Mediterranean Boat Ride and consisted of model rafts crammed with migrants and a gunboat floating in a raised pond. But it was the visitor interaction that gave this spectacle its dark, sinister twist. By making the boats remote-controlled it seemed to not only become a sympathetic nod to the on-going humanitarian crisis, but a commentary on society's habit of consuming the plight of refugees as entertainment.

© Ryan Chapman

Like something from a Katie Hopkins fantasy, park-goers sailed the military vessel over face-down Action Man-sized corpses while enjoying a game of bumper-boats; ramming into the refugee-filled rafts with the haunted faces onboard watching on. After that, it's fair to say, I was thankful for the 2-for-1 vodkas.

On occasions it was easy to imagine Banksy having a laugh at his guests' expense. For £3 visitors could play a round of intentionally un-exciting and not-so-crazy golf and for £1 another sideshow challenged punters to topple over a cast-iron anvil with a ping-pong ball. “Is that it?” I overheard someone ask after they'd inevitably failed. “Go away now” replied the attendant, waving glumly at their face.

© Ryan Chapman

From the difficulty in obtaining tickets - being led to suspect the shambolic online ticketing system was all part of the prank - to the tannoy announcement when the park was closing requesting all guests kindly piss off, Dismaland both bemused and amused.

The more Banksy paints his outlook on society the more effectively the issues he highlights can be fought with the activism he promotes. After all, if his social commentary doesn't disturb and then inspire you, there is little hope.