Life at UCB through the eyes of our student bloggers

Once Upon a Time, in a Dismal Kingdom

Once Upon a Time, in a Dismal Kingdom

My boyfriend Tom and I made the short trip to the ‘sunny’ seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare. We weren’t there to build sandcastles or spend hours on the pier; we were there to experience Dismaland, a dreary post-apocalyptic theme park brought into existence by world famous street artist Banksy. Now, I’m no art expert, but when I heard about Dismaland, I knew we had to go. Mainly because I absolutely love seeing people express ideas through art, especially when their message makes a big impact on the viewer. That, and it sounded like a comically harrowing day out, at least according to the media buzz surrounding the place, anyway.



After queuing with the hundreds of people for about an hour, we were finally permitted into the park, first having to endure “security” taking out his cardboard metal detector, and asking “Got any bombs on you?” one guard threw our water bottles across the room before we ventured into the main area.



As first impressions go, Dismaland’s is decidedly… well, dismal. Creepily slowed-down Hawaiian music plays throughout a dystopian post-apocalyptic setting, combined with the cartoonishly-sullen attitude of the staff (who will actively go out of their way to make you uncomfortable) ensure that Dismaland certainly lives up to its name. If anything, I found the melancholy and bored attitude of the staff absolutely hilarious. Although, sometimes it could possibly be a little over the line, like when one of the stewards roared into the pram of a passing baby, causing him to cry (and possibly scarring him for life).


Although the name may suggest that Dismaland is a kind of satirical parody of Disneyland, Banksy himself has said the bemusement park is not about Disney at all. If anything, it seemed to me like it was a fairly accurate representation on those run-down pop-up fair grounds, with some classic British black humour thrown into the midst. However, when you look around it’s hard to disagree that the creepy carnival atmosphere and the undeniably disturbing exhibits serve as a thinly-veiled introspection of our society. Despite the initial shock at some of pieces (I’m looking at you, ‘drive a refugee boat’), it was hard not to enjoy what was there. I was lounging on deck chairs in front of the open air cinema, watching short films that went from horrific, to cute, then back to horrific again.

Experiencing a ride in a space caravan, or trying to win an anvil by toppling the anvil, nothing in the park is as it first appears. Even the most innocuous things take on a more significant meaning after taking a good hard look at them. Even something as innocent as a carousal ride can be twisted into social commentary. One of the horses was hanging from the ceiling of the ride, in the process of being butchered by an overall-clad mannequin sat atop a box of frozen lasagnes. I may not know a whole lot about interpretive art, but I know a horse meat reference when I see one.



Drive a refugee boat, take on drive a lifeguard boat…

The entrance to the three galleries inside the park is reminiscent of a fever dream, with large flashing road signs displaying trippy messages while a crazed worker erratically skids around on a bumper car. One of the pieces I liked the most inside the galleries was a beach ball floating on a wind current above an assortment of sharp knives positioned eagerly beneath it. I don’t think I’ve ever sympathized with a beach ball before, but this day was full of “firsts” for me.


Hovering beach ball above knives. I love how this is done! This one was created by Damien Hirst.

Hovering beach ball above knives. I love how this is done! This one was created by Damien Hirst.

Mini-Gulf: Oil Caliphate themed mini golf

Playing mini-gulf: Oil Caliphate themed mini golf course

Inside the princess castle: Cinderella's carriage overturned and surrounded by paparazzi. This one made me think who is the artist trying to put the view on, the life of a princess in the media trying to escape the paparazzi, or a take on the late Princess Diana's death. Or is it us? People who want the insight into celebrity's lives, no matter what cost?

Inside the princess castle: Cinderella’s carriage overturned and surrounded by paparazzi. This one made me think a lot. Who is the artist trying to put the view on, the life of a princess in the media trying to escape the paparazzi, is it a exhibit on the late Princess Diana’s death. Then I thought, is it us? A representation of our society who crave an insight and gossip into celebrity’s lives, at no matter what cost.

It might sound like I’m hating on Dismaland, but the truth is, I thoroughly enjoyed it, I don’t know if the artists want to push messages onto you, or make you think about something in a certain way, or just truly want you to have a miserable day. Personally, I think Banksy and the other artists have created a unique and fun exhibition where they have put a creative twist on different elements that are happening in the world. I did walk out thinking about what some of it meant, and what I think it meant, but I also walked out having appreciated the whole exhibition and having an awesomely strange day.


A lady (and me) being attacked by seagulls. This was done by Banksy!

A lady  being attacked by seagulls (and me hiding away from her).  This was done by Banksy!


Lots of these balloons to buy!


Lots of posters, speaking about our society.

Definitely sends a message.

Definitely sends a message.

Modern- face in hole beach cutouts.

Modern- face in hole beach cutouts.

Despite the negative/ positive vibes on Dismaland, it’s so important to recognize the world-wide attention it’s brought to Weston-Super-Mare, a seaside town at the height of it’s popularity way back in the Victorian era. Brad Pitt is one of the names to have visited, as well as people from all over the world! A couple we spoke to from France had booked a trip to the UK just for Dismaland! In the five weeks Dismaland has been open, it’s been rumoured to have brought approximately £20 million to the local economy, which is amazing for the area. The exhibition has been a sell-out, only permitting the entry of 4,000 people a day, with tickets having been sold in waves each week online for £5, or £3 on the door (not guaranteed entry for the latter, but definitely guaranteed long queue waiting times). Dismaland closes it’s doors for good tomorrow, so if you planning on going or have already gotten a ticket for the last, you will definitely enjoy it, and walk away having had an utterly dismal, delightful, day.

On a separate note, hope everyone has had a great first week back and settled in well!

D x

Ending the dismal day in true British style: Fish & chips on the beach!

Ending the dismal day in true British style: Fish & chips on the beach!

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