Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Dismaland

On 27 August, I was lucky enough to nab tickets to Dismaland, an exclusively limited Banksy exhibition that would only be running for a number of weeks.

Each week, the tickets would go on sale for the following week and each week, these tickets sold out within 4 hours.

So I was quite surprised and ecstatic when, after pressing refresh furiously, I made it through. I grabbed two tickets for a grand total of £10 for Saturday 5 September and rejoiced.

Saturday 5 September
As I had managed to get through to purchase the tickets, Dan organised our transport there. Dismaland was held on an abandoned block in Weston-super-mare (or Weston-Super-Mario, as it was henceforth named) which is a good two hours out of London. Transport was significantly more expensive than the tickets themselves, which is mildly ironic, but everything about the day was well worth the cost.

There were three ticket times you could choose from, and for each wave the previous group had to leave. 11am, 2pm (closing at 6pm), reopening at 7pm. We chose the 2pm time slot as that afforded us the most time in the park.

After a number of excited hours on the train getting to Weston-Super-Mario, we alighted and paused outside the station. Many of the train passengers began walking in a certain direction and so we decided to follow. Very soon, however, we realised that Banksy was indeed showing us the way.



The pavement was graffitied with signage pointing us in the right direction (making sure to use safe walking crossing and pedestrian lights) for the about 15 minute walk to the fairground. We were running a bit early, so we made our way down to the beach. Yes, beach! At no point did it occur to me that I would be seeing beach, nor sandy beach, and so I had a small homesick moment as I realised I had seen very little (to almost no) sandy beach in over a year. Soon, this gave way to wonder as Dan pointed to the landscape across from us, commenting "That's Wales."

A little bit before 2pm we began wandering towards Dismaland, just in time. The queue formed long behind us and we waiting impatiently for the time to roll around.



Inside Dismaland
I saw people ahead of me being turned away from ticket and ID checking. What's going on? I thought. I finally got to the front and realised our ticket inspector was being a tool and forcing people to join the back of the other queue. I passed over my ticket, not sure what to expect. Bored, he looked at it, scrunched up his face, cocked his head in the direction of the entrance and said, "Piss off."

I did as I was told and entered the first building which was set up like airport security. Except everything was made out of cardboard. I approached the security station.



"Stop smiling." The attendant glared at me. I couldn't wipe the grin from my face.
"Look into that camera there," she said, pointing to a cardboard camera affixed to the wall. I attempted to still my face. "Look into it 5 seconds. We are watching you. Stop smiling."

Finally, I was allowed to enter and, as I waited for Dan's interrogation, two more security personnel surrounded me.
"What have you got in your bag?"
"My coat and tissues, mostly, I'm sick!"
"Urgh! Get out of here with your germs!" and Dan and I burst into the bemusement park.



We didn't quite know where to start. There was a huge line forming on our left and so, true to the human condition, we decided to join it. While in the line, I wandered to the programme stand.
"May I have a programme please?"
"I suppose so," was the bored and uninterested reply. He then asked me if I was Australian. "Bloody long way to come for wind and rain," he said and handed me the programme.

The queue was for a long hall along the left hand side of the bemusement park. Once inside, it was an incredible exhibition of sculpture, paintings and miscellaneous, including a few unassuming Banksy's.





Pretty certain this was art too.

After the hall, I was desperate to go on the Ferris Wheel and after a short line up we clambered aboard. My hands were shaking from my fear of heights, when the ferris wheel suddenly started up backwards and incredibly fast. I found it rather terrifying, but it also afforded an amazing view of the park, across the beach and all the way to Wales. A number of terrifying circulations later and I was back on solid ground, legs shaky.

We were ready for a sit down, and grabbed ourselves a couple of ciders and nestled down at the 'cinema' - a roughly-hour-long loop of short videos on every subject from diving giraffes to the wonders of ageing, to hard hitting international themes.


From here, we had a look in a circus tent which had a real live(dead) unicorn. Next to it was a pond with remote control boats. Cool! I thought, and we put our pound in and started whizzing the boats around. It was then I realised...the boats were filled with people. There was one boat that looked suspiciously liked a police boat. The boats were filled with refugees and there were a handful of dolls lying face down, drowned, in the water. This was only days after the poor small boy was found on the beach and I felt incredibly sad and uncomfortably and ceased to spin my boat around.

Powerful stuff. Thought provoking. To cheer up, we jumped on the carousel - another first for Dan! After the ticket girl begrudgingly gave us our tickets and told us not to fall off, the carousel set off - backwards. After a minute it ground to a half and then started off the right way around. Up and down and up and down - I felt like a kid again!

We also had a look inside the main Cinderella castle, one of the major Banksy works. Once inside, it was pitch black - the illumination coming from strobing flash lights. Cameras. Paparazzi. Cinderella's carriage was upturned, Cinderella hanging out the window. An allusion to Princess Diana, by any chance?

A video posted by flossycomet (@flossycomet) on


By now, it was almost time for our Dismaland experience to be over and, a quick picture through the Selfie Hole and we shuffled our way out of the door.



***
I feel very lucky to have been able to experience Dismaland and for it to live up to expectations. The staff were perfectly in character, I could imagine them going home each evening, excitedly telling their friends So I was a total arsehole to this family today... The art was beautiful, interesting, thought provoking, hard-hitting and exceptionally well done. And, a little fact - once Dismaland was over, it was dismantled and all the materials used to built shelters for refugees at Calais. Cool, huh?



Dan and I finished the day with fish and chips on the beach (which made me feel strangely homesick!) before settling down for the long train journey home.

xx



Unfuck the system.