The Magic Kingdom of Banksy’s ‘Dismaland': The unhappiest place on earth

By on August 21, 2015

Beginning this Saturday, August 22nd, and for the next five weeks, you can visit Dismaland (aka Dismal Land, “The UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction”), an anti-Disneyland themed “bemusement” park that just might be the unhappiest place on earth.

Dismaland is packed full of subversive artworks that take a deadly apocalyptic anti-consumerist, anti-corporate aim at both art, culture and modern life… which is rubbish, apparently, in the eyes of UK street artist Banksy, who describes his creation — a festival of art, amusements and entry-level anarchism — as a “family theme park unsuitable for children.”

Enjoy this wonderful Banksy interview and video, posted online on August 25th.

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The Mashable video tour we’re featuring here, and the photos in the gallery below — many of the images were featured in the Juxtapoz cover story here, which features an exclusive interview with Banksky — provide a pretty good look at what Dismaland features for its visitors.

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Dismaland sits on 2.5 acres, which includes an old public swimming pool facility, in the derelict West Country seafront town in Weston-super-Mare, in Somerset, England (we’re told it’s easily accessible by train, bus and road. Marine Parade BS23 1BE). It was built on on the site of the Tropicana, a 10,200-square-foot lido, which closed down fifteen years ago due to the lack of paying visitors. It has been abandoned ever since.

“I loved the Tropicana as a kid, so getting to throw these doors open again is a real honour,” Banksy told Juxtapoz.

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Apparently, the entire area was reportedly closed off for the past several months under the guise of a Hollywood film shooting there called Grey Fox. The construction site had signs reading “Crew Notice Grey Fox Productions” put up around it to distract onlookers, and the so-called film project claimed it was produced by Charles Roven’s company Atlas Entertainment—behind the upcoming Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice—and directed by Declan Whitebloom, whose representative denied he was in Weston-super-Mare, according to The Daily Mail.

As Banksy told Juxtapoz, “Like so many projects, it started with a gap in the fence. Eight months ago, I came to Weston on a windy day, and one of the boards on the gate had blown down. From the first glimpse through the gap, I was smitten. I used to come here swimming as a kid, but no one’s been inside for fifteen years.”

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Banksy contributes ten pieces of his own to the exhibition, but much of the focus is on the 50 other artists from around the world whose work is featured, including Damien Hirst, Bill Barminski, Caitlin Cherry, Polly Morgan, Josh Keyes, Mike Ross, David Shrigley, Bäst, and Espo.

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The show is Banksy’s first in the UK since 2009’s Banksy v Bristol Museum show. According to the Bristol Post, the amusement park is being billed as a “sinister twist on Disneyland,” and includes a pink dystopian version of the Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle, a horse-like sculpture, an S-shaped gas tanker, and various other oddball attractions.

Today, Friday, August 21st, is a “local’s only” day at the “bemusement” park, and thereafter it will be open to the public until Sept. 27th.

There’s also a series of events including a show by Pussy Riot and Massive Attack on September 25th.

Dismaland will be open from 11am – 11pm. You can buy tickets online (£3) or at Dismaland, free for the under 5’s. Capacity is limited, visit the ticket page and book a time slot for guaranteed entry.

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From the event’s official brochure:

“Are you looking for an alternative to the soulless sugar-coated banality of the average family day out? Or just somewhere cheaper. Then this is the place for you—a chaotic new world where you can escape from mindless escapism. Instead of a burger stall, we have a museum. In place of a gift shop we have a library, well, we have a gift shop as well.

Bring the whole family to come and enjoy the latest addition to our chronic leisure surplus—a bemusement park. A theme park who’s big themes: theme parks should have bigger themes…

This event contains adult themes, distressing imagery, extended use of strobe lighting, smoke effects and swearing. The following items are strictly prohibited: knives, spraycans, illegal drugs, and lawyers from the Walt Disney corporation.”

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The entire exhibition is staffed by morose Dismaland employees who seem completely uninterested in being helpful or informative. Getting into the park itself requires an uncomfortably awkward NSA-style guest screening, and even trying to find the exit requires a near herculean effort.

This also isn’t the first time Banksy has trolled Disney. Back in 2006, Banksy inserted a life-sized inflatable doll dressed as a Guantanamo Bay detainee (orange jumpsuit, black hood, handcuffs) in the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. According to BBC News, the figure remained there for 90 minutes before being removed, and a spokesman for Banksy claimed “the stunt was intended to highlight the plight of terror suspects at the controversial detention centre in Cuba.”

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A few days ago, we posted about Banksy Does New York coming out on DVD, so be sure to check that post out too.

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.