We arose to the sound of our alarm creeping into our ears at the repulsive hour of 7.45am. Slowly, we lurked around my house packing things we didn’t need and garments we never wear, and exited through the front door scowl first.
The weather sat on our backs as we strolled towards the bus stop to embark on our epic Weston Super Mare adventure 2015. Live Laugh Love repeating over and over in our heads. After revealing that the changeover bus driver was late, we got off the bus and waited for a second one. Gripping our bottomless/minimally funded oyster cards in our claws- we were ready. For nothing. Eventually we arrived at Victoria station and were greeted by a long queue for a late coach. The congested waiting area packed full of like-minded travellers waiting to embark on their own seemingly stressful journey’s. The collective scent of anticipation, stale coffee, and oversized luggage queued up with us as we awaited the speaker to announce our departures.
19:10 bus to Bristol. Yes.
We joined the trail of people and boarded the double deckered beauty. Thankfully for me I was blessed with a blocked nose at this point because apparently the scent resembled second hand carrots and shame. Alas, we were on our way and were genuinely getting excited. The vast countryside was a genuine delight for the eyes whilst munching my boots meal deal and eavesdropping on the chat around me. Neither of us had ever been to Bristol, let alone Weston Super Mare, and in our eyes any adventure was a good idea.
Finally we arrived in Bristol after Marissa’s nose had collapsed from the scented heat, and walked around for a few sunny hours before getting the next train to our final destination. Upon arrival in Weston Super Mare we were greeted cracks first by some dilapidated buildings and a floor stencil reading “Banksy” with an arrow pointing forward. There is something highly tragic about what used to be a thriving holiday destination having the highlight of their touristic season being a bemusement park named “Dismaland.” Our lovely Airbnb host picked us up and drove us along the seafront whilst telling us about how popular Dismaland had been. She suggested that we attempted to go that night because a lot of people who had stayed with her had walked straight in during the evening.
Once we arrived at her beautiful Victorian town house and whipped out the radox muscle soak to become human again, we embarked on our Dismaland attempt round one. Because we took the term “wing it” a bit too literally, we didn't book online tickets and decided to just turn up. After queuing in front of a ridiculously obnoxious man who sounded like his tractor was his best mate, we realised that everyone was a ticket holder and that we basically needed to leave. So to feel somewhat better about ourselves we went and dropped fifty quid on a three course meal in a restaurant older than Canada and listened to an Aussie refer to his homeland as Estrella, and another guy at the table refer to Banksy as the “Picasso of the street” whilst Dancing Queen played softly in the background. It was absolutely beautiful.
Walking back along the cobbled streets past empty bars and arcades, crumbling posters and buildings, signs missing letters and meaning, and scrumpy jack cans on the street, we couldn't help but feel like this was literally the perfect place for Banksy’s installment. After a brief stint on tinder to see what Weston had to offer and receiving a dismal selection, we turned off the light and prepared for Dismaland attempt round two.
“Good morning sunshine” said no one in Weston Super Mare that morning. Were we ready? No because we didn’t pack properly. Were we fresh? Yes because Radox Muscle Soak is an absolute babe. Were we sure if we were getting in? Absolutely not.
11.30am we joined the queue and had the absolute pleasure of meeting Tony and Sue- a local couple both of the regal age of 70 celebrating 27 years together to the day. The next time you see a picture of “relationship goals” online you should genuinely reassess what that phrase actually means to you. I’m pretty sure going to see Dismaland takes priority over going up t’ shard for a bottle of prosecco and pretentious shite anyday. Sue in her luminous purple jacket and Versace shades, and Tony in his rain mac and towering height definitely stuck out amongst the crowd of teenagers. Positively, of course. So, four hours, two best mates, one sandwich, seven cigarettes, and two coffees later, we finally got in. The whole park was quite small as it used to be an outdoor pool named “Tropicana” when Weston Super Mare was a thriving summer destination; it would be packed with families and would draw people from all over the UK. Banksy, being a born and bred Bristolian, used to visit as a kid and wanted to use the now abandoned space for a project. The pieces on display were genuinely breathtaking and their messages resounding; the staff were painfully dismal which, alongside the rain and grey sky, made for a perfectly depressing and yet deeply thought provoking experience.
What I took from Dismaland was the experience of seeing an area full of people appreciating the main common denominator that we share and have stamped on our foreheads: underdog. We walk around on a daily basis conforming to rules and regulations which are carefully crafted by those above us; all of which we have no opportunity to change, and yet seem blissfully content. We all buy the latest phones, shoes, jeans, whatever, and feel current. We hold money higher than we hold our own esteem with the anticipation that it will become something substantial, only to fuel it back into the system with the receipt of a product we have been told to want. This game we have been drafted to take part in since birth is relentless, it’s hard, and it requires willpower. I felt a sense of unity and awareness of this whilst walking around Dismaland, and it made me analyse and question a lot of things that I do in my own life, and decisions that I think that I make on my own.
There were genuine stalls handing out information of protests and information about the lack of affordable housing all over the UK. The entire project had an outspoken purpose, and it was truly noticeable when speaking to those involved (without the ears on). In the editor’s note Banksy wrote: “Here you’re encouraged to consider, not just consume, to look, not just spectate”, which needs to be the case in general, but far too often is not. There are so many strong artists who were featured in the installment whose messages have such passionate depth and social purpose that they are impossible to ignore.
Based on how dismal the lead up to the whole experience was, it’s funny how much I actually enjoyed the installment. I apologise for how late this is because I’m not even sure whether tickets are available anymore, but I would recommend winging it like we did. If that sounds like the worst suggestion you’ve ever declined, then at least give it a google and read about all of the individual pieces.
They won’t be as dismal as your mood after reading this. Maybe.