If you’ve been paying attention to the news recently you may have seen quite a few reports and articles about a new amusement park called Dismaland which opened up to the public last Saturday in Weston-super-Mare. The brochure makes some pretty big claims, promising to be the UK’s “most disappointing new visitor attraction” and having “the finest collection of contemporary art ever assembled in a North Somerset seaside town“.
Well, I thought it would be worth actually having a look around Dismaland and see if it really lived up to its bold claims. So, sit back and relax as I take you on a little tour – and you can see for yourself what sort of sights and fun await you inside!
Dismaland Review: Where Hope Goes to Die
The Dismaland ‘bemusement park’ is located right on the seafront in Weston-super-Mare in a central location close to local transport – it’s only a 15 minute walk to the main train station and there’s plenty of hotels and B&Bs close by as well in case you’re travelling far to see it. However despite its optimal location I have to say the entire thing did look to be in a complete state of disrepair. I’d expected the Dismaland park owners to maybe take a bit more pride in its appearance! It doesn’t seem to be putting people off though. People have been queueing for hours to get in and tickets have been reportedly very difficult to get, so you may be standing outside for a while – whether or not it’s worth it though is yet to be seen.
I’ll be honest with you – I’ve never met ruder staff in my entire life. Even just getting into Dismaland is an horrid ordeal in itself – security is incredibly tight and with the pat-downs and inspection it almost feels like you’re at an airport security check in America. Once you’re finally inside Dismaland things don’t get any better either. The staff are apathetic and completely uninterested in everything that’s going on, all while telling guests to “end-joy” their time. If you were expecting a warm welcome this definitely isn’t the place for you.
Probably the most important bit of any theme park! Don’t get your hopes up though, because it’s about to all get worse – Dismaland will take every ounce of joy you once felt and leave you feeling like an empty husk. The fair games are nigh impossible to do, with one of them requiring you to tip an anvil by throwing ping pong balls at it. There’s a slide made from trucks which looks impressive but you won’t be able to use it. Death is riding the only bumper-car available. The castle looks like it’s about to collapse at any given moment. Inside it Cinderella’s carriage has crashed – her lithe corpse is hanging out of the window as the paparazzi surround the scene, frantically taking pictures. A killer whale leaps out of a toilet into a paddling pool. An elderly woman on a bench is being pecked to death by seagulls.
As for children there’s only a tiny selection of attractions on offer for them in Dismaland. There’s a small play area, although in some cruel way it’s probably even more depressing than the rest of the park (if that was even possible). There’s also a stand selling toys, but first you have a take out a pocket money loan for up to 5,000% APR, and the Punch & Judy performances make perhaps a few too many references to Jimmy Savile.
It’s awful. Truly and utterly awful. Dismal. Depressing, bleak, desolate – the list goes on and on. For £3 you’ll be spending the day wondering why on Earth you came all the way to Weston-super-Mare just to be violated by security guards and stand in a rotting lido surrounded by contorted Disney characters.
But that is exactly why you should go and see Dismaland. It’s not just wonderfully depressing, but also filled to the brim with political messages which lash out at the establishment and make a mockery of the recent hysteria in British media (killer seagulls, anyone?). Not to mention the artwork on display is fantastic. It’s not just Bansky’s work being exhibited here – there’s over 50 artists from all over the world, with Damien Hirst, David Shrigley and Jenny Holzer to name a few. It’s Bansky’s first show in the UK since 2009 (the immensely successful Banksy v Bristol Museum show), and its a huge change from his usual street art and murals. There’s also a whole programme of live acts as well which run for the whole 5 weeks Dismaland is open and concludes on the 25th September with Kate Tempest, Pussy Riot and Massive Attack.
Dismaland runs from August 22nd to the 27th September.