A birthday trip to Dismaland

Living in land-locked Gloucestershire, Weston-super-Mare, at about an hour away, is our ‘local’ beach. We went there as kids and now we take our own kids there. It’s no Cornwall, but it’s nice enough for a day out.

Back in the day, there were times when we didn’t bother with the beach, we just went to The Tropicana for the day. In the 1980s, The Tropicana was the best thing ever – an outdoor pool with twisty slides in the shape of a pineapple. It might not sound much in these sophisticated times, but in those days you really couldn’t beat it.

I miss The Tropicana.

Every time we go to Weston, we wonder if it will ever come back and what they are going to do with the building, still sitting there on the seafront, looking rather miserable. When we went there at the start of August, my husband was chatting to someone ‘in the know’ about what was going on with it. Apparently it was going to be used as a film set.

Dismaland, Banksy, Weston-super-Mare

So you can imagine our surprise when just days later we learned it was to be opened briefly as Dismaland – Banksy’s answer to the amusement park. Banksy! Who painted this amazing piece in Cheltenham (which immediately got ruined by total idiots).

Banksy, Cheltenham

We had to go. Because Weston is our local beach and I used to go to The Tropicana as a kid.

But it turned out we weren’t the only ones who wanted to go. Everyone wanted to go. Not just people in Somerset, Bristol and Gloucestershire. The website crashed with the demand, people queued for tickets and I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be going.

I turned 42 the other day. We like a birthday in our house and always celebrate in some way. My husband and I usually go out for the day – just while the kids are at school. Where could we go this year? And then I had an idea – Dismaland! I had one shot. There was only one time slot I could do. I was there as the final batch of tickets went on sale. I refreshed. I refreshed again. I wondered how long I would need to refresh for. I refreshed for seven minutes and there they were! Tickets to Dismaland!

My birthday dream had come true.

*Spoiler alert* If you’re lucky enough to have Dismaland tickets for the final days, you may wish to avoid reading this post. I was pleased that I hadn’t seen too much detail about what it was all about.

Even though we had tickets, we still joined a big queue and had to wait nearly half an hour before we got in. There we were ‘greeted’ by Dismaland’s legendary staff, who shouted at people to hurry up and move along and took my husband’s ticket and screwed it up.

PicMonkey dismaland2Collage

I was expecting Dismaland to be something special, but it was so much more than that. Awesome is an overused word, but Dismaland truly is awesome. It seamlessly mixed the themes of decaying fairground/ theme park with far left politics and comment about man’s inhumanity to man. But was it dismal and depressing? No. It was thought-provoking and, actually, very, very funny.

There were the staff members who split people into ‘ugly people’ and beautiful people, the ‘hook a duck in some muck’ and ‘shoot some tins, win some things’ stalls and humorous films on the big screen.

We started off in the castle. If that was all we did, I would have gone home very, very happy. First you have your photo taken (if you’re not ‘ugly’) and you don’t know why. You’re told to point at the wall and smile. Then you go into the dark castle where bright lights are shining and flashes are going off. Cinderella’s carriage has crashed and overturned. As you walk around it, you see Cinderella’s body hanging out of the window, with two birds trying to carry her to heaven, as the paparazzi snap, snap and snap away. And, when you leave, you realise there’s a photo of you pointing and smiling at Cinderella’s dead body hanging out of her carriage.

PicMonkey cinderellaCollage

The amount of thought which has gone into everything is incredible. There isn’t an inch of Dismaland which hasn’t been carefully considered – everywhere there is decay, rubbish, graffiti and destruction. The rusted children’s rides could have been left over from the glory days of The Tropicana.

PicMonkey DismalanddecayCollage

The gallery contains ‘real art’ ie paintings on walls. It also contains the Grim Reaper riding around on a dodgem to the sound of Stayin’ Alive. I was fascinated by the large ‘model village’ of urban and rural destruction in which thousands of tiny police officers attend every disaster imaginable.

PicMonkey dismalandgalleryCollage

The ‘migrant boats’ you may have seen on TV were truly moving. The motorised boats, the sort controlled by kids with steering wheels on the edge of the water, contained the saddest human figures. Even worse than the people in the boats were those floating face-down in the water.

Dismaland, Migrant Boats, Banksy, Weston-super-Mare, Art

There is so much to see at Dismaland. It was far better than I ever imagined. We definitely could have done with staying for another hour. I’m so glad I was able to experience it for myself for my birthday.

Dismaland, Banksy, Weston-super-Mare, Art

Author: Sarah Mummy

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26 Comments

  1. It looks so good, he’s put a lot of thought into it! I’d love to go but timing isn’t quite right, I hadn’t realised it was only a temporary thing!

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    • It was absolutely amazing! It’s a shame that it was there for such a short space of time. I wonder if they will set it up anywhere else?

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    • It really was amazing! I’m so glad I managed to go.

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  2. It looks amazing! I’m glad that you were able to go! I didn’t hear about it until far to late to think about going, so thank you for sharing your photos!

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    • Thanks! We saw about it on the day it opened and were so desperate to go, especially as we’d only been in Weston talking about the Tropicana a couple of weeks earlier!

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  3. I’d love to have gone… but September’s been hectic and I haven’t found the time. Happy to hear that you enjoyed your visit, thanks for sharing your experiences and fabulous photos x

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    • Thanks! You have had a busy month! I really didn’t think I was going to make it there myself either. x

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  4. It’s funny because we saw this being constructed when we were there in the summer and we joked it looked Disney-like! One of the constructions looked like Wall-E’s face! I would have loved to have gone so thank you for sharing your experience – and a belated Happy Birthday x

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    • It amazed me that they managed to keep it so secret over the summer. That was definitely part of the appeal. I’m so glad I got to go! x

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  5. Sarah I am so made up for you that you managed to get tickets on your birthday. You have took some fantastic pictures and it certainly does look an awesome place to visit. What a shame it will close soon with the huge visitor numbers it is attracting x

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    • Thanks very much! It really was even better than I imagined it would be. It is a shame it’s closing soon, but I suppose that fits in with the nature of it! x

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  6. So glad you got tickets and enjoyed it. I was pretty determined to go to so we ended up queuing (for a long time) for the walk up tickets. So worth it though 🙂

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    • I’m impressed! I’m not sure I would have had the staying power to queue, although a friend of mine queued for five hours and still thought it was worth it!

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  7. I’m so happy your birthday wish came true…..It looks a fab place to visit! So interesting and awesome x

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    • Thanks very much! It really was 🙂 x

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  8. What an experience eh? We’re glad you had a wonderful time Sarah! Your pictures are fabulous and we love the way you describe the staff! Now you can read our opinion without us giving anything away 😉 Happy Belated Birthday x

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    • Thanks very much. It was amazing, wasn’t it? So glad I go to experience it for myself.

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  9. LOOKS AMAZING! I am so jealous! I think I would love it there but I think my husband would hate it! So I just have to gorge on the photos of other people going. So glad you had such a lovely time. I used to go to Tropicana too! x

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    • Yay! The Tropicana was the best! It was absolutely amazing. I’m glad my husband loved it as much as I did! x

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  10. Happy Birthday!! Glad you got to do something you wanted for your birthday. I have seen a lot of hype about this place but I think I would find it depressing

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    • Thanks very much. It was anything but depressing, it was very funny. Everyone had a smile on their faces!

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  11. It looks incredible Sarah – well done for persevering to get tickets! As you say, what a thought-provoking place. How long is it open for?

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    • It closes today! I’m so glad I got in there before the end. It was absolutely brilliant.

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  12. Weston is our ‘local’ beach too, although we are further away. I have many happy memories of The Tropicana too and I had been to nowhere else like it as a child. Dismaland looks amazing. A fantastic birthday treat!

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