Banksy's Dismaland is the Amusement Park of Your Childhood Nightmares

By Emily Mathieson |

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This piece originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

Weston-super-Mare is not the sort of place that’s used to making headlines. The unassuming town on the north Somerset coast is a dilapidated spot, more familiar to low-budget beachgoers and motorcyclists then the international creative community. But this week WSM finds itself in the spotlight, thanks to the arrival of Dismaland, a most unlikely tourist attraction conceived, designed and created by graffiti artist Banksy.

Dismaland is an artistic ‘theme park’ and exhibition that sells itself as “an alternative to the sugar-coated tedium of the average family day out.” When it opens tomorrow, August 21, locals who have paid just $4.25 for a ticket will be confronted with subversive exhibits that range from an oil caliphate-themed crazy golf course to a Cinderella coach crash, as well as an interactive work that advises visitors on how to hack a billboard. A willingness to participate and an open mind seem prerequisites to enjoy it, though there’s no controversy about the quality of the artists involved.

Banksy, who comes from nearby Bristol, has roped in a number of high-profile colleagues—including fellow locals Massive Attack, and confrontational artists such as Damien Hirst, Ben Long and Jenny Holzer—to bring his anarchic perspective to life. As well as providing “the chance to stand in a puddle of murky water eating cold chips,” he says Dismaland will instigate reflection on bigger themes, a concept that is heightened by the location.

A sense of gloom, impermanence and decay could hardly be better provided by the derelict lido that was once due for demolition, matched with the pop-up nature of the show’s five-week run. The whole thing will close September 27, so make a grab for tickets now.  

Emily Mathieson is on the U.K. beat for Travel + Leisure. Based in London, you can follow her at @emilymtraveled

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