I doubt there is much that I can say about Dismaland that hasn’t already been said by others. Banksy has declared the park “unsuitable for children”, so why did we go as a family? Firstly, why not?! I am on a personal mission to have an art filled summer and we’d already planned to be in the South West over Bank Holiday week. Secondly, (finally) there was an art exhibition on that was being talked about, across the globe, for the ‘right’ reasons – because it had something to say – in fact Dismaland has a lot to say about a lot of current issues: refugees, domestic violence, the middle east, the west bank, animal rights, climate change, etc. etc. not to mention the Disney-fication of real life for children. (At this point I am reminded of a Facebook status posted by my teenage nephew several years ago: “I think all girls ought to sue Disney, there is no such thing as a knight in shining armour, there are just tossers in tin foil”. He’s wise beyond his years!)
While queuing up to go in, and when inside Dismaland we were please to see so many children there. To be honest most of what we saw went over the head of our 6 year old daughter, and if she wanted to understand what she was seeing she asked – and she got a straight answer. She enjoyed her rides on the merry-go-round and ferris wheel and was very happy to act the part when posing for photos. She understood the 3D sculpture of an Orca jumping out of a toilet, once I’d talked it through with her. Her verdict was “that is a very clever way of saying that message” and declared “Ariel looks a bit odd, doesn’t she!” She was the one to point out to us that there was a horse hanging upside down above the abattoir worker on the merry-go-round. (Highlighting to us that there are a few advantages to being just over half my height, and that this offers a different point of view – in many ways).
We didn’t get to see everything in the 3 or so hours we were there (4 if you include the hour weaving our way to get in). We missed out on viewing what the geo-dome and circus tent contained. And, we joined the queue for the Cruel Museum but abandoned the idea because of its slow progress. By 3pm our daughter’s reward ice cream was calling, as was the M5. I had been keen to see the Cruel Museum because of the curator and designers involved in its creation. But on reflection I am pretty sure there was stuff in there that I would not want any 6 year old reading about or seeing.
I’d be hard pushed to pick a favourite piece or pieces. The funniest part of the day was when I was watching my partner and daughter on the Merry-go-round. A guy, who I later saw working on the bar, came up to me with a sullen face and said “You look far too happy, have a bit of lemon to suck on” and he thrust a large plastic cup full of sliced lemons towards me – I duly did as I was told (I quite like lemon!). I am left thinking that an art exhibition to this standard every year or every other year, in a seaside town somewhere in the UK could be a good thing all round.
I’m now off to read more about the artists in my copy of the souvenir programme*…
(If you’re interested in using an un-watermarked version of these images please contact me)