Travel broadcaster Phil Blizzard discovers that the temporary ‘art’ installation in the seafront’s disused open air swimming pool has been a big financial success for the resort.
The Tropicana lido was often frequented by this writer whilst growing up in this Somerset seaside town and also by ‘alternative’ artist - the somewhat elusive Banksy from the nearby city of Bristol.
Back in January of this year Banksy was motivated to construct the Dismaland project on this site, popular with low income holidaymakers and abandoned since the turn of the century, after peering through a gap in the fence. Beyond the Mickey-taking title this show has been a deadly serious attempt to assemble the most cutting edge artists in the world right now, ‘It’s not a swipe at Disney’ claims Banksy ‘I banned any imagery of Mickey Mouse from the site. It’s a showcase for the best line up of artists I could imagine’.
Since it’s opening in August for a 5 week run Dismaland has attracted more than 150,000 visitors - many travel from all corners of the globe. Some had managed to get the online ticket for £3 beforehand but others were willing to queue for hours each day, come ‘dismal’ rain or shine, for one of the 500 daily walk-in tickets. This has proved to be a massive boost for the town where tourism numbers generally drop considerably during the month of September.
Wayne Entwhistle, the manager of the Grand Atlantic hotel, which overlooks Dismaland, said “People have called us up for bookings from Hong Kong, America, Austria, Canada, and that’s never happened before. There had been a “really noticeable influx of people coming into the hotel for one-night stays, far more then we’ve ever had in September”. He went onto say that some guests last visited Dismaland two or three times and added “the town itself has been really busy, so it’s been really good for everyone. Weston-super-Mare has attracted some negative coverage in the past so it’s nice to get some positive stuff for a change. It will be a shame to see it go.”
The town’s hoteliers’ association estimates an additional 50,000 nights have been sold in Weston-super-Mare since Dismaland opened, compared with this time last year. The boost to the town’s tourism revenue has been estimated to be worth £20million.
The Dismaland final weekend saw American hip-hop act De La Soul, Blur’s Damon Albarn and the all-female Russian rock band Pussy Riot all performing at a farewell party. Guests were only allowed to enter the concert on Friday September 26th provided they wore a masks, so that Banksy could attend without being spotted!
Photos by Annie Blizzard - multiple time visitor to Banksy and resident of Weston-super-mare.