Taking the kids to Dismaland, Weston-super-Mare

I’ve never known the train from Bristol to Weston-super-Mare to be as busy as it was last weekend. The usual assortment of day trippers had been replaced by hip twenty-somethings and American tourists; all left standing in the aisles as there were no seats available.


The reason? Banksy’s Dismaland bemusement park on the seafront at Weston. This antithesis of a theme park has opened for 6 weeks on the site of the old Tropicana lido. We didn’t have tickets but I’d heard that on the day tickets were available for those prepared to queue. We arrived just as they were closing the morning queue so the security man suggested we came back later for the afternoon session. This gave us time for a trip to PJ’s Ice Cream Parlour, a wander around the pier and lunch.

Get your programmes here! Dismaland
Get your programmes here! Dismaland

We were back queuing at 2.30pm. At 3pm the ticket office opened and a cheer went up. At 4.30pm we got our tickets. The kids were surprisingly good about queuing for so long and I knew the minute I handed the money over that it would be worth the wait. I thanked the ticket attendant and he replied that I wouldn’t be thanking him when we got inside.

Seagull Lady, Banksy, Dismaland

Inside Dismaland

A few minutes later we’d passed through some pretend security and were standing in Dismaland. The exhibition is a mix of fairground attractions with a twist, large model exhibits, films and an indoor art gallery. Over 50 artists have provided works, with Banksy responsible for 11 of the exhibits, including the seagull model above.

Banksy describes Dismaland as a theme park unsuitable for children. My kids loved it, as I’m sure would most teens, but I’d think twice about taking younger children. You’ll spend half of your time explaining the irony behind the exhibits, the other half trying to avoid the liberal use of swearing around the site!

Horse meat carousel, Dismaland

Fairground attractions

The fairground attractions, which cost extra, included a carousel where a white suited figure is making lasagne from the horses, topple the anvil with a ping pong ball (and win the anvil) and a rotating caravan ride.

I loved the ‘Hook a duck from the muck’ stall. The prizes were inflated plastic bags with a piece of orange fabric in them, modelled to look like goldfish. Not that many people won them! As soon as someone got close to hooking a duck the unsmiling attendant would pick up a duck and throw it at the target, generally resulting in a large splash of water over the person. Or alternatively she’d grab the fishing rod and throw it on the floor.

Big Rig Jig, Dismaland
Big Rig Jig, Mike Ross, Dismaland

The staff, who had responded to an advert for film extras, played their roles perfectly. Unsmiling and disinterested, generally slouching in a corner or getting in the way of photos. I bought a souvenir programme and the attendant literally threw it, and the change at me. It was hard not to laugh.

There is no getting away from the Disney aspect. The staff wear ears which bear a strong resemblance to mouse ears. The entrance wristbands, logo and online advert are unmistakably modelled on Disney. How I’d love to be a fly on the wall in their lawyer’s office!

Outdoor cinema, Dismaland

There’s a cinema showing short films so we bagged some deckchairs and rested our feet. Perhaps we were just watching the wrong film but I found this part the weakest of the show. Wandering off after a few minutes we discovered a giant toilet roll sculpture and a killer whale jumping out of a toilet (the former by Michael Beitz, the latter a Banksy).


Art exhibits

I loved the way the original lido was incorporated into the exhibition. Although I assume the crumbling stonework, uneven flooring and weeds weren’t added recently for effect!

The police riot van below was built for use in Northern Ireland but now stands in the middle of a lake adorned with a slide and fountain.

Police van, Banksy, Dismaland

We entered the burnt out castle and found a dead Cinderella falling out of her pumpkin carriage surrounded by paparazzi. This piece is probably one of the most controversial given the obvious similarities to the death of Princess Diana. The other exhibit to stir up emotions is that of the boat pond where visitors can control the crowded boats full of migrants. Bad taste? Certainly thought provoking.

Mini Gulf, Dismaland

We passed on the opportunity to play Mini Gulf but enjoyed checking out the variety of obstacles. There’s a huge sandcastle and windmill next to the children’s play area and pocket money loans shop. Not many takers for the 5000% interest rate!


There was a short queue of people waiting to take selfies at the selfie hole (oh the irony). I’d read a couple of reviews slating the queues inside Dismaland. However we were lucky and whilst a couple of exhibits had queues most of them didn’t. It actually felt relatively empty which was rather surprising given the long wait outside.

Selfie hole, Dismaland

Art galleries

The three large art galleries were excellent. We watched a Banksy offering, the grim reaper riding the dodgems to the soundtrack of the Bee Gees Stayin’ Alive.

There are a couple of Damien Hirst pieces including a unicorn preserved in formaldehyde but one of my favourites was Promise by Caroline McCarthy. This consisted of plastic plant pots and ready meal packaging with garnishes cut into the cardboard to suggest freshness.

Promise, Caroline McCarthy, Dismaland
Promise, Caroline McCarthy, Dismaland

The galleries were a fascinating mix of sculptures, paintings and objects. One gallery was dominated by a mushroom cloud tree house. The Spanish artist Paco Pomet had inserted the Cookie Monster into a picture of war lords driving a jeep. Whilst Jessica Harrison had porcelain figurines with tattoos. I’d love to have such creative thoughts.

Readers of a certain age will remember Jimmy Cauty, one half of the group KLF, and the man who burnt a million dollars. His contribution to Dismaland is a huge sculpture which initially looks like a large model railway set. Look closer and you’ll find almost 3000 model police figures in a post-apocalyptic world. The strobe lighting and staff shouting ‘Move along, there’s nothing to see’ are incredibly atmospheric.


The exit sign was exactly as I’d expect of a Banksy exhibition. Dismaland delivered everything I’d hoped for and more!

23 thoughts on “Taking the kids to Dismaland, Weston-super-Mare”

  1. I am so cross this won’t be open in October when we are over in the UK – I have heard good things about it and I think the boys would have enjoyed it more than LegoLand where they queued for hours and paid a fortune for ice creams and even at their tender age realised what a commercial con it was. #MondayEscapes

    1. That’s a pity. I read that he is operating under strict dates due to H&S restrictions (autumn winds blowing things over) but it would have been great to extend the run.

  2. My mummy went to Dismaland too! She was lucky enough to get a ticket online! It’s lovely reading other people’s experiences of the show. She enjoyed her time there as well! 🙂 #MondayEscapes x

    1. Yep, nothing else like it! We queued many hours for Banksy’s last exhibition in Bristol some years ago so I was pretty determined to go to this one too.

    1. I think you’d probably get away with a 3 year old – too young to read and you could focus on the fun things. A 6 year old would be a different matter.

  3. Dismaland looks brilliant. Shame the online tickets have sold out – but guess you’ve got to be quick! Very impressive, thought-provoking installations from incredibly talented artists all in one place – which is rare for Banksy piece. This definitely wouldn’t be one for my young daughter but I would thoroughly enjoy exploring #mondayescapes

    1. The tickets do get released in batches but it’s generally in the middle of the morning which isn’t great if you’re at work without internet!

  4. I am a huge fan of Disney and must admit this looks fantastic. Love the selfie hole ha. Brilliant photos and I am sure my 13 year old would love Dismaland. Only £3.00 for tickets Wow that seems really reasonable. Wish we lived nearer x

  5. Hahaha… Dismaland? Disneyland? Even the name… I’m not surprised at all that they are modelled after Disneyland. Nevertheless, I would love to bring my kids to Dismaland if I have the chance! #mondayescapes

  6. Brilliant. The irony being that you sounded like you had such a good time. Mind you ‘good’ doesn’t always equate to ‘fun’. I would love to see more photos. I’m never going to get to see it, not enough time & living at a fair distance from it. I’m sure I’d be smiling all the way round. I’d find it difficult to keep a striaght face at all the excitement of seeing work that gets all sorts of people and ages to think and get involved. Love your family take on this.

    1. Thanks Katharine. I did take quite a few more photos but the sun either spoiled them (can’t believe I’m saying that) or they were indoors and too grainy. One day I will use my proper camera and take perfect photos for my blog 🙂

  7. This is not the first Dismaland blog I’ve read for the past few days and I have to admit that I’m getting more and more curious about it. What I really love about the blog posts though is you are all in character on the photos. Your children nailed their “dismal” expressions on each photos! I love it!! 🙂

  8. Really, really great shots. You’re the second person this week I am jealous of having experienced Dismaland. It looks such a wonderful and fascinating installation. Love the concept too and the fact the kids look really miserable! Apparently it’s coming to London soon, so will be waiting for the tickets! Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

  9. Hi Christine, what a wonderful and refreshingly different place to visit and all for the bargain price of £3.00 per person over 10! It’s certainly a place I would like to visit if I were over there. I can imagine on walking out of there the world would seem a brighter place to be.

    It’s nice that so many artists contributed to the theme park, different takes on the dismal side of reality. Love it, very tongue in cheek.


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