Bonkers But Brilliant: Yahoo Joins 1,000 Lucky Locals Inside Banksy's 'Dismaland' On Opening Day

Banksy has returned with what could be his boldest, brashest and most bonkers exhibition yet.

The secretive street artist has taken over a disused lido in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, for his latest show - and this time he’s brought along some of his superstar pals, including Damien Hirst.

I visited today, as part of the Weston Mercury newspaper’s “locals day” - and what I saw completely blew my mind.

After queuing for four hours alongside 1,000 other North Somerset-based fans who’d all carefully cut coupons out of the paper, we finally crossed the threshold into the seaside resort’s newest “bemusement park.”

And ‘Dismaland’ - as it’s somewhat sinisterly called - is certainly an attraction like no other.

Amid the buzz of the last few days - which saw the “Is it Banksy? Isn’t it Banksy?” rumour mill explode into overdrive - I was worried that, if it was indeed him, it wouldn’t live up to the hype.

Some commented that leaked photos of castle turrets and upside down cars showed he’d maybe lost his touch.

But, after finally revealing he was behind the show on Thursday, it looks like he’s done it again - because, to put it mildly, it was astonishing.

“It was amazing,” said freelance graphic designer Emily Lambert. “Just like walking into a Salvador Dali painting, it’s so surreal.”

“It’s unusual to say the least,” echoed an almost speechless Ashley Harbison, “but also really great at the same time.”

Entering the previously abandoned Tropicana, where the guerilla artist (and coincidentally I) often went as a kid, you’re subjected to tight airport security - made out of cardboard.

An attack on your senses is then launched, from every conceivable angle, by the “family theme park unsuitable for small children.”

Creepy Hi-de-Hi holiday camp music plays over loudspeakers, interspersed by a child chanting anarchist slogans. 

The even creepier “Dismal” staff guide you around - but refuse to smile, and often order you to stop staring at them. 

One whispered “no nation, no borders” as I watched a mini toy boat full of plastic immigrants trying to dodge a police vessel on the way to the White Cliffs of Dover in one of the larger exhibits.

It’s hardly the Magic Kingdom.

There’s a Jimmy Savile-themed Punch & Judy show and a “pocket money loans” shop offering kids cash - with a small-print 5,000% interest rate.

A Jeffrey Archer Memorial Fire Pit allows visitors to burn the local Lord’s books, while a derelict Cinderella castle takes a swipe at the paparazzi - with a dead princess tumbling out of a crashed carriage as photographers snap on.

My favourite piece? A beach ball that is blown perilously close to metal spikes. I’m left wondering if it will ever pop, and do they have a back up?

A close second is the intricate yet gigantic train-set style city, with miniature cop cars and illegal raves. It has to be seen to be believed.

Compared to his “Banksy Versus Bristol Museum” show, which I attended in 2009, “Dismaland” seems to be a giant leap forward. 

Although that exhibition caused me to fall in love with street art, and his in particular, this time he had to up his game. 

It isn’t just a building he’s had to fill, but an enormous 2.5-acre site. And he’s done it, alongside 56 other artists, with some real aplomb.

The usual suspects all come under fire. Politicians - in particular David Cameron - corporations and our selfie-obsessed generation (there’s even a special selfie hole by the entrance) are targeted.

You actually feel somewhat conscious snapping shots of the work - because you know that ultimately he’s mocking you for doing so.

And despite it supposedly being an anti-theme park, queues slowly developed at all of the rides - adding to the downcast scene. This morning’s gloomy overcast South West sky helped heighten the “dismal” atmosphere. 

It really is the stuff of nightmares, especially when you spot the Grim Reaper on a dodgem or a branded child doing turns in the foetal position inside a vending machine.

But it’s also a dream for the town of Weston-super-Mare, whose residents got a first glimpse today after Banksy collaborated with the local newspaper to give 1,000 people who bought a copy free entry.

The show’s first day attracted young, old and everyone in between - with a special place reserved for local royalist Terry Hutt, who bagged first spot in the queue.

The 80-year-old, famous for camping outside in London whenever there’s a royal baby or wedding, confessed he’d never actually heard of Banksy before.

“But my granddad was called Banks, so at least we’ve got something in common,” he jokingly told me before entering.

“I’m always interested in new things and as you get older, you get wiser. I think it will be really good,” he added.

Matt Stiddard brought his wife, 7-year-old son William and nephews along to the show. He said: “We like Banksy and the Damien Hirst piece looks really interesting.

"It’s great that Massive Attack are going to be playing towards the end of the run too, although I doubt we’ll get tickets.”

Freelance designer Radford Hudson, meanwhile, said it was amazing that Banksy - who’s been all over the world - was “doing something on his own doorstep.”

“It will definitely give the town a boost for the next five weeks, after that - who knows?” he added.

My guess is that Banksy could leave a lasting impression on Weston, and that this show could go down in history as one of his best.

It officially opens Saturday, and runs at the Tropicana in Weston-super-Mare until September 27. I recommend you don’t miss it.

(Pictures credited to SWNS and Lee Moran)

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