I spent the first seven years of my life in Hove (a small seaside resort) then my parents left the South East and took a job in the South West in Burnham-on-Sea (a smaller seaside resort) in Somerset. My grandparents lived in Sandbanks (a sort of seaside resort) near Poole (father’s side) and Southend (a bigger seaside resort) (mother’s side). I would visit them and the places regularly during the school holidays. After leaving school I lived in Burnham-on-sea briefly before going to live just up the road in Weston-Super-Mare (‘the seaside town they forgot to close down’, allegedly Morrissey sang these lyrics about Weston), then in the county of Avon, now North Somerset. After a few years I returned to the South East (I’m not sure why), living in Worthing (another seaside resort) and then Brighton (a very cosmopolitan seaside resort) briefly. In my early 20s I gained a place at Bristol University so as it was a cheaper place and I was already familiar with the area and people, I moved back to Weston-Super-Mare. Now, after living abroad for 12 years, I relocated with my family to Eastbourne (a seaside resort and the sunniest place in England, apparently) though I still work in Tokyo. A helicopter parent? As you can see my life in England has been very much dominated by………….the seaside resort.
Last month street artist, Banksy from Bristol opened a pop-up theme park called Dismaland in Weston-Super-Mare located in a derelict lido site, The Tropicana. Actually, I lived just opposite The Tropicana, but never went in. After all, I was a local not a tourist. I’ve been reading quite a few reviews on Dismaland recently. The results being both positive and negative. A stab at crass consumerism, the Bemusment Park offers an eclectic mix of collaborators employing eerie installations to political rhetoric art on themes like police brutality, CCTV to contemporary issues such as the refugee crisis.
Image (below) courtesy of Reuters (Toby Melville). The sculpture depicts a pensioner being engulfed by seagulls. A reference to media panic about aggressive birds.
For me, I’m fascinated by Banksy’s concept and very inspired by Dismaland. Probably as I’ve lived in and visited many English seaside towns, enduring the superficiality that surrounds these Victorian concepts. Environments that are primarily staged for outsiders to engage in the following activities for a week or two: eat fish n chips/ ice-cream/sticks of rock, ride on a dodgem car, play on the penny falls, stroll on the promenade, sit in a stripy deckchair, swim in a freezing cold sea and then go home. What a holiday! I’ve not completely given up hope of trying to get a ticket for Dismaland but I’m aware time is running out.
And finally, as we live in the age of the selfie, this post wouldn’t be complete without one. Here’s one of the author looking out on Weston-Super-Mare pier, circa 1994. Possibly trying to envisage Dismaland.