Dismaland was a ‘game-changer for Weston
PUBLISHED: 09:00 10 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:19 15 October 2020
It has been five years since Banksy transformed Weston’s Tropicana into Dismaland, attracting fans and celebrities from all over the world to the ‘bemusement park’.
The five-week long exhibition brought 200,000 additional visitors into the town, boosting the economy by £20million and putting Weston at the heart of the art and culture scene.
North Somerset Council vowed to capitalise on Dismaland’s phenomenal success by investing in the venue to bring more events and artists to the town.
Over the past five years, the authority has hosted a variety of events at the venue, from theatre, comedy shows and DJ nights to food festivals and gigs – attracting national names including Craig Charles, Martin Kemp, Jason Byrne and Trevor Nelson.
Fiona Matthews, from Theatre Orchard – which runs performing arts productions across North Somerset – said: “Dismaland was a game-changer for Weston. It presented Weston as a place with a unique and exciting cultural identity.
“Without doubt it catalysed renewed commitment to cultural development in Weston, and strong foundations are now in place to further build a bright cultural future for the town.
“These include a comprehensive cultural strategy and the instigation of new development organisation Culture Weston.
“There is an appetite for Weston to continue to do different with a cultural programme that combines local opportunity with world-class events, and a number of exciting collaborations are underway that will help to write Weston’s next, dynamic chapter.”
More: Dismaland in pictures
Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England, echoed these sentiments during a visit to Weston in May 2018, paying tribute to Weston’s ‘vibrant creative community’.
He said: “Weston is a beacon other seaside towns can learn from. There is a real sense of possibility and opportunity here, together with a real sense of playfulness.
“The town is reinventing itself for the 21st century.”
The council’s aim is to host a diverse programme of activities and shows for all age groups at the venue, by offering a variety of music genres, cultural activities and events.
The Tropicana team has been working with youth organisations and cultural groups to support arts.
A festival programme is being developed for the venue and the team is also keen to promote grass roots music by working with local artists, Weston College students and running open mic nights.
Significant improvements have also been made to the venue’s staging and sound systems, toilets, lighting and bar area to make it more attractive for events.
Cllr Caritas Charles, North Somerset Council’s executive member for leisure, culture and tourism, said: “As you can see North Somerset has a vibrant and diverse arts, cultural and heritage sector.
“This administration strongly believes that the council should be an important partner in empowering and strengthening these sectors.
“We believe in a strong strategic vision for arts, heritage and culture and that is why we put in place our arts strategy within our first year.
“It is important now more than ever that we show our support to our creative friends.
“The sector is facing its greatest challenge for a generation due to the coronavirus pandemic and it’s up to all of us to protect our culture.
“Our culture helps define who we are both collectively and individually. We can’t afford for it to be lost.”
More: Watch Diving giraffes as shown at Dismaland
Covid-19 has posed a huge challenge to the entertainment and events industry, but the Tropicana team is working to find new ways of reaching audiences through social media and technology.
A DJ performance was streamed across its social media channels during the pandemic, and the team is hoping to run more events in this way while restrictions are in place.
A council spokesman said: “The nature of events and programming is likely to be determined in the short to medium-term by safeguarding limitations and restrictions until such time when venues can operate as they were pre-Covid.
“This presents new challenges to all venues, but the Tropicana team is keen to develop and run events and activities that are feasible during this period.”
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