Has Banksy's resurrection of the Tropicana fizzled out?
PUBLISHED: 15:00 21 January 2018
Weston-super-Mare’s Tropicana was injected with a new lease of life by Banksy two and a half years ago, with the world-famous Dismaland exhibition not only generating millions and thrusting the town into the spotlight, but also signalling a revival for the former lido after years of uncertainty.
When the internationally-renowned artist’s bemusement park closed in 2015, North Somerset Council chiefs trumpeted the importance of building upon its legacy and forging a bright future for the Marine Parade venue as a ‘vogue’ event space.
But as time has passed, with two of its showpiece events moved elsewhere, is Banksy’s resurrection of the Tropicana in danger of fizzling out? That is what the Mercury has asked of North Somerset, which is responsible for the former lido.
In 2015 council chief executive Mike Jackson told the Mercury: “I think there are genuine ambitions for the Tropicana, from us as much as anyone else. Dismaland has shown us the building works really well as an exhibition and events space.”
Mr Jackson added the Trop’s ‘raw, almost industrial’ interior is ‘quite the vogue’ in art circles and could help to attract trendy events to the town.
Cllr Mike Bell demanded the council to ‘make sure Dismaland isn’t just a six-week anomaly, but a lasting benefit’ upon its finale.
But the Hazy Days music festival, which lured chart-topping acts to Weston, is hunting for a new home after two successful years at the Trop, while Weston super Food Festival was scrapped in 2017 with organisers describing it as a ‘nightmare venue’.
Instead, the Tropicana will host pop-up amusement park Funland for the summer from May – but do rides and rollercoasters at the seaside really comply with North Somerset’s ‘vogue’ vision?
And the Mercury understands the close relationship between Reaper Events, which frequently rented the site for music performances, and the Tropicana has ended.
There is also uncertainty over the leadership of the former lido, with Doug Francis – who was appointed development officer and creative director of the Trop in 2016, promising ‘leftfield’ shows – swiftly leaving the role, while the council’s seafront events manager Darren Fairchild is also no longer in post.
Wayne Hemmingway of Hemmingway Design was appointed as a consultant to shape the future of the Trop in 2016 with great fanfare from the council, but he has since gone quiet. The council says he is still ‘one of a range of partners we are working with to develop the venue and broaden its appeal’.
North Somerset declined to answer a number of questions, including queries over its leadership and whether its ‘spectacular and different vision’, as described by Mr Fairchild in 2016, for the Trop had been achieved.
Mandy Bishop, the council’s director of operations, said: “We work with a broad range of partners and promoters to provide a comprehensive programme of activities and events at the Tropicana.
“We continue to build a programme of activities based on local feedback and our knowledge of what works well at this popular arts and entertainment space.
“We will be welcoming back Funland for its summer residency and look forward to hosting an exciting programme of activities this year, including regular music events such as Craig Charles in February and Shuffle Brothers in April, the return of Theatre Orchard and Living Spit, a gin festival in July plus family activities which include the installation of a skatepark over the February half-term.
“We are also in early discussions with a promoter who wants to put on a large outdoor music event in September.
“We look forward to an exciting year ahead as the cultural offering within the town continues to broaden, as part of the wider regeneration of Weston.”
What do you think of the current direction of the Tropicana? Ice-scape and Funland have been successes, but the food festival and Hazy Days exits are a disappointment. Share your views by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org