August 22, 2015

What do you get when you combine an abandoned amusement park with Banksy?

Dismaland, the most depressing place on earth.

The theme park has been built on the crumbling, abandoned site of the Tropicana, which was Europe’s largest outdoor pool complete, with the continent’s tallest diving board, when it opened in 1937. Its gradual decline turned to decay once it closed down completely in the year 2000.

Banksy’s project seems to have generated some genuine local optimism in one of England’s many dilapidated seaside towns. Admittedly, the next-best rides on the beach are being offered by a set of weary donkeys.

There’s not much sign of optimism inside, however.

Seconds after walking through the gates, one of the stewards dressed in Mickey Mouse ears and a high-viz vest approaches to whisper: “Rubbish, isn’t it? Just shit.”

A distorted seafront ditty, reminiscent of the organ music at the ballpark, offers an uncomfortable soundtrack as dark, foreboding clouds gather overhead.

There is a miniature boating lake containing vessels that brim with gaunt refugees.

A child tried to control one with the steering wheels and levers on the side of the attraction but there was no response from the boats. “It doesn’t work,” explained his big brother. “This place is supposed to be depressing.”

Most things do work; you can hook a ducky from the pond, except the yellow plastic birds are all smeared and blackened with oil.

The carousel is spinning magnificently but one of the horses cannot be ridden by the children lining up to have a go because it’s hanging by its back legs above the blood-spattered model of a slaughterman who is clutching a machete.

Recalling a recent scandal that found traces of horsemeat in British TV dinners, he is sitting on boxes marked “lasagne.”

If that wasn’t enough, the Museum of Cruel Objects contains a set of “scissor stun tongs” and video of them being used brutally to slaughter sheep and pigs in an abattoir.

Honestly, with our political landscape the way it is right now, I doubt this is the most depressing place on earth. But it surely might be the most interesting depressing place on earth.

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