“You have to put a pound in, sir.” I step back from the steering wheel and almost apologetically feed a £1 coin into the slot. A light on the dashboard in front of me turns green and I push on the throttle.
In front of me, a small remote-control boat packed full of migrants starts to make its way across the water in front of the white cliffs of Dover. Their faces are permanently turned towards me as I clumsily ferry them across the pond, dodging floating bodies and steering around aimlessly until my money runs out.
The experience is deeply unsettling, yet bizarrely entertaining. And that is exactly the feeling that visitors to Dismaland, a dystopian “bemusement park” contained within a derelict lido in Weston-super-Mare, can expect when it opens to the public tomorrow.
The 2.5-acre park is the most ambitious project to date by the graffiti artist Banksy, who described it as “a festival of art, amusements and entry-level anarchism”. Peering through a gap in security fencing in January, he decided that the faded seaside glamour of the site provided the perfect canvas for his latest work.
For the next five weeks, around 4,000 people a day are expected to pass through the gates of the park, formerly the Tropicana lido, paying £3 to enjoy such entertaining exhibits as the Jeffrey Archer Memorial Fire Pit.
“Warm yourself around an authentic real open fire ceremonially lit each day by burning one of the famed local perjurer’s novels,” explains the helpful annotated map handed to each visitor, which also advertises the park as “the UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction”.