Dismaland

Dismaland Park Plan

Dismaland Park Plan

He describes it as a “family theme park unsuitable for small children” – and with the Grim Reaper whooping it up on the dodgems and Cinderella horribly mangled in a pumpkin carriage crash, it is easy to see why.

Banksy’s new show, Dismaland, which opened on Thursday on the Weston-super-Mare seafront, is sometimes hilarious, sometimes eye-opening and occasionally breathtakingly shocking.

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A mermaid and castle by Banksy at Dismaland. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

The artist’s biggest project to date had been shrouded in secrecy. Local residents and curious tourists were led to believe that the installations being built in a disused former lido called Tropicana were part of a film set for a Hollywood crime thriller called Grey Fox.

The name is a play on Disneyland, but Banksy insisted the show was not a swipe at Mickey and co. “I banned any imagery of Mickey Mouse from the site,” he said. “It’s a showcase for the best artists I could imagine, apart from the two who turned me down.”

Works by 58 handpicked artists including Damien Hirst and Jenny Holzer have been installed across the 2.5-acre site. Julie Burchill has rewritten Punch & Judy to give it a Jimmy Savile spin. Jimmy Cauty, once part of the KLF, is displaying his version of a fun model village complete with 3,000 riot police in the aftermath of major civil unrest.

In one tent would-be anarchists can find out how to unlock the Adshel posters seen at bus stops. For £5 people can buy the tools to break into them, replacing the official posters with any propaganda they please. Is it legal? “It’s not illegal,” said the vendor.

The artist has paid for everything himself but a spokeswoman was unable to say if he was recouping his costs or making a profit. The show will run until 27 September, for 36 days, with 4,000 tickets a day at £3 each all available to buy online at dismaland.co.uk. That amounts to just over £400,000, so it is difficult to see a great profit given the obvious expenses.

Weston-super-Mare itself will undoubtedly benefit. The lido, which opened in 1937 and once boasted the highest diving boards in Europe, has been closed since 2000.

Banksy’s Cinderella crash scene

Banksy’s Cinderella crash scene. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian