Bansky Takes Bucket and Spray to English Seaside
Updated: Aug 31
Piers, penny arcades and rock pools. Ice cream from a beach van, sugary rock from a gift shop, and a cone of vinegary whelks from the boardwalk. Whatever the weather, these were memories of a British summer holiday a generation ago.
Since then, the British leave the country for warmer climes. However, someone new and unexpected has come to visit various seaside locations in England: Bansky, whose identity has been unknown during his 30-year career.
After days of speculation, the elusive artist owned up to a series of pieces in East Anglia in an Instagram video dubbed A Great British Spraycation, according to the Expresso (August 20).
“Coastal towns get a miserable rap,” according to a columnist for The Guardian (August 13). “Regardless of all that bracing sea air, they’re notorious hotbeds of poor health and low life expectancy. . . .
“And while some coastal towns are struggling with the loss of both a once booming industry—fishing in Lowestoft or Grimsby, bucket-and-spade tourism in Skegness or Scarborough – for others, it’s prosperity itself that is the problem. . . . Second homers and wealthy retirees have long monopolized the prettier bits of Devon and Cornwall. . . .
“A (post-pandemic) staycation summer gives fading seaside glories one last chance to reintroduce themselves.”
It is, perhaps, no coincidence that the East Anglian locations – Lowestoft, Gorleston-on-Sea, and Great Yarmouth – have bid jointly for the U.K.’s Capital of Culture in 2025, reported Expresso (August 9). The other sites included King’s Lynn in Norfolk County and Oulton Broad, a suburb of Lowestoft, and Cromer, in Suffolk County.
The video opens with the street-art legend driving a camper van from one site to the next while wearing a hoodie to conceal his identity. The music is an accordion rendition of Dance Monkey (2019) by Australian singer, Tones & I, according to ArtNet News (August 13).
Among the graffiti is a rat, a signature Bansky motif, lounging cross-legged on a deckchair and under an umbrella and holding a martini glass, according to RTE (August 13).
The Gorleston artwork in Norfolk County, on a wall behind a bench, depicts an arcade game claw crane, seemingly poised to pluck people from their seats, reported ArtNet News (August 13).
In Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, a swank couple dance to the music of an accordion player atop a bus shelter. Bansky also added a cottage to the Norfolk town’s Merrivale Model Village, a rat, and the name “Bansky” scrawled in red paint on the new house. Banksy wrote "Go Big Or Go Home" on the side of a miniature building.
In King’s Lynn, he gave a statue of Frederick Savage a makeover. He left the inventor of a carousel system with an ice cream cone in his hand and a pink tongue sticking out of his mouth.
A piece in Lowestoft is of a child with a crowbar kneeling next to a sandcastle and a lifted paving slab. In a second, a seagull swoops down on the contents of a dumpster.
In a mural in nearby Oulton Broad, three children, wearing paper pirate hats, play in a boat. One child looks ahead as though out to sea, another looks over their shoulder, and a third child, at the back of the boat, appears to be leaning over the side holding a bucket. The writing above the artwork says: "WE'RE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT."
Cromer’s Bansky has a more obvious political edge, reported ArtNet News. Under brightly colored beach huts, which were once horse-drawn bathing contraptions, a hermit crab holds up a sign, “LUXURY RENTALS ONLY”, between three empty shells and three crabs without shells.
Giles Mathews-Pike, 39, a civil servant from Birmingham, said that he went to see the crab piece a couple of times, which he called “quite cool, really bringing Cromer a bit of trendy edge”, according to the North Norfolk News (August 26).
“We’ve got a family home here which we come down to. It feels like, in a lot of places, locals are being priced out.”
In the video, a bystander comments on Bansky’s work: “That looks like mindless vandalism, that.”
Earlier this year, a painting by Bansky honoring British health-care workers, set a new record for the artist, auctioning for £16.7 million at Christie’s in London, according to CNN (March 24).
Bansky had donated Game Changer to the University Hospital Southampton in May 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic. The piece depicts a child playing with a toy nurse wearing a Red Cross emblem, a cape and a surgical mask. Batman and Superman figurines lie discarded in a nearby bin. The reproduction of the work remains in the hospital, according to RTE (August 13).
Bansky’s work grew out of the 1980s Bristol underground scene. The Bristolian said that he was inspired by 3D, a graffiti artist and founding member of the musical group, Massive Attack.
Until next time, as the lyrics of Dance Monkey promise:
Dance for me, dance for me, dance for me, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
I've never seen anybody do the things you do before
They say move for me, move for me, move for me, ay, ay, ay
And when you're done I'll make you do it all again