International holidays may be taking off again, but there is a new destination du jour right here in England, where it seems Banksy has been holidaying himself: East Anglia. When Banksy confirmed that he made eight new murals in Great Yarmouth, Gorleston, Cromer, Lowestoft and Oulton Broad in Norfolk and Suffolk, he single handedly put these five English seaside towns back on the tourism map.
Banksy carried out another benevolent act for those affected by the pandemic, doubling up, as ever, as a source of amusement and distraction for the general public: taking a tour of East Anglia and leaving, as proof of his visitation, a series of murals in seaside spots that could use the attention. The artworks can be found across both Norfolk and Suffolk, in Cromer, Great Yarmouth, Oulton Broad, Lowestoft and Gorleston. Banksy laid claim to the artworks via a video posted to his Instagram, entitled 'A Great British Spraycation.'
And seaside towns could use his help. Previously neglected resort towns have been enjoying something of a revival when lockdown prevented international travel – Blackpool’s footfall has increased to 120% of its pre-pandemic average – but this progress is at risk now that we can holiday abroad again. Banksy’s new murals give us a reason to reconsider a staycation and will likely boost tourism to these towns – after all, his ‘bemusement park’ Dismaland in 2015 generated around £20 million extra revenue for the seaside town of Weston-super-Mare and its surrounding area.
Our lead Banksy specialist and co-founder Joe Syer commented:
“It’s great to see Banksy doing what he does best – using his influence to benefit those impacted by factors outside of their control, in this case boosting tourism to our great british seaside towns heavily impacted by the pandemic. We’ll certainly be planning a trip this summer.”
The first mural Banksy made for his new series, A Great British Spraycation, shows a couple dancing on the roof of a bus shelter while another man plays an accordion. The artwork does not contain an overtly political message or joke, though it does perhaps make a nod to the artist's own artistic agility (given the scale and location of the mural). Instead, it is simply a nostalgic reference to a previous generation where 'staycationing'—complete with music hall, arcade or hotel entertainment—was the norm, not the exception.
In another bus shelter, Banksy depicts a picker claw from a classic seaside arcade game hanging above the bench. Local artist Emo later added six teddy bears to the design, claiming it was a collaboration with Banksy. The mural was sadly defaced within days.
On the sea wall in Cromer, Banksy has painted a group of hermit crabs, with one holding a placard reading “Luxury rentals only”. It is a fitting work, given that Cromer is known for its crabs, while Banksy is known for his animals holding placards, such as the Placard Rats series. Banksy also seems to be commenting on another factor in the degeneration of British seaside towns: the rise in second homes, often used as holiday lets when not in use by their owners, which has left locals less able to afford housing, and the average holiday-maker unable to afford a stay in the UK.
The local council has covered the work over such that it is not currently visible, while they consider means to preserve Banksy's mural against the sea.
At Nicholas Everitt Park in Oulton Broad, Suffolk, Banksy has painted three children pretending to be sailors behind a sheet of metal. The mural is accompanied by the quote “We’re all in the same boat” – reminiscent of the quote in Banksy’s original Girl With Balloon mural, “There is always hope”.
Although the council removed the metal sheet, citing that it was a drainage hazard, they have also made an effort to preserve the painting by protecting it with a transparent screen.
In Lowestoft, Banksy made three murals across the city, including a child building a sandcastle with a crowbar, a seagull flying to eat “chips” from a construction skip, and a rat drinking a cocktail in a deckchair, on the beach. While steps have been taken by the local council to protect all three murals, sadly they were not quite fast enough with Banksy's cocktail drinking rat, which was covered over with white paint by a vandal. The beachfront rat has nevertheless been protected with perspex in the hopes that Banksy's mural might be restored at a later date.
At Merrivale Model Village in Great Yarmouth, Banksy has created a new miniature horse stable, featuring a rat next to the caption “Go big or go home”. Frank Newsome, the owner of the theme park, told the BBC he has received numerous offers for the piece. Although he has not accepted any, the Banksy sculpture is “manna from heaven as far as we’re concerned after last summer – it was a real struggle,” he said.
For over a year, Banksy has used his art to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. He has given the public a much-needed laugh with his murals My wife hates it when I work from home and If you don’t mask – you don’t get and also made a significant contribution by fundraising for the NHS. His painting Game Changer sold for £16.8 million in March 2021, with proceeds going to support the wellbeing of staff and patients at NHS University Southampton Hospital.
Banksy's Great British Spraycation, continues this quest to provide the general public with comic relief, and to make a tangible impact economically on the people who have been the worst hit by the pandemic. But this series of murals by the renowned street artist speaks to his capacity to tap into the nuance of a problem: rather than purely pin the underperformance of British coastal resorts on the pandemic, he makes some investigation into other factors, and reasons that these places were hit the hardest, which often long predate the coronavirus pandemic. Banksy's capacity to package all this into visually simple and compelling murals is, as ever, why we love his art.
Read more about Banksy and the charities he supports in 10 times Banksy has done something for charity.