“We’re all going on a summer holiday / no more working for a week or two,” sings Cliff Richard in one of his most famous songs. “Fun and laughter on a summer holiday / no more worries for me or you.” Like The Beatles’ ultra-northern “When I’m Sixty-Four,” with its cottage rentals on the Isle of Wight (“if it’s not too dear”), Richard’s “Summer Holiday” dates from a time in Britain when tourism was, as a rule, domestic. And so it has become again over the past couple of years, what with the coronavirus pandemic and its severe curtailment of international travel. Ever tuned in to current events, the pseudonymous graffiti artist Banksy has taken the opportunity to go on a “Great British Spraycation.”
This was a busman’s holiday for Banksy, who appears to have had a detailed plan of exactly which east-coast resort towns to visit, and exactly where in each of them to surreptitiously create another of his signature pieces of high-contrast satirical art.
“The stenciled pieces are often integrated with repurposed objects from the area, highlighting the pre-planned and perfectly positioned nature of the work,” writes Designboom’s Kat Barandy. “In Lowestoft, a massive seagull dines on a box of ‘chips’ rendered by a dumpster filled with insulation material. Nearby a child is depicted building a sandcastle with a crowbar, fronted by a mound of sand on the pavement.”
That work, Arts University Bournemouth professor Paul Gough tells the BBC for its guide to the Great British Spraycation, may be a reference to the 1968 Paris student uprising and its slogan “Sous les pavés, la plage!” You can see these and other fresh works documented in the video at the top of the post, which also catches the reactions of passing locals and tourists. “That looks all like mindless vandalism, that,” says one woman, articulating a common assessment of Banksy’s artistic statements. “It looks a lot better from far away than it does when you get this close,” says another. But the most telling comment, in a variety of respects, comes from a man regarding Banksy’s addition of a cartoonish tongue and ice cream cone to the statue of 19th-century mayor Frederick Savage in King’s Lynn: “Yeah, someone’s done that, ain’t they?”
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.