It was a remarkably brave move for the leader of North Somerset’s Conservative council.
When Cllr Nigel Ashton was first told of the plans for Banksy’s huge Dismaland ‘bemusement’ park in Weston-super-Mare he didn’t hesitate to help make it happen.
He guided Banksy’s team through complex council requirements and staved off questions from the public about unannounced investment in the abandoned Tropicana complex, which the park will occupy for five weeks from Saturday.
“To start with there was two of us who knew,” Ashton tells HuffPost UK, “Then we made it four, and that was it for six months.”
The council team couldn’t be happier with Dismaland and say they knew the opportunity Banksy provided them when he came up with the idea last year.
“It was difficult not answering the questions about our investment when we opened up the café next door and refurbished the public toilets nearby,” Ashton says.
In the large gallery space that runs the length of Dismaland, images by artists as diverse as Damien Hirst and Jimmy Cauty, use their work to draw attention to political issues like the migrants crisis.
One image on a huge advertising hoarding attached to the Cinderella castle designed by Banksy and Block9 depicts David Cameron toasting the skyline of Canary Wharf, whilst being pushed aside by a youth.
But for Ashton, criticism comes with the territory – he definitely knew of the risks in working with Banksy, but thought the whole thing transcends politics.
“You get criticized and that’s part of it. You expect that with Banksy.
“If it’s provocative then that’s great,” Ashton says stopping to look at a parading Storm Trooper, “It’s more important than politics, it’s a great opportunity to have visitors come. It will attract those who might not come here otherwise.
“Criticism is for the future, now it’s about embracing this,” he says.