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Banksy Floats His Boat At Glastonbury Festival

Banksy's inflatable boat filled with migrant dummies crowd surfing at Glastonbury.

Banksy has been revealed as the mastermind behind the inflatable boat filled with migrant dummies crowd surfing at Glastonbury. The unanticipated stunt, during Idles’ late-night set at the Somerset-based festival, saw an inflatable life raft carrying models in lifejackets—symbolising migrants on the move—suddenly launched into the audience. A short video clip has now appeared on the artist’s Instagram page.

At first, festival-goers were confused, believing the inflatable boat was part of the Bristol rock band’s performance. The timing, coinciding with a song advocating empathy for migrants and critiquing the government, added to the mystery. However, on Saturday, a representative for the group confirmed that the boat was the creation of the usually anonymous street and performance artist Banksy.

Surprisingly, Idles were only aware of the stunt after their headline set on the Other Stage. As the band performed “Danny Nedelko” and the boat was released, frontman Joe Talbot sang: “My blood brother is an immigrant, a beautiful immigrant. My blood brother is Freddie Mercury, a Nigerian mother of three. He’s made of bones, he’s made of blood. He’s made of flesh; he’s made of love.”

Banksy’s connection with the Glastonbury Festival runs deep. In 2019, he designed the Union flag-emblazoned stab-proof vest worn by Stormzy during his Pyramid Stage headline set. In 2014, he commandeered a livestock transportation van, which drove around the festival site with cuddly toys peeking out. The festival has also showcased several of his classic stencil artworks, including one from 2010 that reappeared in 2022 to celebrate Glastonbury’s 50th anniversary.

This year, migration has emerged as a significant theme at Glastonbury. A new area, Terminal 1, has been introduced, replacing the old William’s Green stage. To enter Terminal 1, attendees must answer a question from the UK government’s citizenship test for prospective migrants. Inside, the area features music from representatives of Notting Hill Carnival and Bristol’s St Paul’s Carnival, alongside visual art by global artists such as Love Watts, Yoshi Sodeoka, and Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger.

The scene was broadcast live on the BBC, and contrary to reports, the boat remains visible in the highlights coverage of the set available on BBC iPlayer.

The move has excited viewers. Simon Geraghty praised Banksy on X, calling it a “brilliant piece of agitprop.” Another user, @Nullen80, linked to the coverage and added, “You’ve gotta love Banksy.” Angie Moxham also commended the artist, stating he “never lets us down.”

Banksy, the elusive and enigmatic British street artist, has captivated the world with his provocative and politically charged artworks. Emerging from the Bristol underground scene in the 1990s, Banksy’s identity remains shrouded in mystery, even as his works have gained international acclaim. His distinctive style, characterized by striking stencils and satirical imagery, often addresses themes of social justice, war, consumerism, and political hypocrisy.

Despite his anonymity, Banksy’s influence is unmistakable. His pieces have appeared on walls, bridges, and streets worldwide, turning urban landscapes into open-air galleries. Some of his most iconic works include the mural of a girl releasing a heart-shaped balloon, the poignant depiction of a masked protester throwing a bouquet of flowers, and the controversial “Devolved Parliament,” featuring chimpanzees in the House of Commons.

Banksy’s impact extends beyond street art. His provocative installations and subversive exhibitions, such as “Dismaland,” a dystopian theme park, challenge viewers to confront uncomfortable truths about contemporary society. In 2019, he made headlines with the creation of a stab-proof vest emblazoned with the Union Jack, worn by Stormzy during his Glastonbury Festival performance.

Despite the commercialization of his art, with pieces fetching millions at auction, Banksy continues to critique the very systems that profit from his work. His anonymity preserves a sense of authenticity and reinforces his critique of the commodification of art.

Banksy’s enduring appeal lies in his ability to provoke thought and inspire change, using the streets as his canvas and society as his muse. His work remains a powerful commentary on the complexities and contradictions of modern life, ensuring his legacy as one of the most influential and mysterious artists of our time.

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