Banksy Takes Credit For an Inflatable Migrant Raft That Floated Across a Glastonbury Crowd

The street artist’s latest stunt is thought to be a criticism of the U.K.’s immigration policies

Inflatable raft
An inflatable raft appears to float through the crowd during Little Simz's performance at Glastonbury. Luke Brennan / Redferns

Banksy has made his mark on Glastonbury once again.

The anonymous artist orchestrated a stunt that took place at the famed performing arts festival in Somerset, England, on Friday, as the Observer’s Ben Beaumont-Thomas reports.

During a performance by the punk band Idles, an inflatable life raft filled with dummy passengers appeared atop the crowd—a clear reference to migrants traversing the English Channel, who have been targeted by the United Kingdom’s immigration policies.

The raft appeared during the song “Danny Nedelko,” which champions immigration and equality. “My blood brother is an immigrant, a beautiful immigrant,” it begins, building to its plain-spoken chorus: “Fear leads to panic; panic leads to pain. Pain leads to anger; anger leads to hate.”

Due to the song’s lyrics, the crowd initially thought the raft was a part of Idles’ performance. Over the weekend, however, a representative for Idles confirmed that the band didn’t know about it until after the fact, according to the Observer.

Later, the raft appeared for a second time during ​​rapper Little Simz’s set. On Sunday, Banksy posted a video of the raft surfing across the crowd to his Instagram page, which is how he usually takes credit for his artworks and installations.

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It’s not the first time that Banksy has made a statement at Glastonbury, one of the largest music and performing arts festivals in the world. In 2019, the artist designed a stab-proof vest painted with a black and white Union Jack for the high-profile British rapper Stormzy, who wore the garment during his set. Back in 2014, Banksy created a mobile structure called Sirens of the Lambs, a critique of the meat industry, which was driven around the festival. The event has also featured a number of the artist’s iconic stencil works.

Last week also isn’t the first time the anonymous artist has weighed in on migration, as ARTnews’ Alex Greenberger writes. Banksy even funded his own rescue boat, which launched in the Mediterranean in 2020. The vessel was decorated with an image of a girl reaching for a heart-shaped life preserver.

Migration has been a prominent focus throughout this year’s Glastonbury festival, which features an area called Terminal One, a “repurposed airport … celebrating migration,” as BBC News’ Tom McArthur writes. To enter the area, attendees must correctly answer a question from the U.K. government’s citizenship test.

James Cleverly, the British home secretary, called Banksy’s boat artwork “vile,” dismissing it as a “celebration of loss of life in the Channel,” according to the Art Newspaper’s Anny Shaw. When asked if the work may have instead been a criticism of the government’s immigration policies, Cleverly said: “Our ability to sort that problem out has been hampered at every stage by the Labour party, who aspire to border control.”

Since then, many others have criticized Cleverly for missing the mark. As Artnet’s Brian Boucher writes, “Whether one enjoys Banksy’s brand of (perhaps obvious) wit or not, the artist is known for works that express sympathy with the plight of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants.”

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