Home Secretary James Cleverly hits out at Banksy’s migrant boat Glastonbury stunt | Ents & Arts News

A migrant boat artwork by Banksy which appeared at Glastonbury Festival has been labelled “vile” and “not funny” by the home secretary, James Cleverly.

Speaking to Matt Barbet on Sky News Breakfast, Mr Cleverly said: “There are a bunch of people that are joking and celebrating about criminal actions which cost lives.

The boat appeared above the crowd during Lil Simz's set. Pic: AP/Celebrity Photos UK/Cover Images
Pic: AP/Celebrity Photos UK/Cover Images

“People die in the Mediterranean, they die on the Channel. This is not funny. It is vile. This is a celebration of the loss of life in the Channel.”

The art installation featured an inflatable lifeboat filled with migrant dummies in orange life jackets and was hoisted above the crowd and passed around by festival-goers during several performances at the Worthy Farm festival.

When challenged by Barbet as to whether the stunt could be seen as a commentary on the Conservative Party’s failure to solve the issue of small boat crossings, Mr Cleverly blamed the Labour Party, which he claimed had “hampered” his government’s attempts “at every stage”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made “stopping the boats” one of the party’s five priorities.

Mr Cleverly went on: “Something like that, I think is deeply distasteful. I mean children die in the Channel because of the actions of these vile criminals and joking about it and celebrating, I think it is completely unacceptable.

“To joke about it to celebrate it, at a pop festival, when there have been children dying in the Channel is completely unacceptable.”

The small boat first appeared during Idles’ set on Friday, while the Bristol-based band were performing Danny Nedelko, a 2018 release which begins with the lyrics: “My blood brother is an immigrant, a beautiful immigrant.”

Idles perform on the Other Stage at Glastonbury. Pic: Reuters
Idles perform on the Other Stage at Glastonbury. Pic: Reuters

The band were reportedly not aware it had happened until after the set had finished.

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The small boat appeared again during rapper Little Simz’s set as she performed on the Pyramid Stage on Saturday.

It was later confirmed to be the work of artist Banksy.

Little Simz on stage at Glastonbury. Pic: AP
Little Simz on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. Pic: AP

The installation also drew criticism from Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, who told Times Radio: “I was really saddened by it, actually.

“If you look at what happens with men, women, children being shoved on to those dinghies – the criminal gangs only fill them half with petrol, so they run out halfway across the English Channel and start to sink, endangering people’s lives.

“I don’t think this is a sort of thing to joke around with at Glastonbury.”

Artist Banksy, whose identity has been the subject of speculation since they first gained attention in the 1990s, often uses their distinctive graffiti and stencil-style street art to make subversive social and political comments.

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