Banksy let loose inflatable boat with dummy migrants at Glastonbury Idles set

Inflatable ‘migrant boat’ during Idles set at Glastonbury (Twitter)
Inflatable ‘migrant boat’ during Idles set at Glastonbury (Twitter)

Infamous street artist Banksy is reportedly behind a controversial stunt at Glastonbury Festival, where a boat carrying dummy migrants was launched into the crowd during a performance by rock band Idles.

The band said they were unaware of the installation until after they had left the stage, adding an element of surprise to the already shocking incident.

Idles also led the Glastonbury crowd in chanting “f*** the king”, said their last song was an “an anti-fascist song, anti-Farage song”, and got the crowd to chant “ceasefire now” in relation to the war in Gaza.

The boat was launched during the Idles song Danny Nedelko, which opens with the lyrics: “My blood brother is an immigrant / A beautiful immigrant... He’s made of bones, he’s made of blood / He’s made of flesh, he’s made of love / He’s made of you, he’s made of me”.

Banksy has a rich history with the festival. He designed the Union flag-emblazoned stab-proof vest worn by Stormzy during his 2019 Pyramid stage headline set, and in 2014 he commandeered a livestock transportation van that drove around the site with cuddly toys emerging from it. The site has also hosted a number of the artist’s classic stencil artworks, including one in 2010 that made a reappearance in 2022 to mark the festival’s 50th anniversary.

Migration is a big theme at this year’s Glastonbury. A new area, Terminal 1 asks people coming in to answer a question from the UK government’s citizenship test. Inside is music by representatives from Notting Hill carnival and others.

Banksy has long-established links with Glastonbury. He designed the Union flag-emblazoned stab-proof vest worn by Stormzy during his 2019 Pyramid stage headline set, while the site has also hosted several of his artworks.

Banksy has previously tried to help activists helping migrants trying to reach Europe, funding a migrant rescue ship. In 2019, he emailed German born activist Pia Klemp, the captain of a number of NGO rescue ships. “I am an artist from the UK and I've made some work about the migrant crisis, obviously I can't keep the money” he wrote. “Could you use it to buy a new boat or something? Please let me know. Well done. Banksy.”

Several artists were political during the festival. Blur singer Damon Albarn turned up during Bombay Bicycle Club’s set for their new song Heaven, which he appears on. Albarn said: “Three things - you have to show me how you feel about it - are you pro Palestine? Do you feel that's an unfair war?”. He went on to encourage people to vote, and said of the US election: “maybe it's time we stopped putting octogenarians in charge of the whole world”.

Welsh singer Charlotte Church also sang 'free Palestine' and wore a Palestinian keffiyeh. She said: “I’m going to give some love and feeling to Palestine. To all the people and all the mothers and the children – we are thinking of you, we carry you in our hearts.”