Banksy exhibition puts £10m into Bristol's economy
The "Banksy Effect" has put £10 million into the city's economy and doubled the turnover of a number of local businesses at the height of the recession.
Over the 12 weeks more than 300,000 people, around 4,000 each day, visited the Banksy vs Bristol Museum exhibition matching the museum's own annual number of visits.
Visitors queued come rain or shine for between two and six hours to see more than 100 works by the elusive artist in the exhibition, which closed yesterday.
In a statement sent by text message to the media, Banksy said: "It's nice to see it's been so popular but it makes me a bit suspicious.
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"Throughout history all the great artists have been overlooked in their own lifetime and only appreciated once they've gone. I'm starting to worry I'm not one of the good guys."
In a separate message to the Evening Post he added: "In some ways I'm sorry it has to end but I promised my mum she could have her leopard-skin coat back."
The leopard-skin coat is part of an animatronic exhibit arranged in a tree to look like a real animal when viewed from one side, with the belt moving like a wagging tail.
Voluntary donations to the museum were also generous, reaching in excess of £45,000 – nearly four times the annual amount. Bristol Museum itself employed an extra 30 temporary staff to work over the three-month period.
And there have been 600,000 visits to YouTube's Banksy vs Bristol Museum video.
Economic experts say the interest generated by Banksy's work has had an unprecedented and unexpected effect on local businesses and other tourist attractions.
Hotel rooms, guesthouses and B&B bookings are up, takings by local businesses, including cafes, bookshops and restaurants are up, car park usage has increased and tickets sold on the Bristol International Airport bus to the museum stop in Queens Road, Clifton, are also up.
Visitor numbers to other local attractions, such as Bristol Zoo Gardens and ss Great Britain have also soared. Kate Davenport, services director for economic and cultural development in the city, took her son Ollie Wright, 12, to see the exhibition on its last day yesterday.
She said: "Words fail me. We have just run out of superlatives to describe how great this has been for the cultural life of the city and in terms of economic impact. The stories just keep coming about what a difference it has made."
She said hotels, restaurants and shops had made about £10 million because of the extra people coming to Bristol for the exhibition.
She said: "There were a lot of day-trippers at the start but in the past few weeks that has changed. People have been much more determined and there have been more overnight stays."
Simon Cook, the city council's deputy leader and culture cabinet member, said: "It has been brilliant to see so many people wanting to come to the exhibition.
"I am really sorry we have had queuing problems. We didn't have any idea it would be so successful.
"We expected about 100,000 people through the doors in three months but the figure is 315,000. We brought in extra staff who have been fantastic and enthused by the exhibition just as much as the public."
Commercial consultants King Sturge, based across the road from the museum, are carrying out an economic analysis of what the urban artist has done for the city.
Partner Ned Cussen told the Post yesterday: "Not only has it been great for local restaurants and cafes, but it has been a recession-buster for all sorts of local businesses.
"Businesses around here have seen their turnover double during the Banksy exhibition. You expect this with bars and restaurants, but there have been reports of fashion retailers increasing their profits by 10 per cent. You don't expect that type of thing. There have been instances of local charity shops' turnover doubling with the sale of Banksy memorabilia."
He added: "This exhibition has been completely unique; it's a one-off. Every other city would love to have what Bristol has had. I think visitors didn't quite know what to expect, but everyone comes out with a smile on their face."
Paul Barnett, acting head of Bristol's museum service, said this exhibition has put Bristol on the international map.
He told the Post: "It has created a continuous flow of visitors never before seen by the museum. But it has also led to a rediscovery of other parts of the museum. People have left this museum feeling inspired with a different view of the world.
"It's been something fun, something brilliant, and something thought-provoking."
Bristol City Council's chief executive Jan Ormondroyd was equally glowing. She said: "It has probably been the most successful exhibition in the UK. It is more than any of us expected, certainly in terms of putting Bristol on the map. We have to say a big thank-you to Banksy.
"It has been a very good summer. With the Harbour Festival, the Balloon Fiesta and the exhibition, it has been amazing. I have had texts and emails just saying thank you. Some of these have been from people who had to queue for four hours and they said it was worth it."
She added: "The staff have been amazing as well. They all went the extra mile."
Yvonne Colgan, of the Bristol Hospitality Forum, said the whole city should join in in saying a big thank-you to the mysterious artist.
She said: "This exhibition has worked on a number of levels. It has captured the imaginations and the support of the city. As well as visitors to the exhibition itself, it has also generated a high level of local tourism, visiting other local attractions. People have been making a whole day of their trip, visiting attractions such as the ss Great Britain."
She added: "Bristol has now been presented on a global scale, as the home of great art. I would like to say a big thank-you to Banksy for doing something so amazing for his home city. I would love to get the chance to shake his hand. It has been great for the city, whatever his motives were.
"But now the exhibition has ended, people should remember that Bristol is a permanent Banksy exhibition. All you need to do is get an urban art guide and take a tour of his work."
Susannah Cole, the ss Great Britain Trust's director of development, said visitor numbers are clearly up. She said: "Brunel's ss Great Britain has also seen visitor numbers exceeding forecasts for August by over 22 per cent. We believe there are a number of factors influencing these increases. Certainly Banksy and the Banksy queue – where people have been put off by the wait and are looking for alternative entertainment – has also benefited Brunel's ss Great Britain."
Cafes and shops selling food and drink in Queens Road have done very well. Two extra staff were taken on at nearby Carwardine's Coffee House where manager Liz Dare said business was "phenomenal".
She said: "We've had record days, record weeks – we broke all records. I've been able to employ two full-time staff which is amazing in a recession."
The exhibits were removed last night but there will not be another chance to see them together in one place. Banksy staged the free exhibition just for his home town.