Banksy Claps Back at UK Home Secretary Over Criticism of Glastonbury Immigration Art

Banksy, the enigmatic street artist, responded to UK Home Secretary James Cleverly’s critique of his Glastonbury Festival artwork depicting an inflatable raft. Cleverly, in a Sky News interview, had labeled the piece “vile and unacceptable.” Banksy retorted on Instagram, suggesting Cleverly’s reaction was “a bit over the top.”

Banksy highlighted the humanitarian efforts of the MV Louise Michel, a rescue boat he finances, which recently saved 17 unaccompanied minors in the Mediterranean. He contrasted this with the Italian authorities’ decision to detain the vessel, which he deemed truly “vile and unacceptable.”

Cleverly had accused the artwork of glorifying the tragic loss of life in the English Channel. When questioned if Banksy’s intent might have been to critique the government’s handling of migrant smuggling, Cleverly sidestepped, instead attacking the Labour party for allegedly obstructing Conservative migration policies.

The debate comes amid rising migrant arrivals in Great Britain by small boats, a trend that has escalated since 2018. Recent data from the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford shows a 16% increase in such arrivals in the first half of 2024 compared to the previous year. The issue of migration was prominently featured at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, particularly in a section named Terminal 1.

The Louise Michel, a 98-foot vessel previously owned by the French Navy and now funded by Banksy, is dedicated to search and rescue operations in European waters. Launched in August 2019, it successfully rescued 350 individuals in its first operational week. However, it was recently seized by Italian authorities after attempting to rescue 37 migrants from the central Mediterranean.