Art & Artists

Banksy Fires Back at UK Home Secretary After Being Criticized for ‘Vile’ Glastonbury Artwork

July 4, 2024 at 10:20
DALL·E 2024-07-04 12.20.08 - A digital illustration depicting an artist responding to criticism from the UK Home Secretary for calling his Glastonbury artwork -vile.- The scene sh.webp
Banksy rebukes UK Home Secretary James Cleverly for calling his Glastonbury artwork "vile." Banksy highlights his rescue ship's efforts, criticizing the detention of his vessel, the MV Louise Michel.

Crew members of the civil sea rescue ship Sea-Watch 4 help migrants disembark the rescue ship funded by British street artist Banksy, "Louise Michel," off the coast of Malta on August 29, 2020. An Italian coastguard vessel had rushed to "Louise Michel" after it sent out a call for help with over 200 migrants onboard, taking in 49 of the most vulnerable. The Sea-Watch 4 vessel, with a clinic and 201 rescued migrants onboard, also arrived and took over 150 migrants from "Louise Michel."

Mysterious muralist Banksy took aim on Wednesday at British Home Secretary James Cleverly, who had previously criticized an artwork featuring an inflatable raft that appeared at the Glastonbury music festival last week.

In a recent Sky News appearance, Cleverly called the Banksy work “vile and unacceptable.” On Instagram, Banksy fired back, saying that the response seemed “a bit over the top.”

“The real boat I fund, the MV Louise Michel, rescued 17 unaccompanied children from the central Med on Monday night,” Banksy wrote. “As punishment, the Italian authorities have detained it – which seems vile and unacceptable to me.”

Cleverly claimed in the Sky News interview that the Banksy piece was “a celebration of loss of life in the Channel.” When asked whether it was possible that Banksy, “who makes political commentary on all sorts of things,” could have been criticizing the conservative government’s inability to confront the migrant smuggling industry, Cleverly dodged the question.

Instead, Cleverly railed against the UK's Labour party, which he said “aspires to run border control” and has hindered Conservative efforts to tighten the influx of migrants into Great Britain.

The number of migrants reaching Great Britain via small boats that cross the English Channel has steeply risen since 2018, according to the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, with 12,646 small boat arrivals recorded during the first half of 2024, up 16 percent from the same period last year.

In May, three men were arrested and charged with the deaths of five migrants, including a 7-year-old girl, who were crushed while trying to illegally enter the UK via a small boat. The UK’s Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, told reporters that these trips across the channel were the result of “criminal gangs exploiting vulnerable people; they are packing more and more people into these unseaworthy dinghies.”

Migration was a major theme at Glastonbury this year, with an entire section of the festival called Terminal 1 dedicated to the topic.

The Louise Michel is a 98-foot former French Navy vessel funded by Banksy from the sale of his artworks; it performs search and rescue missions along the European coast. The ship was launched in August 2019 and saved 350 people during its first week at sea. It was seized by Italian authorities following an attempt to rescue 37 migrants from the central Mediterranean Sea.