Jurassic Encounter opens in Cassiobury Park on the outskirts of London from 2-18 April 2022, before moving on to Buxton, Edinburgh, Rotterdam and Bristol. I was fortunate enough to get a behind-the-scene sneak preview as the exhibition was being set up.
Little-by-little, 50 large, animatronic dinosaurs began to appear amongst the beautiful old trees and rolling grassland.
I was amused to watch five men push a Triceratops off the back of a flat-bed truck into its setting close to the bandstand; and several more making last-minute adjustments to an enormous T-Rex from the top of a mobile cherry-picker crane.
The exhibition features realistic-model dinosaurs from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods of prehistory. Some were familiar icons, made famous from the Jurassic Park films, such as the colourful, frilly-necked Dilophosaurus and the razor-teethed Velociraptors breaking out of their cage; but more were ‘old skool’ dinosaurs known to me from picture books I avidly thumbed as a kid: the sail-backed Dimetrodon; the club-tailed Ankylosaurus; and the Nessie-wannabe Plesiosaur.
A huge Brachiosaurus craned its long neck above the tree-tops; while a screechy Pterodactyl rested its wings on the ground.
One or two of the exhibits looked as though they were beginning to show signs of their 75-million years: the sails on the back of the Stegosaurus were a bit deflated; and the Styracosaurus––a personal favourite of mine––rather than displaying a proud Statue-of-Liberty-like crown of horns around its head looked a bit more like the cow with the crumpled horn.
Printing on several of the packing cases suggested that the creatures had made a long journey from China in order to reach the UK, and some of the exposed stuffing might well have been due to damage in transit, but a team of workmen were working hard to make good the repairs, and I am confident that any minor faults will be made ‘all right on the night’.
When I was young, the summit of my childhood ambitions was to visit the Victorian-era dinosaurs at Crystal Palace. I never did. It was not until I was a more cynical adult that I finally got to stroll amidst the famous statues of the Iguanodon and the Megatherium that I had first read about as an impressionable kid. Time had also taken its toll on them: the Megalosaurus had a broken nose and mouth, and the antlers on the Irish Elk were damaged. Nevertheless, it was still a magical and a memorable experience.
Dinosaurs continue to exert a timeless appeal, and both big kids––like myself––and little kids will be thrilled to visit Jurassic Encounter.
© Bradley Dunbar
Bradley Dunbar is an unabashed fan of dinosaurs.