Who doesn’t love a dinosaur? Big, fierce and scary, they capture the imaginations of young and old alike, their admirers revelling in the fact that although dinosaurs ruled the Earth for millions of years there’s not much risk of bumping into one while out doing the shopping or walking the dog. Except that wasn’t quite true in Norwich earlier this year, when the streets of Norfolk’s only city were awash with the scariest dino of all, the terrifying Tyrannosaurus Rex.
OK, it’s true, the many T-Rex we saw roaming the streets of Norwich a few weeks ago weren’t quite on the scale of their Jurassic predecessors, being just shy of two metres in height and weighing in at a modest 80kg. But although just slimmed down versions of the real – but long extinct – thing, they definitely drew in the crowds.
The Norwich dinosaur trail featured 55 Tyrannosaurus Rex sculptures decorated by around 50 professional and amateur artists, of whom 13 had never painted a sculpture before. Plainly this isn’t high art, but it sure brings a smile to the face.
Mrs P and I spent a couple of days exploring Norwich city centre tracking the dinosaurs down, and it was great to see so many kids – big and small! – being excited and inspired by them, and taking endless selfies in front of them.
The trail also encouraged a sense of community and common purpose. Several times we fell into conversation with total strangers, comparing notes on our favourite sculptures and sharing information on where some of the more elusive specimens could be found. We also took the time to tell our new friends about a similar festival in our local city last year, when Derby hosted an impressive Ram Trail.
Left: ” Sirdavidasaurus rex” by Faye Rackham celebrates the life and work of famed naturalist Sir David Attenborough. Top right: “B-Rex” by Illona Clark draws inspiration from bees, which play a vital role in pollinating plants and keeping food on our tables. Bottom right: “The Golden King” by Katy Stevens.
Norwich’s dinosaur trail delivered on so many levels. It was organised by Break, an East Anglian regional children’s care charity which is seeking to achieve “the best outcomes for young people on the edge of care, in care and moving on from care.” Although access to the dinosaur trail was free, a number of initiatives directly linked with it helped raise much-needed funds for this worthy organisation.
“Afternoon Tea-Rex” by Mik Richardson. Celebrating a quaint English tradition, Afternoon Tea-Rex wears his blue gingham waistcoat and tiny black bowtie with pride. He has a three-tiered cake stand laden with delicious goodies balanced on his head, a tray bearing teacups and a teapot in his hand, and a giant cherry on his back.
Break worked in collaboration with Wild in Art, which runs public art events in the UK and across the world, events “that entertain, enrich, inform and leave a lasting legacy.” Well, they certainly achieved that in Norwich, and also in Derby last year when they masterminded the Ram Trail that I referred to earlier.
“Prideasaurus” by Martin Wall. Covered from head to toe in sparkling crystals, Prideasaurus is described as a celebration of diversity, equality and inclusivity.
In addition, the Norwich trail provided opportunities for artists, in particular local artists, to create works that showcased their talents. And, crucially, it attracted people to visit the city centre and spend a bit of money there. These included both locals, and visitors – like Mrs P and I – from other parts of the country.
“Lost Holmes” by Sally Adams is inspired by the fusion of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous character Sherlock Holmes with his tale of the ‘Lost World’, in which dinosaurs are the stars of the show
At a time when many businesses are struggling with the longer-term impacts of Covid and the horrific surge in energy prices, the extra business generated by the intrepid dinosaur hunters must have been most welcome.
“Arcadia” by Dandelion Mosaics. Arcadia is described as a mosaic masterpiece intended to depict a tree growing from a seed and showing how it is a transformation only made possible by the sun.
But most important of all the trail was a lot of fun, and don’t we all need some of that right now! Without exception, the vividly coloured dinosaurs brightened up their surroundings. Many were highly creative, and some were delightfully witty. A few hinted at deeper meanings, but the message common to all of them was simply this: art is fun, so come along and enjoy!
Top left: “Doodling Dino” by Esme Taylor. Doodling Dino is covered with doodles of Norfolk, including landscapes, heritage sites, amusement parks and other iconic locales. Bottom left: “Roary” by Caroline Carty, inspired by classic board games, card games, collectables and video games. Right: Feline-osaur by Ella Goodwin is cat-lovers dream, covered head to toe with friendly furry felines.
Sadly, the dinosaur trail is over. T-Rex sculptures have been rounded up from all over Norwich, and have been corralled somewhere safe. Before the end of the month these will be auctioned off to raise additional funds for Break. With luck some of them will be bought by local businesses and community organisations, and hopefully these will remain on display for dinosaur fans and public art enthusiasts of all ages to enjoy for many years to come.