Sometimes the Natural History Museum lets the grown-ups in on the fun, running a Dino Snores sleepover just for them. Celia Topping packed her toothbrush for a night with the beasts.
I can’t remember how long I’ve wanted to do a Dino Snores all-nighter. Now, at last, I’m here, along with a bunch of other adults similarly intent on indulging their inner child in their favourite museum, with the prospect of a magical night ahead…
7.30pm The small herd of adults surging through the Natural History Museum’s doors, clutching their sleeping bags and pillows, are as expectant and excited as any child about to camp out overnight in the museum under the watchful eye of Dippy the Diplodocus. The eager Dino Snorers spread out, each finding their own snug corner next to a skeletal glyptodon or stuffed giant moa bird.
8.30pm The drinking begins in earnest over a three-course meal of bistro-style food, and some pretty cool raffle prizes are won, such as the muchcoveted dinosaur cookie-cutters and curly-whirly, tyrannosaurus rex straws.
10.30pmIn the ‘Brutal Insect Sex’ lecture we learn how dust mites are nefarious date-rapists and we see some of the most peculiar-shaped penises known to man, all enthusiastically revealed by Dr Erica McAlister, resident ‘Fly Girl’ at the NHM. In stiff competition for Erica’s willy-heavy talk is Simon Watt, stand-up comic and biologist by trade, who manages to comprehensively answer our most burning biological question: ‘Who would win in a fight between a crocodile and a shark?’(The shark, surprisingly; it’s heavier and faster.)
11.30pm Screwed-up faces and cries of ‘Euuurgh, it tastes like mouldy cheese and onion crisps!’ fill the dining room during the feast of edible insects, while on the far side of the museum a lifedrawing session is taking place with a subject who looks curiously like a cross between Alan Davies and Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’, only without all the extra arms and legs. Not all the resultant drawings are particularly kind.
12.30am Everyone is free to roam the galleries in glorious peaceful seclusion while taking part in a treasure hunt. I come across an amorous couple, appropriately, under the ‘Extinction: Not the End of the World?’ wishing tree, where notes such as ‘I hope David Attenborough doesn’t go extinct’ are hung. I beat a retreat, only to find out later the couple had just got engaged. So, no extinction just yet…
2.30amThe inevitable onesies come out, last drinks are ordered, ghost stories are told and the ‘Jurassic Park’ movie marathon begins in the Marine Invertebrates room, as our over-tired troopers settle down for the night.
6am I wake, set adrift on my halfdeflated air mattress. The central lobby looks like a vast emergency evacuation hall, with bodies all over the place. A full English breakfast and a mug of tea bring us back to life before, sadly, the doors open to the hoi polloi.
The next Dino Snores for Grown Ups is on Jun 29 (book early: tickets go fast). For info and tickets, see Dino Snores listing.