Looking back at the night the Southsea dinosaur burned down as crowdfunder aims to create a permanent tribute

IN HER last week of reminiscing about Luna Park, Aspex Gallery director Joanne Bushnell reflects on the night the dinosaur burned down and the controversy surrounding it.
The dinosaur on Southsea Common on fire
Picture: Scott ClarkeThe dinosaur on Southsea Common on fire
Picture: Scott Clarke
The dinosaur on Southsea Common on fire Picture: Scott Clarke

By all accounts the early hours of October 1, 2010, were terrible. An incredible storm raged, the wind, rain and waves lashed the shore and then Luna Park, the 16m tall dinosaur sited on Southsea Common by artists Heather and Ivan Morison went up in flames!

I was woken up early by a call from the chair of Aspex’s trustees who had been asked for comment by the BBC. The fire had completely destroyed the Ultrasaurus. All that remained was a mangled welded steel frame, a skeleton. The inferno must have been tremendous and it was devastating.

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A debate then raged, was it arson or an electrical fault? Who was responsible? 12,500 people joined an RIP Southsea Dinosaur group on Facebook. There was an outpouring of sadness; children cried in Mozzarella Joes, just opposite the site. Someone knitted RIP letters and left them as a tribute with flowers on the fencing.

The ultrasaurus sculpture on October 2, 2010, after the fire 
Picture: Paul Jacobs (103130-4)The ultrasaurus sculpture on October 2, 2010, after the fire 
Picture: Paul Jacobs (103130-4)
The ultrasaurus sculpture on October 2, 2010, after the fire Picture: Paul Jacobs (103130-4)
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Southsea Common Luna Park dinosaur 10-year anniversary to be marked with virtual...

So Luna Park didn’t tour on to Colchester and then Cardiff as planned. Heather and Ivan Morison decided not to remake the work, but felt that there was an amazing story and a beautiful sense of mystery in its untimely end. The work became part of Portsmouth’s history, part of the city’s folklore, and exclusively belonged to Southsea.

If you have pictures or memories you want to share, please send them to [email protected] and you might find them included in Heather and Ivan Morison’s digital work Luna Park 10 Years. Visit lunapark.land to see the virtual reality experience of the Ultrasaurus back on Southsea Common. Or call the Dino Hotline 07488 266872 to share your story: we have a dedicated phone line where you can leave a message.

At Aspex we’ve enjoyed 10 years of happy and sometimes difficult memories of Luna Park, so as we mark this milestone anniversary, it's time to try and bring back the Southsea Dinosaur.

The ultrasaurus on Southsea Common.
Picture: Steve Reid (102432-54)The ultrasaurus on Southsea Common.
Picture: Steve Reid (102432-54)
The ultrasaurus on Southsea Common. Picture: Steve Reid (102432-54)
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We are inviting the public to help us to create a scale replica of the dinosaur in bronze, to be placed on a stone plinth with a QR code linking it to an augmented reality version of the work (you will see it through your mobile device as if it was there full size)! It will also give viewers access to a digital archive of images and memories of the work.

If you want to see this new artwork happen, please donate what you can and share our crowdfunder crowdfunder.co.uk/southsea-dinosaur with your family and friends. Your support will help us commission a public sculpture which marks an extraordinary chapter in the history of Portsmouth; a lasting tribute to our long gone and much missed visitor.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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