Deadliest dinosaurs stalk East Anglian theatres
Think you know what the biggest, scariest, deadliest predator to stalk the planet 65million years ago was? You might be surprised says dinosaur expert Dr Ben Garrod.
“I’ll tell you now, it’s not the one everybody thinks,” laughs the evolutionary biologist, primatologist and broadcaster.
He’s back with interactive family show So You Think You Know About Dinosaurs which takes you on prehistoric adventure using TV film footage from BBC’s Planet Dinosaur and photos of his own palaeontological digs.
“It’s somewhere between a science talk and panto. It’s educational but fun and very interactive, the kids really get involved. I take them through predators and prey like the tyrannosaurus rex, allosaurus and spinosaurus; why they got so big, were they stupid... we look at the science behind all these things using the puzzles, footage, kids versus adults, questions from the audience.
“We try to reveal little pieces of a big puzzle on the screen behind me. Each one reveals a new part of a fossil that ultimately goes together and reveals what this ultimate killer was. Some of the kids get really annoyed; they’re so passionate because they’ve really thought about it.
“At the end I say ‘this is my opinion, if you think it’s the T-rex, velociraptor or whatever then go away and think why. Think about the science not what’s the coolest’. It’s like playing Top Trumps with all the dinosaurs.”
Ben, a teaching Fellow at Cambridge’s Anglia Ruskin University, has presented several TV shows including Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur with Sir David Attenborough, Hyper Evolution: Rise of the Robots and The Day the Dinosaurs Died. He also presented his own award-winning six-part series for the BBC called Secrets of Bones.
The show is suitable for all ages, but aimed mainly at five-12 year olds.
“It’s two hours of high energy jumping around... I’d do it on my own if there was no-one in that audience. If you can be an ambassador for science, push that out to as big an audience as possible that’s incredible.”
“For any of the kids in the audience, that might be their first moment where they think ‘I want to be a scientist’. If they walk out and go ‘I really enjoyed that, I feel empowered’ then I’ve done my job.”
Given the liberties the Jurassic Park franchise takes, Ben says the series has also helped inspire the next generation of scientists.
“You’re not watching it as a documentary. I’ve got a lot of colleagues who were evenly split; some of us hate it, some of us love it. I love it. You go in to be scared of dinosaurs, have an adventure; you’re not there to learn facts about all these different species they’re got there.
“It’s done more to get a whole new generation of palaeontologists and young scientists involved than almost any other film I can imagine. It’s showcasing science in general, that’s the cool thing – it’s geneticists, evolutionary biologists, palaeontologists and there’s men and women, inspiring boys and girls that science is awesome and it’s quite adventurous. It’s not this dull thing where you’re stuck in a lab coat bored out of your skull for 40 years.”
That’s what he’s trying to bring to So You Think You Know About Dinosaurs? This capacity that science is for you, even if you’re not the best at it.
“I wasn’t the best at science in the world, but I’ve just got my doctorate in evolutionary biology because I loved what I did and that’s a really important message. Obviously this is fun, engaging and I really want to inspire kids and want them to have fun. I also want to say that science is for every single kid in the audience.”
• See the show at Ipswich Corn Exchange, March 8; King’s Lynn Arts Centre, March 9; Diss Corn Hall, March 10; The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, March 11 and Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, March 24.