Aspex Portsmouth

Luna Park, Heather Peak and Ivan Morison

by Heather Peak

When I stood, 11 years ago, on Southsea Common, in front of, well, Luna Park bent down and innards exposed, drizzle on my head, holding my small daughters hand, little boy inside me – still to be born, I sniffed the smoke in the air and looked at Jo (Bushnell) and sighed. Ivan was away, on the other side if the world, unaware, asleep, time differences at odds with all this action here on Southsea Common. Poor Luna Park, all dead and collapsed, wind and rain whirling round her metal skeleton. Exposed to the people of Portsmouth and the passengers to the Isle of Wight. Such joy she had brought, and such glee and love had been brought to her by visitors over the summer months. Picnics underneath, meetings and coffee drunk, smiles exchanged, huge rally’s and festivals she was part of, poking her head out of a sea of people and tents and kites and vintage cars. She was shelter and she was rest, she was pleasure and excitement, and she was ART.

So, now to stand here as TIME PASSES, and see her again both in actual life and virtual life, I feel immensely grateful to Aspex, all our funders – National Lottery through Arts Council England, and Portsmouth City Council – and to the people of Portsmouth – whose incredible outpouring of love and warmth, and support made her manifest again. She is here, standing up, full of joy and asking to be loved. I hope that she, in some small way, is smile inducing again, and a friend to meet by, gives you all pleasure and is your ART.

The archive is just a tiny taste of all these things and now can continue to be added to as Luna is with us once more, this time in bronze!

(Small boy will now be visiting in real life)


Luna Park was a 16-metre tall sculpture of a dinosaur created by artists Heather Peak and Ivan Morison. Installed on Southsea Common the artwork attracted over 100,000 visitors during the two months it was on display, wearing out the grass around the artwork and becoming affectionately known as the Southsea Dinosaur.

The sculpture was of an Ultrasaurus, a dinosaur ‘discovered’ by Paleontologist Professor Jim Jensen in the 1970s, which was later proved to be a chimera, derived from different species, the dinosaur that never was! Luna Park allowed Jensen’s myth to come alive on Southsea Common and act as a new meeting place, and temporary landmark within the city; a place to congregate night or day, a space for everyone, and a rallying point.

Luna Park was made from a steel skeleton covered with a hard, coloured polyester shell, and was transported in 6 pieces from Serbia where it was constructed by a team of engineers, welders, assemblers and model makers. The film An Unreachable Country. A Long Way To Go documents the process and the people behind the construction of the structure, and was exhibited at Aspex while Luna Park was on display in the City.

The title for the work was inspired by a rundown amusement park named Luna Park, outside of the city of Novosibursk, Siberia, which the artists visited five years before, later writing: “It’s so distant to us now in our memories that it’s as if it were only ever a fiction”. In their practice Heather Peak and Ivan Morison seek to merge information into a narrative that builds on the mythology of their own lives and the lives of people they encounter, and the installation Luna Park continued the Morisons’ investigations into the blurring of fact and fiction; of creating events and sites that encourage viewers to pause and question their surroundings.

The work was due to tour on to Firstsite in Colchester and then to Chapter in Cardiff, however, on the 1st October 2010, just over a week before the sculpture was due to leave Portsmouth, it burnt down in a terrible storm.

Luna Park was a Chapter initiative that was commissioned in collaboration with Safle through the Stiwdio Safle programme, Aspex, Portsmouth and Firstsite, Colchester. The project received generous financial support from Safle, The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council England through Sustain and was part-financed by the European Union.