Aspex Portsmouth

Week 36, Luna Park, 40 Stories

Joanne Bushnell, Director

Eleven years ago, in the early hours of 1st October 2010 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 Peak and Ivan Morison went up in flames!

This extraordinary work was a re-creation of an Ultrasaurus, an enormous dinosaur which never actually existed, but was a chimera, created by the accidental bringing together of bones from a number of species. Inspired by the roadside constructions seen in the USA, the artists created a magnificent artwork, constructed, transported and then installed by former car factory workers from Serbia.

During the summer of 2010 this extraordinary stranger was greeted, embraced and asked to join in, a welcome guest at key events and celebrations – a shelter, a meeting place, a temporary landmark, a muse for the city’s creatives and a playmate much loved by children.

When, just before the work was due to leave on a tour to Firstsite in Colchester and then Chapter in Cardiff, it burnt down, there was an outpouring of sadness. Over 12,000 people joined an ‘RIP Southsea Dinosaur’ group on Facebook, children cried, people left tributes on the fencing which surrounded its ‘skeleton’.

Heather and Ivan 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, and folklore, affectionately known as ‘the Southsea Dinosaur’.

In 2020 Studio Morison produced a virtual reality version of the work, while a crowdfunding campaign was launched to raise money to commission a permanent tribute to Luna Park.

I stand for language. I speak for history. I shout for truth. will be launched tomorrow 2 October 2021, a bronze sculpture standing on a Portland stone plinth, with QR code linking to an augmented reality vision of Luna Park, standing tall once again on Southsea Common. The Southsea Dinosaur is back!


Luna Park 2010

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.

Luna Park 2021

I stand for language. I speak for history. I shout for truth. has been commissioned by Aspex with donations from individuals through Crowdfunder and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, and Portsmouth City Council.