A Brief History of The Lyme Regis Fossil Festival


The first fossil festival was in 2005 which is beginning to be quite a while ago so I think it would be useful to write down a brief history before we forget. Fortunately I have kept a bit of an archive of leaflets, newspaper cuttings and correspondence which means I should be able to do this quite accurately. I also have plenty of photographs from most years since again i have archived them fairly systematically - on the other hand the festival websites seem to have mostly disappeared.

Confession - one incentive for doing this is to provide citable documentation for a wikipedia page.


1998 Lyme Regis Development Trust

According to its website the Lyme Regis Development Trust was set up in 1998 "to promote the economic and social well-being of the town and its environs". This meant it employed Marcus Dixon to come up with good wheezes.

2000 Nomination of the Jurassic Coast

In 2000 the "Dorset and East Devon Coast" was formally nominated by the UK Government for inclusion in the UNESCO "World Heritage List". Preparing the bid document (which is a very useful publication) was a massive operation in which the NHM collaborated with the Dorset and Devon Councils, providing specialist scientific input. In particular Paul Davis played a lead role in this and somewhere along the way (allegedly) the idea of a fossil festival came up.  

2002 Earth Alert: Festival of Geology, Scarborough 

The Geologists' Association organised this festival in 2002 and a team from the NHM Palaeo department participated, lead by Paul Davis. The festival was primarily aimed at amateur geologists and featured an excellent lecture series and plenty of serious stalls from the likes of PalAss and BGS, but few hands on activities. Adrian Rundle, however, acting  more or less independently, despite being at least nominally employed by the NHM, subverted this by running microfossil and shark tooth picking activities which were infinitely more popular than the official NHM fossil identification service and bookstall (demonstration of our not very interactive CD-ROM was not really a winner either). 

2004 Festival of Fossils

In July 2004 Jackie Skipper, who was then Consultancy Leader in the Palaeontology Department organised two open days in Palaeontology. Building on connections established during the World heritage nomination process several people from The Jurassic Coast team and from Lyme Regis were invited - including Marcus Dixon and Sam Rose. The days included a mix of talks, demonstrations, a fossil roadshow etc. Marcus Dixon (allegedly) decided that it would be great if this could be repeated in Lyme Regis.

Nerdy details - Actually there were two open days Open Day 1 "Palaeontology is Open for Business" and Open Day 2 "Festival of Fossils". These were originally going to take place over two manic days -  30th June and 1st July. However, there was a train strike (I think) on 30th June so OD1 was postponed and OD2 happened first. OD1 then finally happened on 19th Oct. I reckon Marcus Dixon attended the 30th June open day and came up with the fossil festival wheeze along with Paul Davis and Jackie Skipper, whilst Sam Rose attended the October one and did more plotting then.

2005 Lyme Regis Fossil Festival

Friday 8th April - Saturday 9th April 2005 held during the Easter holidays without a separate schools day.

2006 Deep Time in Lyme

Friday 28th to Sunday 30th April

2007 Rising Seas

Friday 4th May to Sunday 6th May. This was the last one I helped lead the NHM team - along with Sarah Hone and Beth Stone. So obviously iregard as the beast festival - other people may just remember travelling across to Bridport on the Callista

2008 Not the Fossil Festival

Friday 4th April to Sunday 6th April. The fossil festival was cancelled this year due to funding problems but a proto-Buckland group went along anyway and we ended up filling both the big house in Silver Street and Cauli and Flowers. Highlights included Guido's home made pasta and a rather epic party on the saturday night.

2009 Evolution Rocks

Friday 22nd May to Sunday 24th May - so the latest we ever had a fossil festival. The Evolution theme reflected the fact that this was the international year of the Charles Darwin (who was a palaeontologist amongst other things). This was when Norm started getting sticky about unofficial participants so we rented a rather nice "Pirate's House" up the hill - didn't stop us having the main party of the festival though with barbecue on the Monday evening.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith