So it all started with a conversation about inflatable whales…
Alison Lomax (from whale and dolphin charity ORCA) and I let our enthusiasm get the better of us and decided that as a lot of people might not be aware of the amazing wildlife to be found in our seas, we needed to tell EVERYONE about it and cram as many marine related activities into one week as possible.
An exhibition of giant inflatable whales, dolphins and sharks seemed like a good place to start so Andy from Whale Workshop came along and created a lot of excitement when the first whale started coming to life….
The team here at the museum then got to work setting up a display of whale bones and taxidermy and we were ready for the crowds descending. Which they didn’t – at least not at first because it seemed that we’d coincided the exhibition with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
However, before long it was full of families taking part in virtual whale watching trips and making ocean life puppets. One of the particular highlights of the week for me was Thursday’s performance by folk group The Keelers, and storyteller Taffy Thomas. They performed in the Living Planet gallery (under the elephant and next to the shark!) and it was the perfect setting for their sea shanties and folklore tales.
Despite the rain at the end of the week, we persevered with our family rockpool ramble at St Mary’sIslandwith five wonderful families who braved it with us. We all arrived back at the museum soaked through but having seen more hermit crabs than I’ve ever seen in my life.
The simulated whale stranding rescue planned to take place on the front lawn of the museum had to be moved inside and though real buckets of water couldn’t be used, that didn’t stop the children using their imaginations!
The festival culminated in a boat trip on Sunday, and after telling visitors all week about our marine wildlife, it was fantastic to actually be able to go out and see for ourselves. No whales were spotted on this occasion but we saw lots of grey seals, loads of puffins and a few harbour porpoises which were amazing.
Thanks so much to DFDS Seaways for sponsoring the festival – find out more about the special Wildlife Mini Cruise we’re doing with them in September here: www.dfdsseaways.co.uk/brand/great-north-museum.