One word. Dippy.
The Natural History Museum’s iconic diplodocus skeleton cast has been on tour around Britain, stopping finally in the stunning nave of Norwich Cathedral. It’s been a long time coming and when it was first announced in 2016, I knew immediately that I needed to be involved in this awesome venture.
And here I am, some 5 years later, donning a Cathedral gilet and proudly flashing my ‘Dippy Volunteer’ badge.
I’m having the time of my life, and there’s no other way of putting it.
I’ve dabbled in volunteer work before, ironically my first gig was working to create a film with people with disabilities when I was a teenager. There’s something immensely satisfying in giving your time for free. Without volunteers many projects could simply never happen, Dippy’s tour included. And to be emotionally invested in a project makes the whole experience that much more rewarding.
As I arrive at the cathedral for a shift, in my wheelchair due to the nature of the job, I can’t help but feel a buzz of excitement. I am there, along with the team, to ensure that the many many visitors arriving have the best experience possible. Oozing with enthusiasm about all things dinosaur, I see it as my job to transfer that enthusiasm onto the guests.
My proudest moment so far has been to take a bored looking family of 4 from having almost zero interest to full blown ardour for the exhibition and dinosaurs.
Approaching the family, I could see that the 2 young teens were not impressed that they had been dragged along to see some boring old bones. I immediately leapt at the chance to turn this around and bounded over with the biggest grin on my face, which was unfortunately masked by my mask. I asked who the biggest dinosaur fan was and was greeted with grunts and shrugs. “Don’t you like dinosaurs?” I said, in utter disbelief. “Not really”, mumbled the boy. “He’s a bit old for them now, he’s 13”, piped up his dad.
Nonsense, how can you ever be too old for dinosaurs? They are the most fascinating creatures to ever walk our planet!
Feeling embarrassed at her son’s lack of interest, the mum nudged him and said, “You used to love dinosaurs when you were little, didn’t you?” Well, I jumped on this and within seconds the boy was smiling away as he recounted long-gone days of playing with toy raptors. I had him. And not only him – the whole family lit up and we were immersed in excitable chatter about dinosaurs and the difference between the Cretaceous period and the Jurassic. Their minds were blown when I told them that we were closer in time to a t.rex than a t.rex was to diplodocus and that a stegosaurus was equally as far apart from a triceratops. Feeling compelled to take a closer look at Dippy, and to whip out their phones for photos, they practically skipped away in awe, and it was the best feeling.
They are not the only family to have upped their enthusiasm once I’ve spoken with them and it feels as though I have found my calling in life. Sadly, this is only a temporary affair and, come the 30th October ‘21, we’ll be saying goodbye to Dippy. The experience will stay with me, it’s the greatest pleasure to be a part of something like this and I rather feel as though I have caught the bug for volunteering…