On any given day in Plymouth, there may be a pterodactyl hovering at the bus stop, a couple of T-rexes in the tinned goods aisle or a stegosaurus at the school gates. In most places, this would be enough to warrant a fair few double takes – but in the port city, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
Members of the Dinosaurs of Plymouth Facebook group, which has 5,600 fans, are locals – mainly parents – who bring joy to others by dressing up in inflatable dinosaur outfits. Many are women, and photos show them meeting up outside schools and nurseries, and pushing buggies, dressed in giant inflatable suits.
Janine Kindon, 58, who runs her own ironing business, has a stegosaurus and a dragon costume tucked away in her wardrobe. She’s been out in them twice so far, and has plans to do an outing once a week. She’ll usually meet with a friend – also donning a dino suit – and walk around the local area to bring cheer to those they pass. On the day I speak to her, she’s paid a visit to a nursery.
“It gives me a real buzz to see so many kids and adults enjoying seeing us out,” says Kindon. “It’s a proper feel-good feeling. If I can make just one person’s day and cheer them up when they’re feeling down, that makes my day, too.”
So, how did these dinosaur dress-ups even come about? The Facebook group was set up by Dawn Lapthorn, who was inspired to bring fellow dinosaur fans together after planning to host a small dinosaur party for her daughter in March this year.
The original idea was for her immediate family to wear dinosaur onesies for the bash, but Lapthorn says her son “nicked” hers. Instead, she decided to go one better and bought an inflatable outfit ahead of the big day.
Unable to keep it under wraps, Lapthorn has decided to wear the costume out and about to bring joy to locals. She wanted to find others, too, so set up a Facebook group for dino-dressers to unite and walk together. Within 24 hours, it had more than a thousand members.
“I wore it in the street and people were beeping and taking pictures,” she tells HuffPost UK. “Children asked to have pictures taken with me, too. The response has been absolutely amazing.
“I’ve had people come up to me laughing or smiling asking me why I’m doing this, so I reply: ‘what’s that expression on your face?’ It makes people smile and brightens up their day, which is all we want.”
Lapthorn now has three dinosaur outfits to choose from for her outings, although she’s learned your standard AA batteries aren’t enough to power the costumes to inflate for long periods of time. “When I first got the outfit I used batteries,” she explains. “Now I use a power bank which is brilliant – so much more powerful!”
Since setting up the group, she’s had people asking her to visit schools and nurseries dressed in her jurassic get-up, and even to walk past someone’s home on a child’s birthday. She’ll also often see other dinosaurs roaming the streets, too.
The bizarre trend has brought plenty of joy to locals and seems to be a craze other places are adopting. The Ickenham Dinosaurs, for example, set up in March, has 800 members and counting. The Facebook description says they were inspired by the Plymouth dinosaurs group.
“It’s been such a horrible year for most people so it’s great so many people have got involved just to bring a bit of cheer to them,” says Lapthorn.
“It’s also giving people the incentive to go out for a walk and get some exercise rather than just sitting indoors all the time. It’s given them a new lease of life.”
You’re reading Covid-Free Zone, a section designed to offer a little respite during the pandemic. For more fun and escapism, browse the articles here.