UK first as dinosaur skeleton makes debut in shopping centre

Big Sara visits Westquay

For the first time in the UK, a large authentic dinosaur skeleton has been installed in a shopping centre on the South Coast. Lee Peck media was critical to the evolution and delivery of the project from its inception.

The story started with a local business owner, an exisiting working relationship and a nose for a sensational story. Laura Read, General Manager of Westquay Southampton, had been offered the rare opportunity to display this very special guest by a local entrepreneur, James Benamor. When she mentioned the project to Lee Peck of Lee Peck Media, he knew right away that this would be a huge story and so offered his support to help coordinate the project and launch ‘Big Sara’ to the world.

Dating from the Upper Jurassic period, Big Sara is an allosaurus measuring 10 metres in length and 3.5 metres in height. With 70% of its skeleton intact, Big Sara is one of the most complete allosaurus skeletons ever discovered. For enthusiasts, the missing bones have been cast and reproduced in resin.

As a formidable carnivore, she would have been top of the food chain and ripped her prey apart with her killer claws.  Some palaeontologists believe the allosaurus was a social animal and hunted in packs while others believe individuals may have been aggressive toward each other and have a reputation for fighting.

The fossil was discovered in 2015 on a steep hillside in the Morrison Formation in Wyoming, acknowledged as the most fertile source of dinosaur fossils in North America, and took more than two years to fully remove.

After six months of international video calls, countless emails and many cups of coffee over secret plans, Big Sara is now in her new home on display at Westquay in the heart of Southampton’s city centre where she will stay for at least two years, open for all to come and wonder.

Richmond Group Founder and CEO James Benamor, said: “When we bought Big Sara our intention was to share it with as many people as possible. Whilst museums are fine, many children visit them maybe once a year if they are lucky.

“When we looked at where we could put Sara so that as many people as possible could see her as often as possible, Westquay was our first choice. My own family are regular shoppers here, and as the largest and most popular shopping centre closest to the Jurassic Coast, it was the right place for the apex predator of the Jurassic period.”

Laura Read, General Manager of Westquay, said: “When we were offered Big Sara we jumped at the chance. We are all about providing visitors with a unique entertainment experience whether shopping, dining or taking in a movie so having a full-scale dinosaur fossil on display fits totally into our strategy. We anticipate great interest from grown-ups and children alike who will be very welcome to view Big Sara for themselves and hopefully she will provide everyone with a sense of wonder and excitement.”

Lee Peck Media was fundamental to the delivery of the project, coordinating the dialogue between the auction house in Paris where the fossil was purchased and the company constructing of the casing which housed Big Sara. Additionally Lee Peck Media planned the launch of Big Sara to the public, working on all press formats to drive maximum coverage and consumer engagement when she was finally ready to be released to the world! Lee Peck Media also worked with renowned dinosaur experts to make sure all subject matter was represented accurately and that there was maximum value achieved by all parties by the opportunity Big Sara presented to educate and inspire.

Her arrival coincided with the opening of Jurassic World: Dominion, at Westquay’s Showcase Cinema de Lux.

Coverage was achieved on all major channels, both on and offline including print, radio and television.

Speaking of Lee Peck Media, Laura said: “I knew from Lee’s work with the Southampton City of Culture 2025 bid that he was a force to be reckoned with in the world of PR. His easy manner, professional calibre and sense of humour meant that working together with him on this project was very enjoyable. The whole Lee Peck Media team displayed passion and enthusiasm from the start and went above and beyond to help us in delivering this most unique and special of projects. I would not hesitate to call Lee Peck Media again when the next dinosaur comes along!”