Dinosaurs bring the crowds to Northampton town centre
Europe’s biggest T Rex wowed the crowds as thousands of families flocked to Northampton town centre on Saturday.
Dinosaur lovers descended upon Market Square, Abington Street and other parts of the town centre to see the prehistoric beats, with almost 8,000 extra visitors to the town centre compared to the previous Saturday.
Footfall figures show a 42 per cent week-on-week increase in visitors to the Market Square and a 27 per cent rise on the equivalent Saturday in 2019, before the pandemic struck.
Mark Mullen, operations manager for Northampton Town Centre Business Improvement District, which organised the event, said:
“It was the busiest I have seen the town centre for a long time and a nice reminder of what life was like before all of the restrictions. Everything came together to make the event a success, including the weather. The town was absolutely buzzing.”
More than 300 families enjoyed an interactive ‘Dino Trail’ after downloading the Explore Northampton app. Users can hunt for 10 friendly augmented reality dinosaurs which come to life through smart phones in different locations around the town centre.
Business was booming as visitors made the most of a trip into town to go shopping and enjoy a bite to eat.
Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, which staged craft activities for children, enjoyed comfortably its busiest day since reopening, while retailers and food outlets also reported a surge in trade.
Tom Cliffe, director of Café Track in Market Square, said the event helped to draw people’s attention to the town’s independent shops.
He said: “It was an absolutely fantastic event, and it was great to see so many different faces of all ages enjoying the dinosaurs. It was brilliant to see the Market Square being used for events such as this. Our takings were definitely up compared to a normal Saturday.
“Events like this are crucial for the success of the town centre. We know shopping habits have changed but people can’t experience events like this online. It gets people talking and helps to show off the great independent businesses we have in the town.”
Julie Teckman, owner of Vintage Guru in St Giles Street, agreed, saying: “There was a really lovely buzz around town. We thought the event was very successful – we loved it. We certainly had some new customers that hadn’t been in before and because the event was going on all around town, people didn’t just turn up for it and then go home. They stayed and explored the town.”
Olly Dier, owner of gaming shop and café Geek Retreat in The Ridings, said: “The event certainly brought people into the town. We saw a mix of new customers and familiar faces in the shop. It was nice to see an event in the town centre after so long in lockdown and I think similar events would do well.”
Other businesses, including Lush, New Look and Metro Bank in the Grosvenor Centre, all reported a rise in visitors throughout the day.
The free event kicked off three weeks of Jurassic-themed activities, including a raft of ‘Dino Diner’ meal deals and special offers running in participating outlets until August 14.
The interactive ‘Dino Dome’, being held in Market Square on Saturday, July 31, from 11am to 4pm, is now fully booked due to unprecedented demand, but virtual headsets will be available for anyone wanting to have a go.
Families flocked to the town centre to see the dinosaurs and spoke of their joy of finally being able to enjoy and event together following 18 months of restrictions.
Mum Claire Mayhew, 40, from Market Harborough, said: “It’s the first time we’ve been into Northampton for ages and we absolutely loved it. My six-year-old hasn’t stopped talking about the dinosaurs, the T Rex was his favourite.”
Fellow parent Eleanor Coleman, 31, of Brixworth, said: “The kids loved the dinosaurs and we all loved being out and about, it was so refreshing after such a difficult period.”
The dinosaur activities are being staged by the BID as part of its ambition to make Northampton a better place to live, shop and work and form part of a refreshed calendar of activities to coincide with the relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions.
The dinosaurs will return for a special ticketed performance at The Deco theatre on August 13 and 14.
For full information about the activities and offers, visit www.discovernorthampton.co.uk/the-dinosaurs-are-coming-to-northampton-town-centre/.