Prince William greets visitors in the Museum's Central Hall on his way to open the Darwin Centre
Rehearsals started early for those involved in yesterday's royal opening event for the Darwin Centre. In the cocoon building’s grand hallway, I managed to catch a run-through of the spectacular butterfly acrobatic dance scheduled for later on in the day, watch the elegant drinks tables receive their finishing touches and then collide with very large security policemen on my way back to the office. I was lucky to get a glimpse, as the event itself was only open to VIP guests and those involved in the celebrations. Later I put together this royal event highlights slideshow.
Back in the main Museum, as the time of arrival of His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales at the Museum approached - he was expected at 14.30 – crowds gathered in the Central Hall to greet him on his way into the Darwin Centre down Dinosaur Way. For once, our famous Diplodocus dinosaur skeleton, usually the centrepiece of the Central Hall, was upstaged. As the Prince made his way through the Central Hall, onlookers waved flags adorned with red butterflies and many right at the front got personal handshakes. Prince William also acknowledged all the visitors and Museum staff who filled the Central Hall's grand staircase and overlooking gallery walkways.
The main celebrations kicked off at around 14.45 in the Darwin Centre as the incredible butterfly dance commenced to entertain the guests. While the Prince enjoyed the Cocoon tour, meeting scientists and exploring exhibits, guests revelled in a fantastic show above their heads in the grand entrance hall. A striking caterpillar dancer climbed up to a giant white flower suspended from the Darwin Centre ceiling, later to emerge as a gorgeous red-and-white butterfly. After spreading its wings, the male butterfly flew across the crowd and joined a female butterfly dancer in a dramatic aerial dance together.
Prince William was also taken on a Cocoon tour and shown the Attenborough Studio venue where he was introduced to Sarah, a huge tarantula. Not sure how much he enjoyed this bit! He was also filmed talking to our Interactive Media manager, Melissa Shaw, in front of the Centre’s amazing Climate Change Wall with one of the children from Royal Marsden hospital.
Then it was time for the speeches. Sir David Attenborough joined Prince William and Museum director Mike Dixon in praise of the new Darwin Centre and its vital importance today. Amidst a shower of red butterfly confetti from the dizzy heights of the cocoon building, Prince William declared the Darwin Centre officially open. Guests stayed on till after 19.00 in the evening to continue the celebrations.You can watch video clips of the speeches and royal visit on our website.
“It was a fantastic day,” said Serena Palmer, our Front of House Visitor Services manager. “Everything went like clockwork. No disasters. And the feedback from guests was absolutely brilliant!”
Today, there’s been a steady flow of eager visitors enjoying the newly-opened Darwin Centre and momentarily we all breathe a sigh of relief it is finally now open to the public…