Scotland Creates: Song writing with Miniature Dinosaurs

As part of Kids in Museums Takeover Day on 28 November, the National Museum of Scotland was taken over by around one hundred young people to celebrate the launch of the Scotland Creates: A Sense of Place animated films.  Young people from various secondary schools and youth organisations around Edinburgh performed a science show in the Grand Gallery, replaced the reference books in the Info Zone and surprised visitors with a flash mob! You can read more about the day and the animated films in volunteer Sam Fairbairn’s blog post.

The final activity of the day was a song writing workshop with the band Miniature Dinosaurs, who became involved in the project through Live Music Now Scotland. In the space of four hours, the band and nine participants created a song from scratch based on our Science and Technology collections and performed it live in the Grand Gallery, a great achievement!

The first task saw the participants explore the galleries in search of inspiration for a chorus line. Many suggestions were given but the group decided on: ‘designed to land in the desert instead of the ocean’, from the interpretation of the Gemini Space Capsule in the Connect gallery.

Brainstorming lyric ideas in the song writing workshop
Brainstorming lyric ideas in the song writing workshop.

The next task brought some healthy competition into the song writing process, a game Miniature Dinosaurs like to call ‘Line of Best Fit’. The participants were separated into two teams, which then had to race against the clock (or crowing cuckoo) to come up with the next line of the song. The band were then responsible for picking their favourite line from the two teams. This process was then repeated until two verses and a chorus were created.

Song writing workshop
Working on the song, which was inspired by the Gemini Space Capsule in the Connect gallery.

The final song lyrics looked like this:

Verse 1

We’re back now on solid ground,
Faster than the speed of sound,
Asteroids burning through the sky,
Shoots for ‘X’ and reaches for ‘Y’,


We will land in the desert
Instead of the ocean, (x2)
Crash land! Crash land!
Without a commotion

Verse 2

Gone our lights when sails went down,
Drift apart, we’re lost and found,
Space is empty but we feel so much,
A weightless feeling, a heavy touch.
All that was left to create was the music…

The afternoon brought an inspirational private performance from Miniature Dinosaurs accompanied by cheers and whoops from the participants. The participants were given a selection of drum rhythms, bass lines, guitar chords and melodies which they discussed as a group before selecting. Gradually the song was coming together, spirits were high and rehearsals began.

Working on the song
Miniature Dinosaurs perform for the workshop.

The final task was to perform the song in the Grand Gallery. All participants performed with Miniature Dinosaurs; singing, playing small percussion instruments and some even learned the song on their own guitars. It was a great performance by a brilliant band and excellent participants of a fantastic song. Well done everybody!

The final performance
Performing the finished song in the Grand Gallery.
The final performance
The group perform the finished song.

Here’s what Alban Dickson of Miniature Dinosaurs had to say about the day:

It was a privilege to have been part of such a great day at the National Museum of Scotland. We were very excited by this project, and the prospect of taking inspiration from Scotland’s creative legacy in science and transforming it into the domain of the arts.

Being part of a project, especially when up against the clock, is always a cohesive process and it was brilliant to see such a broad range of participants come together throughout the song writing process we helped them with. Everybody brought their own expectations and musical influences to the table and together they came up with some amazing and unexpected ideas for the song. Working in situ at the museum was yet again an amazing experience for ourselves and demonstrates that there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye within such a landmark building.

And this is what one of the participants, Steven Thornton, thought:

I really enjoyed taking part in the song writing workshop at the museum. A few days earlier I had looked at Miniature Dinosaurs on YouTube and was very impressed by their music. They are a great band! I knew we were going to have a wonderful time.

 I was a bit nervous when I arrived but I was soon put at my ease. Everybody was so friendly and excited about writing and performing a song. We looked around the museum for inspiration and had great fun creating the song together. I learned a lot about being a song writer. It certainly is not an easy job. When completed, we rehearsed over and over and then performed it in the museum concourse at the end of the day. This was the highlight of the workshop for me as I was on drums. It was a great success and we had enthusiastic applause from the large audience.

Thank you to Miniature Dinosaurs and the organizers for such a fantastic experience.

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