What is the Yorkshire Fossil Festival?

The Yorkshire Fossil Festival is coming to Whitby over the weekend of June 10th and 11th. But what is the Yorkshire Fossil Festival?

Scarborough News coverage of the 2022 Yorkshire Fossil Festival.

Northern England’s biggest annual celebration of fossils, palaeontology, and Earth science, our social media proclaims. Fossils, friends, and fun, is a simpler way of expressing it. Our story begins in 2013, with a train of thought that Dr Fiona Gill and I developed on the way back to Yorkshire from the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival. As we reflected on a great weekend during a long train journey, we found ourselves deciding, “there needs to be a Yorkshire fossil festival!”

Thankfully, when we proposed the idea, both the Palaeontological Association and Scarborough Museums Trust, then chaired by Prof. Pete Rawson, agreed that it was a good one. Come 2014, and Will Watts of Hidden Horizons (now The Fossil Shop) in Scarborough, had been tasked with organizing the inaugural Yorkshire Fossil Festival. The feeling was that we might be able to run it every other year.

Horace the Pliosaur enjoying the 2014 Yorkshire Fossil Festival
(photo (C) Dr Sarah King, York Museums Trust)

Scarborough TV News coverage of the inaugural Yorkshire Fossil Festival.

However, Will did such a fabulous job, and the event was so much fun, that Scarborough Museums Trust agreed to run it again in 2015, 2016, and 2017, with the historic Rotunda, William Smith Museum of Geology, always the focal point. Exhibitors from right across the UK came to The Dinosaur Coast to celebrate all things earthy, rocky, and fossiliferous.

In 2018, the Festival was held outside Scarborough for the first time, as I – and an excellent team of geology undergraduates – ran it in Hull, as part of the Hull Science Festival.

The Festival returned to Scarborough in 2019, with the Friday schools’ day expanded to include a ‘Jobs That Rock’ event, promoting careers in Earth science to local secondary schools and Sixth Forms.

COVID-19 sadly put paid to the 2020 Yorkshire Fossil Festival, and when 2021 came along, I had taken on the role of Festival director. We were able to run the 2021 Festival as a hybrid, with online schools activities and talks alongside a small-scale in-person event. Thanks to generous financial support from Yorkshire Coast BID, however, we were able to organize a much bigger Festival in 2022, centred around the glorious Sun Court at Scarborough Spa.

The Rock Showman’s Booth, set up in the Sun Court, Scarborough Spa, at the start of the 2022 Yorkshire Fossil Festival.

The venue alone might have been enough, but we also added Steve Cousins, The Rock Showman, as the Festival ringmaster, and this really brought the circus to town. Funding from Discover Yorkshire Coast enabled Rent-a-Dinosaur’s prehistoric puppets to roam the town centre, and a former mobile phone store in Scarborough’s Brunswick Centre became a pop-up dino museum.

Where could we go next, after such an amazing weekend? There was really only one option – the jet-powered snakestone town of Whitby, where the museum would be celebrating its bicentenary in 2023. And, given the success and popularity of his team’s contributions, it was a joy to bring Steve Cousins on board as Festival co-director. With magic in the museum, performers in Pannett Park, and a Saturday of street theatre at Dock End, this year’s Festival is going to be something else.

So don’t miss out! Get yourself booked in for a wonderful weekend of fossils, friends and fun at the Yorkshire Fossil Festival!


Earth scientist in North Yorkshire, fossilist on the Cote de Saur. Director of the Yorkshire Fossil Festival and palaeontologist for hire. Can be found twittering and facebooking as @fossiliam.