A night at the Natural History Museum – just don’t try doing what comes naturally at this sleepover for grown-ups

It’s billed as a sleepover, but as Kunal Dutta discovered, what with insect-based snacks there was far too much happening at the Natural History Museum

There are three rules when sleeping over at the Natural History Museum. First, no stag parties. Second, go easy on the booze. Third, no sex.

“We understand there’s nothing sexier than a room full of dead animals,” our compere says at the welcome dinner for the museum’s “adults-only” night. “But please don’t go there. Sex and skeletons don’t mix. You will be thrown out.”

Yet from the moment my wife and I set foot in the museum on Saturday night, one topic seems to dominate conversation. Over dinner we sit with Erica McAlister, the museum’s resident entomologist who explains Britons’ growing predilection for making out in museums. Proprietors have, she says, interrupted intimate relations between “determined” visitors, and occasionally staff, so frequently that the simple instruction has to be repeated: “No sex please – we’re scientists.”

Unlike the children’s version, “Dino Snores for Grown Ups” is a strictly adults-only affair. A dimly-illuminated lecture on the sex-lives of insects documents, among other topics, the gradual extinction of body lice due to the global shunning of bodily hair.

When the lights in our makeshift bedroom – the museum’s resplendent Victorian entrance hall – are finally switched off at 3am, burly security men patrol the premises, shining suspicious torches on stirring sleeping bags.

Earlier, at midnight, my artistic wife opts for dinosaur drawing classes while I head to the dining room for a five-course degustation of edible insects. First up, a bamboo worm (it tastes like the soft part of a pork scratching, very salty); then a weaver ant (think popcorn with an elongated crackling in the back of the mouth); next, a toasted silkworm (high in protein, low in fat); a giant mole cricket (disintegrates between your teeth with a bitter aftertaste); and, finally, a weevil beetle (twist and chew – tastes like crispy bacon).

In truth I’m feeling slightly nauseous by 1.30am, as a harpist plays beneath the diplodocus where we’re camped. It’s time for a lie down. Mrs Dutta returns from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition and we share an intimate moment together. Not that sort – the harpist is playing the melody that accompanied our wedding last summer.

Kunal Dutta beds down at the Natural History Museum Kunal Dutta beds down at the Natural History Museum (Susannah Ireland)
Few could not be moved, hearing Pachelbel’s Canon bouncing from the cavernous, cathedral-like vault of the 132-year-old building, an experience that, alone, almost validates the £175-a-head tickets (although crisps and bottled water at £1.50 a pop feels akin to overnight robbery).

Throughout the night, people bond. We meet Rebecca Collins, a 28-year-old project manager from Brixton, who makes no bones about one of her main ambitions for the evening. “I’m hoping to find my future husband. He needs to be someone who is ‘geek chic’; attractive but unaware of it. Must like dinosaurs. Glasses and beard optional.”

Meanwhile, Ash and Sabz Sheikh, both in their 40s and dressed in camouflage costume, are celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary. Neither has any plans to sleep. Ghost stories are told throughout the night, and between 4am and 6am a selection of films is shown, including Jurassic Park and Arachnophobia.

We’re woken at 7.55am and make our way to breakfast. It is only then that I realise  sleeping on the marble floor of a draughty museum is hardly the perfect night’s rest. And yet I feel revived. Our host thanks us for spending a night in “our anachronistic and weird hotel”.

I can only concur. Looking for a New Year’s resolution? Leave the kids at home and book your next romantic getaway underneath the diplodocus. Six such events are scheduled for 2014. Just don’t forget the golden rule…

 

Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments