When I was a little girl, probably around the age of seven or eight, I remember borrowing a copy of Peter Pan from a friend.
I fell in love with the story (maybe that’s why I have never grown up) but I also fell in love with the photo of a statue of Peter Pan that was printed near the front of the book.
After a while I had to give the book back. (I’m not and never have been a collector of other people’s books). I begged my mum to buy me a copy the same as my friend’s but we never found one the same. I was adamant that it had to be the same edition – I wanted the photo of the statue not the shimmery gold cover and pretty drawing of Peter and Wendy.
To this day, I still don’t own a copy of Peter Pan. I never found the right edition.
The statue in question is in Kensington Gardens in London and just over a week ago, some forty years after I first saw the photo of it, I finally got to visit it.
In the flesh (ok, bronze) it was every bit as magical as I’d hoped.
The 14-foot-high statue was commissioned by author JM Barrie around 1910. He provided sculptor Sir George Frampton with a photo of six-year-old Michael Llewelyn Davies to use as the model for Peter. Michael and his three brothers were Barrie’s inspiration for Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. Sir George Frampton however chose to use a different model which ultimately left Barrie somewhat disappointed in the end result.
“It doesn’t show the devil in Peter,” he is quoted as saying at the time.
There was an element of mischief in the unveiling of the statue itself. Barrie chose the site in Kensington Gardens carefully, opting for the spot where Peter Pan first lands after flying out of the nursery window in the 1902 book The Little White Bird. It is also a spot in the gardens that was close to Barrie’s home. The statue was erected during the night of 30 April 1912 and was first on public display on May Day. It was Barrie’s gift to the public. The only thing he didn’t have was permission to put it there!
Barrie donated the sculpture to the city of London and it became a Grade II listed building in 1970. It’s been a children’s favourite since it’s first appearance that May Day morning.
On a hot June Sunday morning as I spent a few precious moments walking round it, I was transported back to my childhood. The plinth that Peter Pan stands on hosts a myriad of fairy and woodland creatures. I particularly loved the mice. I’m sure you could walk round it a hundred times and see something different every time.
Time, however, was short. We were on a tight schedule and I had a date to visit another local London children’s fiction landmark. Anyone seen a small bear from Deepest Darkest Peru?