Paddington exhibition invites visitors to take a self 'pawtrait'


Paddington The Story of a Bear at The British Library - Credit: David Jensen

A new exhibition at the British Library tells the story of a much loved bear called Paddington

The family friendly display celebrates the creation and adventures of the fictional bear from first publication in 1958, to the recent popular movies starring Ben Whishaw.

Running until October 31, the exhibition features books, documents, film clips and original artwork with creative input from two local Camden Primary Schools, Argyle and Edith Neville.

A programme of workshops, events and online activities accompanies the exhibition, which takes visitors through Paddington's invention by Maida Vale author Michael Bond, to his arrival in the UK from Peru, and finding a new home with the Browns in Windsor Gardens. They can practice their Paddington stares, take a self 'pawtrait' and follow a trail of marmalade as part of a special guide for families.

Michael Bond and Daughter Karen Jankel, London, Warwick Avenue, 03/11/2014Picture by Terry Harris

Michael Bond and Paddington, Warwick Avenue November 2014 - Credit: Terry Harris

In 1956 while working as a BBC cameraman, Bond ducked into Selfridges one Christmas Eve and spotted a lone bear on a shelf which he took home for then wife Brenda. Dubbed Paddington after the nearby station, it sat on the mantelpiece in their Notting Hill flat and soon offered inspiration for Bond's timeless tale of a desire for home and belonging, using elements from Bond's own family and life.

First edition of A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond given to his parents, HarperCollins Publishers in 1958,

First edition of A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond given to his parents, illustrated by Peggy Fortnum, published by HarperCollins Publishers in 1958 - Credit: David Jensen

The original bear moved with the Bonds and when they divorced, they shared custody of him. Bond continued to live in Little Venice until his death in 2017 at the age of 91. He is buried in Paddington Old Cemetery in Kilburn and his gravestone reads; 'Please look after this bear, thank-you.'

The exhibition features a first edition of A Bear Called Paddington given to Bond's parents, an original review by Barbara Ker Wilson, memorabilia including Bond's typewriter from the 1960s, and original illustrations by Peggy Fortnum, David McKee and R.W. Alley.

Peggy Fortnum's original illustration for A Bear Called Paddington

Paddington and Judy outside the door at Windsor Gardens illustrated by Peggy Fortnum - Credit: Peggy Fortnum/HarperCollins 2021, 1958

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Alison Bailey, lead curator said: “Paddington: The Story of a Bear is a fun, family-friendly exhibition recalling the many faces of Paddington we’ve come to know and love in original artwork, books, and scenes from TV and film adaptations. This exhibition reminds us why, over 60 years on from his creation, Paddington still resonates with people of all ages, wherever they are in the world. We hope visitors enjoy discovering his stories.”

Paddington: The Story of a Bear is a ticketed exhibition with a relaxed early opening for families of children with autism and sensory needs on July 25.