This post is also available in: العربية
The life of Michael Bond, the creator of Paddington Bear – one of the best-loved characters in children’s literature – was celebrated at a special service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London last week.
The Paddington titles have sold more than 35 million copies worldwide and have been translated into more than 40 languages. They are published by Hachette Antoine in Arabic
Family, friends, fellow writers, publishers and agents, as well as those involved with the two Paddington films – including Hugh Bonneville of Downton Abbey fame – gathered for a touching service of readings and tributes.
Guests included fellow children’s authors and illustrators Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse; Lauren Child, Emma Chichester Clark, Michael Foreman and Oliver Jeffers, as well as a large turn-out from Bond’s long-term publishers HarperCollins, among them CEO Charlie Redmayne, executive publisher HarperCollins Children’s Books Ann-Janine Murtagh and Fourth Estate’s David Roth-Ey.
Murtagh recalled that she first met Bond – who died in June at the age of 91 – at the Peruvian Embassy in London, where Paddington’s 50th anniversary was being celebrated. “The ambassador awarded Paddington his own Peruvian passport, which is the only time I think a fictional character has received a real passport. As you know, extraordinary things happen when Paddington is about.”
She paid tribute to Bond’s prodigious output and success and noted that “between the age of 80 and 90, he wrote ten new books. He accepted praise for his characters, while not seeking affirmation of his own talents as an author. We should not underestimate his contribution to culture and world literature. In his writing he shows qualities of courtesy, kindness, justice and tolerance. Michael, we thank you for all your wonderful stories and for giving us such fun and laughter over the years. We promise you we will look after your bear.”
The last line is a reference to the message that Paddington has attached to him when he arrives in London – and it was a message that a number of guests had attached to their bags when they arrived at the cathedral. The security guards also revealed that one guest had even brought some orange marmalade with them – Paddington’s favourite delicacy!
Bond’s service at St Paul’s is the first dedicated to any writer since the funeral of the poet Walter de la Mare in 1956. De La Mare had been a choirboy at the cathedral and his ashes are buried in the crypt.
In his sermon, Hampel said: “Paddington’s story is a kind of parable, one in which the wisdom of the world is turned on its head. A refugee bear comes to exemplify a different kind of wisdom, one that says being different is OK and which also says that being cast adrift in the world requires the very human action of rescue.”