Thinking of staying with your kids at a Kensington hotel? In London, you can’t escape the amazing legacy of Peter Pan.
Of all the colourful characters that have come out of Kensington over the years, the most enduring of all has to be Peter Pan. Since Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens was written by JM Barrie in 1906, the Great Pan has been one of the most fascinating characters in literature, inspiring countless adaptations and convincing millions of children that they could fly, if only they believed hard enough.
Today, Peter Pan is still synonymous with Kensington. His statue, erected in 1910 stands proudly in Kensington Gardens today. But how did Peter even get to Kensington in the first place? It’s a story I know very well, and love telling the inquisitive children who visit the Regency Hotel all about the origins of the eternal child.
Long before Pan met Wendy, he was a seven day old infant living in a Kensington home. Hearing his parents discuss his future, a spooked Peter flies out of the window – a feat possible, because like all babies, Peter used to be part bird.
Until he found “Neverland”, Peter spent his years in Kensington Gardens, playing a magical pair of pan-pipes, riding around on an imaginary goat and befriending the fairy kingdom of the gardens. The fairies, of course, still live in Kensington Gardens today. As our younger guests are often disappointed to learn, they only come out during “Lock-Out Time”.
In the movie Finding Neverland (2004) Barrie (played by Johnny Depp) is strolling in Kensington Gardens when he meets Sylvia Llewellyn and her sons, who are said to have inspired his time-tested stories.
The appeal of Peter Pan has never gone away: holding an endless fascination for children and representing a strange melancholy for adults. In 2006, the Argentinean writer Rodrigo Fresán made his English-language debut with the stunning novel Kensington Gardens. The hero of the book, Peter Hook, is a children’s author obsessed with JM Barrie, seeing a haunting similarity between their two lives. Moving between the Edwardian age and London, the novel is an exploration of the charms and perils of nostalgia, along with a eulogy to every adult’s childhood. It’s a gorgeous book, and I highly recommend it as a holiday companion if you’re visiting a Kensington hotel in London.