A day away with the fairies

Neverland comes to Kensington Gardens in London to mark the centenary of Peter Pan

JM Barrie, the creator of
Peter Pan, lived on the edge of Kensington Gardens, and it was while walking his dog in the park that he got the idea for his story about a boy who refuses to grow up. It was also where he met the Llewelyn-Davies boys, who were the inspiration for the Darling family.

JM Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, lived on the edge of Kensington Gardens, and it was while walking his dog in the park that he got the idea for his story about a boy who refuses to grow up. It was also where he met the Llewelyn-Davies boys, who were the inspiration for the Darling family.

It's fitting therefore that to celebrate 100 years of Peter Pan - the first performance of the play was in 1904 at the Duke of York's Theatre, London - Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity, which was bequeathed the copyright to Barrie's classic fairy tale in 1929, will transform Kensington Gardens into Neverland. The charity aims to raise £30,000 towards the Tinker Bell Play Area in the hospital's new Medical Daycare Centre.

"We have never before organised an event on this grand scale," says Jessica Brandon, the main organiser of the event. "We are creating so many different areas in the park to bring Peter Pan to life that it has taken us all year to organise. You can't just pick up the phone and order a tepee," she explains. "We have hired 70 actors and over 100 volunteers will be re-enacting scenes from Peter Pan all around the park."

As well as a picnic, a map will lead treasure seekers to the Fairies Winter Palace, where Tinker Bell will dance with her fairy friends. "The trees have been decorated with 240 hanging mirrors, 200 feathers, many butterflies, wind chimes and colourful materials. There are also 35 log seats where you can sit in a fairy circle with giant Triffid-type flowers," Brandon says. The Pirates Camp, on the edge of the Round Pond, will be filled with treasure chests and pirate dancers, who will teach children sword-fighting with play swords. At Tiger Lily's settlement, there will be Native American dancing around totem poles.

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, the dandy star of Changing Rooms, will appear dressed as Captain Hook and has designed his own interpretation of Hook's galleon, The Jolly Roger. "My passion for Peter Pan is, I fear, erring on obsession," he maintains. "In designing Captain Hook's galleon I have tried to stay broadly faithful to the Edwardian feel of the tale."

The Darling family in period costume will be having a picnic to the strains of an old-fashioned brass band, as real-life nannies - volunteers from Chiltern College in Reading - promenade with their prams along the Nannies Walk wearing traditional uniform.

The last stop is the underground home of the Lost Boys, a series of tunnels, created out of piping covered with tarpaulin and camouflage netting, that boys and girls can crawl through. The Lost Boys' den is made from oversized umbrellas draped with netting.

"Throughout the day, roaming actors and volunteers will pose as characters," says Brandon. "And if you look carefully you may even see Peter Pan pop out from behind a tree."

Peter Pan: Kensington Gardens, London SW7 (Tickets 020-7916 5678; £10, or £35 for a group of four people), 17 July, 11am to 5pm

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