Setting the record straight on Barrie

One of the exhibits at the Florence Nightingale Museum in London.
One of the exhibits at the Florence Nightingale Museum in London.

A fascinating glimpse into the darker side of Sir J M Barrie’s imagination is on offer at a major exhibition currently running in London.

‘Take Me to Neverland: Peter Pan From Play to Book and Beyond” opened last month at the Florence Nightingale Museum at St Thomas’ Hospital on the banks of the river Thames.

It features original items from the Peter Pan Collection in Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity which have gone on public view for the first time.

The special exhibition examines the true story behind the much-loved classic.

David Barrie, great-great-nephew of J M Barrie who was born and brought up in Kirriemuir, said: “This exhibition is going to challenge the saccharine image of Peter Pan that Disney propagated. My great-great-uncle was a complicated man, and the dark side of his imagination is the key to understanding the real power of his greatest creation, Peter Pan. I’m delighted this exhibition, filled with marvellous images, will help to set the record straight.”

When author J M Barrie gifted the rights of Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street he bestowed one of the most generous bequests ever given to a hospital. This resulted in the hospital receiving royalties from every adaptation orproduction of Peter Pan ever staged.

The result of a partnership between Great Ormond Street and the Florence Nightingale Museum, the exhibition showcases a number of artefacts never seen before in public. It includes early editions with classic illustrations including works by Mabel Lucie Attwell and Arthur Rackham, and ‘Peter Pan’s Postbag’, a collection of children’s letters sent to Peter Pan from 1906-14.

Also on display is the original bell used as the “voice” of Tinker Bell in the 1904 play.

Visitors can discover the origins of Peter Pan, from the success of the 1904 play to the many adaptations that have continued to inspire both children and adults over the past century. The exhibition runs until October 30.