It all started in one of London’s busy mainline stations. A little bear from “darkest Peru” was found with a label around his neck with a note “Please look after this bear. Thank you”
Today there is a shop at Paddington Station that sells hundreds of these little bears resplendent in blue duffle coat and red bush hat. There is also a bronze statue of the same little bear who has had fame thrust upon him on the concourse. Named after the station on which he was found by Mr and Mrs Brown Paddington Bear has delighted generations of children for almost 50 years – including myself who grew up on the tales of the little bears, Paddington, Rupert and Winnie the Pooh.
Somewhere between platform 8 and 9 there is a new Paddington Bear to be found. Instantly recognisable as the fictional bear invented by author Michael Bond the bear is on of over 50 to be found all over London. From Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow Airport to bears in Greenwich Paddington Bear can be found in a whole variety of different guises. Created by designers, artists and celebrities they can be found close to parks, museums, shops and key landmarks. More about the trail can be found at the www.visitlondon.com website.
These bears follow a trend that sees various objects designed by celebrities, artists and designers placed in locations across our cities. In the Olympic year it was giant eggs in London; last year it was Wallace and Gromett in Bristol and Rhinos in Southampton. The Paddingtons are in London to celebrate the arrival of the film of the same name in cinemas on November 28th
I had a few hours to spare in London last week so headed for Paddington Station to meet my childhood friend, Paddington Bear. There are a number of Paddington Bears around the station that form a mini trail around Paddington. I had to start where it all started; under the huge wrought iron and glass arched roof which he would have no doubt recognised. The original bear would not have recognised the livery of the First Great Western trains on one side and the Heathrow Express on the other had not even become a twinkle in the eye of urban planners.
I headed out through the south entrance to find the next bear. Just a short distance from the station along London Street is Norfolk Square. In this diminutive green space is Paddingtonscape designed by the illustrator Hannah Warren. It features the landscapes of Paddington including the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal which is where I headed to next.
Walking down Praed Street and past St Mary’s Hospital where Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin I headed to the Paddington Basin. Among the modern high rise buildings and next to the futuristic Fan Bridge stood Futuristic Robot Bear designed by Jonathan Ross. Slightly garish in colour and covered with circuit boards and keypads it modernises the traditional Paddington Bear in a way I am not sure I liked. What do you think?
Strolling along the canal I soon came to Bearing Up, another Paddington covered in blue flocking. The work of Hunter Design this Paddington is very tactile and very cheerful in the urban landscape on a drizzly day.
Close by, along the canal path, I came across Brick Bear. Painted to look like honey coloured brickwork I found this one a little odd. Apparently it represents the handmade bricks used for the majority of buildings in the Paddington area before the advent of machine made bricks and later glass, steel and concrete.
I crossed over the canal at Paddington Basin and met the Mayor of Paddington outside the north entrance to the station and the City and Hammersmith line. Resplendent in the mayoral regalia this Paddington Bear is less of a concept than the others.
Continuing on to Sheldon Square I found Paddington Bear dressed in a Union Jack covered with text. Texting Bear honours both Paddington and the artist Tom Phillips whose work is text and flag inspired.
Fashion designer Lulu Guinness designed the shiny silver Love, Paddington X at Rembrandt Gardens. The title of the latest Paddington book by Michael Bond which includes letter’s from the adventurous bear to his Aunt Lucy in Peru.
There are many more Paddington Bears to be found around London but they will not be there forever. They will be auctioned off to raise money for the NSPCC – a charity who work to protect vulnerable children and making them safe.
For me Paddington Bear will always remain, despite the various incarnations across London, the loveable bear in a blue duffle coat and bush hat of my childhood. I headed back to the platform where it all started.
Where have you seen Paddington Bear? Let us know in the comments section below.