50 Years of Mr Benn with David McKee
‘50 Years of Mr Benn with David McKee’

16 August - 16 September 2017
Illustrationcupboard Gallery

‘Tea with David’
Wednesday 23rd August 4.00-7.00pm
Meet the creator David McKee at a free book-signing special event

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic and much-loved Mr Benn books, featuring the bowler-hatted hero created by artist, writer and illustrator David McKee. The name ‘Mr Benn’ conjures strong memories of childhood adventures through the changing-room door of the fancy dress shop on Festive Rd. Illustrationcupboard Gallery is delighted celebrate these fifty years of this timeless character with its creator David McKee.

This the second of the gallery’s two summer exhibitions offers a feast of concept artwork, sketches, and published book illustrations. But the highlight of the show are the never-seen-before animation cels from the original Mr Benn films - hidden away in the film-makers studios for half a century, and only now released for the very first time. 50 Years of Mr Benn at the Illustrationcupboard Gallery runs from 16 August to 16 September, and in a special book-signing event there will be the opportunity to meet the creator, David McKee, on 23 August 2017 at the gallery from 4.00pm onwards. Entrance is free.

The first Mr Benn book, Mr Benn – Red Knight appeared in 1967, with four more titles following: 123456789 Benn, Big Game Benn, Big-Top Benn and Mr Benn-Gladiator. In 1971 they were made into the popular TV films, which ran through the ‘70s and ‘80s and have recently been re-shown for a whole new generation. Mr Benn is an everyday hero to whom extraordinary things happen when he visits a magical costume shop on Festive Road. Stepping through the door of the changing room, he embarks upon a series of adventures, including becoming a knight, a wizard, a big game hunter, an astronaut, a chef and even a prison-convict. His adventures always come to a gentle conclusion when the shop-keeper comes to find him, and he leaves the shop each time with an interesting souvenir reminding him of the happy adventure.

David McKee is also known for his bestselling picture books of Elmer, the patchwork elephant, King Rollo and Not Now Bernard. McKee was born in Plymouth, Devon in 1935 and studied art at Plymouth College of Art. He worked as a cartoonist and illustrator for newspapers and magazines, before publishing his first picture book in 1964. “I’m very fond of Mr Benn,’ says David, ‘When you create a character, it’s very much like your own children – you have to give them a certain amount of attention and a certain amount of liberty as well.”

Mr Benn at Turnbull and Asser - A new collection of pocket handerchiefs!
Mr Benn fever is sweeping Bury St in St James's, London. Having met creator David here at the gallery, the art director of the classic english tailor has designed a 50 Year Anniversary set of 'Mr Benn pocket handerchiefs' which are exclusive to Turnbull and Asser, our neighbours next door - so come down and see the sartorial elegance of Mr Benn at Turnbull and Asser whilst seeing all the original book and film work next door here at the Gallery!

A New Street Name for Mr Benn:
Mr Benn’s address, 52 Festive Road, was inspired by David McKee’s own house in Festing Road in Putney. In 2009 residents in the street paid tribute to David and Mr Benn by laying an engraved paving stone outside the house. McKee actually lived at 54 Festing Road; he put Mr Benn at No.52 because he had drawn himself looking from the window in the first book and thought it might be nice to have Mr Benn living next door! As part of the 50 years anniversary the residents petitioned for and gained approval to rename a pathway off Festing Road now called Festive Walk in his honour. Although Mr Benn is never referred to by his first name on screen, David McKee had always thought that ‘William’ would suit well. Mr Benn has secured his place in popular culture with mentions in songs by Oasis, The Divine Comedy, Half Man Half Biscuit and Bell XI.
Exhibition date
16 August - 16 September
22 Bury St, St James's, London, SW1Y 6AL