30 May 2019, Meredith Jones Russell
Scotland’s first National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling will open at Moat Brae House on 1 June.
The Georgian property in Dumfries, where the young JM Barrie and his friends played the games that inspired the author to write Peter Pan, was saved from demolition 10 years ago.
Organisations including the National Lottery Heritage Fund, VisitScotland, Historic Environment Scotland and Creative Scotland helped raise £8.5m to restore the house and grounds.
Moat Brae, which JM Barrie referred to as ‘enchanted land’, will stage a variety of events and educational programmes.
The newly-restored Moat Brae House PHOTO: Dumfries academy and Dumfries museum and archives
The centre will offer themed interactive exhibits, reading and play areas, temporary exhibitions and a shop and café overlooking the river Nith. There will be costumed guides, discovery trails and a year-round programme of activities.
Exhibits will include the original Tinker Bell, a small bell that JM Barrie bought to be rung whenever his fairy character appeared in the original stage version of the story, which opened at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London, in 1904.
The mischievous fairy Tinker Bell was represented on stage by a spotlight and the ringing of a small bell. Visitors will have the chance to see the bell and hear recordings of it ringing.
Isla Naish, four, with the Tinker Bell PHOTO Colin Hattersley
Outside, in the grounds where JM Barrie played pirates in the 1870s, Neverland Discovery Garden will home a pirate ship, mermaid lagoon, Lost Boys' treehouse, and a performance space.
Simon Davidson, Moat Brae centre director, said, ‘The opening will be a very special moment – Moat Brae inspired a truly great storyteller to create one of the greatest and best-loved children’s tales of all time.
‘And now it has been brought back to life as our National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling in order to spark the imaginations of many thousands of young people from every corner of the world.’
Dame Barbara Kelly, chairman of the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust (PPMBT), which runs the centre, added, ‘We are hugely grateful to all the many individuals and organisations who have come together to make our dream come true by saving Moat Brae and creating somewhere that children can play and let their imaginations roam free – just as J.M. Barrie’s did.’
A 6ft tall dolls' house is also on display, modelled on a nearby Georgian Dumfries town house and designed, built, decorated and furnished by Linda Brown (above) from Locharbriggs.