Page last updated at 09:20 GMT, Thursday, 26 November 2009

Street pays tribute to Mr Benn

Festive Road - Mr Benn
Mr Benn creator David McKee changed Festing to Festive Road in the stories

By Tim Masters
Entertainment correspondent, BBC News

Residents of the street that helped inspire the Mr Benn stories have clubbed together to pay tribute to the classic children's character.

Festing Road, in Putney, south London, became famous when illustrator David McKee lived there in the late 1960s and made it Mr Benn's home address.

On Saturday, an engraved paving slab will be laid outside the house where McKee invented his famous cartoon.

McKee has also revealed that he is in talks about a Mr Benn movie.

Magic portal

Mr Benn's adventures always began when he visited a magical fancy dress shop.

Mr Benn
Everyone used to say that Mr Benn was probably stoned, and now he really is!
Mr Benn creator David McKee

The shop's changing room was a portal to another world which reflected Mr Benn's chosen costume.

The stories are best known through the 13 TV episodes that were first broadcast in the early 1970s, and have often been repeated.

McKee, who lives in France, will be attending Saturday's celebration party.

"I'm very fond of Mr Benn," McKee told the BBC. "When you create a character, it's very much like your children - you have to give them a certain amount of attention and a certain amount of liberty as well."

For his stories, McKee changed Festing Road to Festive Road, and had Mr Benn living at number 52 - next door to his own house at number 54.

"I think it was because in the first book I drew myself looking out of the window, and I thought it would be quite nice to have him next door," said McKee.

Diver, cook, caveman

The pavement stone
Neighbours in Festing Road clubbed together to pay for the stone

The engraved paving stone was the idea of the current resident of number 54, Hugh Thompson.

Mr Thompson, 63, said he had no idea about his home's history when he moved in three years ago.

"It's all been a bit of a surprise to find I live in a national monument," he said.

The idea for the paving stone came during a visit to Australia last year when Mr Thompson noticed a Sydney suburb had the street names on the pavements.

He suggested it to the residents of Festing Road and they raised £500 to pay for the slab to be engraved.

The stone will be unveiled on Saturday with residents dressing up in many of the costumes worn by Mr Benn, including the diver, cook, caveman, hunter, clown, wizard and knight.

McKee, who is also the creator of King Rollo and Elmer the Elephant, is working on a new Mr Benn picture book and a Mr Benn novel for older children. "I've got quite a lot of that written," he said.

'Zap bang wallop'

He also plans to create high-definition versions of the original cartoons.

"We are quite actively talking about that, I've seen a test and it gives them a very different life," he said.

"Television I see now is very zap bang wallop, and Mr Benn isn't like that, but I get letters from people who say how much their children are enjoying it."

McKee also revealed that Mr Benn had been optioned for a movie "recently enough for the contract not to be dry".

He added: "There are quite a few people interested in doing it and it is with someone at the moment - it's a project that is very much alive."

McKee said he was looking forward to Saturday's unveiling ceremony with members of his family who grew up in Festing Road.

"Everyone used to say that Mr Benn was probably stoned, and now he really is!"

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