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Guest blog: Rediscovering Peter Rabbit

With the launch of the new film, Peter Rabbit mania is sweeping the country especially in the north Lakes where part of the feature was filmed. One of our team recently took her young family to the latest Peter Rabbit exhibition and even though they have all grown up with Beatrix Potter, she found out that there was still a lot more to discover…

eter rabbit exhibition Rheged
Beatrix Potter exhibition
beatrix potter exhibition child

Peter Rabbit at Rheged Centre

The joys of parenthood are many, varied and sometime dubious.  One of the perks however, is the opportunity to rediscover lost childhood loves and see them as new through the eyes of your little darlings.

We had one such experience recently at the launch of a new Peter Rabbit Exhibition at The Rheged Centre – a place (in its own words) for Art, Shopping, Play and Food. This child-friendly visitor attraction is a short 10 minute drive from Another Place, The Lake and, given the uncertain Lakeland weather, is a must-see for anyone of any age staying at the hotel.

Rheged hosts up to four exhibitions annually on a range of diverse subjects but since 2018 is the year that Peter Rabbit ‘comes home’ to the Lake District with the release of the movie, it seems appropriate that this latest exhibition celebrates the world-famous tale of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.

Mischief and Mayhem Exhibition

Aptly named the Peter Rabbit™: Mischief and Mayhem Exhibition, it runs until 3 June. And it’s not just fluffy, kids’ stuff. Having been brought up in this beautiful part of the world, I relished the opportunity to rediscover ‘Peter’, always a favourite bedtime story of my childhood.

The exhibition features rarely seen original illustrations and early manuscripts (some dating from the late 1800s) by Beatrix Potter from The Tale of Peter Rabbit plus letters, artefacts and dummy manuscripts offering a rare glimpse into how the books came about.  It’s been developed in partnership with Potter’s original publishers, Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd (part of Penguin Random House) and The River and Rowing Museum in Dulwich.

The exhibition also looks at how Peter Rabbit developed as a brand, very soon after the publication of the first book. Within a year of the book’s publication, Beatrix Potter had patented a Peter Rabbit doll. The exhibition includes numerous examples of Peter Rabbit merchandise as well as letters and notes demonstrating Beatrix Potter as a shrewd business woman, who also had very firm opinions on free trade and cheap foreign imports.

For the children

The exhibition features a large activity area where children of all ages can learn while they play. Featuring an imaginary vegetable garden, a giant board game and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle’s laundry, where children can pretend to iron and hang out clothes.

Natalie Patel, head of Collections and Exhibitions at River and Rowing Museum states ‘We deliberately curated an exhibition that would appeal to both children and adults. While the artefacts and artworks on display are such a rare privilege to see all together, the complementary activities will be hugely entertaining to children of all ages’

And that’s true – I speak from personal experience. Sibella (3) enjoys nothing more than a good spring clean. My little cleaning fanatic was engaged for at least 20 minutes ‘harvesting’ radishes and lettuces, filling diminutive wheelbarrows with nourishing (wooden!) produce and sweeping the ‘garden’ area with children size brushes.

Her big brother Raphael (6), a budding ‘thesp’, delighted in the Potter-themed dressing up area. He couldn’t decide on his favourite though – it was as an impossible decision between Peter himself and the cunning and wily Mr Todd. I suspect a second visit will help him decide.

And then just when excitement levels reach fever-pitch you can retire to the central little cinema room where they can chill out and calm down on oversize bean bags with an episode of the latest BBC version of the Tales of Peter Rabbit….phew!

The exhibition ties in with the recent inscription of the Lake District as an UNESCO World Heritage site. The Lake District is designated as a cultural landscape of which the literature, art and conservation work of Beatrix Potter is a key part.

If this sounds like your cup of chamomile tea, the exhibition is open daily from 10am-5pm, with last admission at 4pm. Admission is £3.50 for children and adults aged 3 and up. And to top it all off, downstairs in Rheged’s state of the art cinema, you can watch the new movie from Sony Pictures, which is screened daily. Visitors can save money with a combined ticket for the exhibition and the film.

Peter rabbit exhibition Rheged
Peter Rabbit Rheged

Five things you need to know about Peter Rabbit

1)   The Tale of Peter Rabbit is one of the world’s best-loved children’s books and was created by author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter in 1902.

2)   The story has never been out of print since it was first published by Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd.

3)   It has sold in excess of 45 million copies globally.

4)   Beatrix Potter personally oversaw the launch of subsequent products, making Peter Rabbit the oldest licensed character in history.

5)   Over 2 million of her ‘little books’ are sold globally every year, whilst Peter Rabbit has appeared in books and products in more than 110 countries throughout the world.

To visit the Mischief and Mayhem Exhibition at Rheged this spring, book to stay at Another Place, The Lake.