Remember Mr Benn? Did You Know He Has A London Plaque?

By M@ Last edited 25 months ago

Last Updated 07 April 2022

Remember Mr Benn? Did You Know He Has A London Plaque?

Time to show your age. Hands up if you can identify this fellow:

His name is Mr Benn, and he had his own animated TV show in the 1970s. He is fondly remembered by anyone who grew up in Britain in that decade, or in the 1980s when the show continued on regular repeat. It continued to receive occasional repeats into the 1990s.

The format was simple. Mr Benn was a bowler-hatted businessman who had a bit of a kink for dressing up. Every episode, he'd toddle off to the fancy dress shop, where the magic shopkeeper would furnish him with a new outfit. He'd then step into the changing room and be transported to the appropriate setting (the Wild West if he put on a cowboy suit, a submarine if he put on the diver's suit, etc.).

As with so many kids' shows of the era, only a small number of episodes were ever made (13), but they were so often repeated that it felt like a constant presence.

Mr Benn was a Londoner... and there's a plaque to prove it

Although he spent most of his time in fantasy realms, Mr B would always return to his terraced house at 52 Festive Road, London.

The name is no accident. In real life, Benn's creator, the late David McKee lived at 54 Festing Road in Putney. He was picturing his creation living next door — only with the street name slightly altered. "I changed the name to Festive," explained McKee, "I felt the real name sounded to much like festering".

If you head to Festing Road today, it's possible to find a plaque to McKee and Benn. Look carefully on the western pavement and you'll see this faded memorial.

A sadly faded paving stone commemorating Mr Benn and creator David Mckee.
"Festive Road Home Of David McKee And His Creation Mr Benn"

An even subtler commemoration can be found at the Thames end of Festing Road. In 2017, local residents successfully petitioned for (and paid for) a nearby footpath to adopt the name of Festive Walk. Its opening marked the 50th anniversary of Mr Benn's first appearance in the books of McKee. The locals also keep the stories alive by holding an annual fancy dress party on the street.

A street sign saying FESTIVE WALK SW15

David McKee was by no means a one-hit wonder. His books about Elmer the multicoloured elephant remain enormously popular among young children — to the point where a sculptural trail was installed in (where else?) Elephant and Castle in 2019. He was also the creator of another 70s/80s children's classic: King Rollo.