Peter Pan History
'All children, except one, grow up'
Since its first performance at the Duke of York's theatre on 27 December, 1904, Sir J M Barrie’s story of Peter Pan and Neverland has been a part of every childhood – and many adulthoods too!
Barrie gave all the rights to the story to Great Ormond Street Hospital in 1929, and this was later confirmed when he died in 1937. Since then, the hospital has received royalties every time a production of the play is put on, as well as from the sale of Peter Pan books and other products. Barrie requested in his will that the amount raised from Peter Pan should never be revealed, and GOSH has honoured his wishes.
Although he and his wife were childless, Barrie loved children and was a prominent supporter of Great Ormond Street Hospital for many years. In 1929 he was approached to sit on a committee to help buy some land so that the Hospital could build a much-needed new wing. Barrie declined to serve on the committee but said that he "hoped to find another way to help".
Two months later, the hospital board was stunned to learn that Sir James had handed over all his rights to Peter Pan. At a Guildhall dinner later that year Barrie, as host, claimed that Peter Pan had been a patient in Great Ormond Street Hospital and that,
"It was he who put me up to the little thing I did for the hospital."
So began the enduring link between the author and the children of Great Ormond Street Hospital.
On 14 December 1929, at Barrie’s suggestion, the cast of a London production of Peter Pan came to the hospital and played out the Nursery Scene for the children, the first of a long tradition. Look closely at the picture – the man peering over the back to get a better view is none other than Sir James Barrie himself!
And Peter Pan can be found throughout the hospital – we have a Peter Pan Ward, a Barrie Wing, a bronze statue of Peter Pan outside the hospital entrance, a Peter Pan café in the reception area and a plaque dedicated to Barrie in the hospital chapel. The hospital archive - The Peter Pan Gallery - houses remarkable editions of the book from all over the world, in many languages.