A celebration of the life of Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond has been held at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Excerpts from Bond’s work were read by members of his family, while stars from the Paddington films – among them Hugh Bonneville – read tributes from fans.
Writer and broadcaster Stephen Fry was at Tuesday’s service and remembered the author, who died in June aged 91, as “a decent soul and a loveable man”.
Other guests paid their own tributes by bringing Paddington Bears with them.
Whether carried under arms or borne in pockets, their presence reflected the love and esteem so many feel for the man who created him.
“Anyone who met my father instantly warmed to him,” said Bond’s daughter Karen Jankel, recalling “the twinkle in his eye” and his “friendly demeanour”.
“I doubt anyone fell out of love with [him],” she went on, citing the presence of both Bond’s wives and the mother of his son as testament to that fact.
Another speaker revealed that Bond was so in tune with his most famous creation he would sometimes ask “What would Paddington do?” when considering business affairs.
“Michael was happy for Paddington to take the limelight,” said Ann-Janine Murtagh, his publisher at HarperCollins Children’s Books, while recalling his “disarming humility”.
“Thank you Michael for all your wonderful stories… and for giving us such fun and laughter over the years. We will look after your bear.”
Bonneville – who was joined by his young Paddington co-stars Samuel Joslin and Madeleine Harris – told the BBC Paddington’s “spirit of adventure [and] optimism” were “great characteristics to latch onto”.
“We can all identify with him,” said the actor of Peru’s best-known marmalade-loving export. “We’ve all been a stranger in a strange place, trying to fit in.”
Fry, meanwhile, attributed Paddington’s lasting success to “the fact he was always dignified and on the side of right, of friendship, warmth and family”.
“Michael was very quiet, decent, sweet-natured – exactly what you would hope,” he told the BBC. “You can see why Paddington came out of him.
“I knew him over a number of years and he was always the same – completely without side and show-offiness.”
Fry also said Bond’s former role as a cameraman on Blue Peter made him “doubly a British institution”.
Though best known for Paddington, Bond also created such much-loved characters as Olga da Polga, The Herbs and retired detective Monsieur Pamplemousse.
His final Paddington book – to be published next year – will be set in St Paul’s Cathedral, which also features in the recently released Paddington 2.