Daughter of Michael Bond, Karen Jankel was raised with an unusual sibling – a marmalade loving bear called Paddington. Now the Managing Director of Paddington & Co, Karen tells The Resident what it was like growing up with one of Britain’s best-loved children’s characters
When did you first become aware of the Paddington phenomenon?
The first book was published in October 1958 and I was born two months earlier, so by the time I was a bit older Paddington was already established in book form. That meant I was always very aware of him. The actual bear who inspired my father to write the books lived at home with the family. He’s still with us but he’s very personal to the family so we never put him on display.
Why did you allow the Paddington film to be made now?
It’s only recently with modern CGI that it has become feasible to do it. Harry Potter producer David Heyman made an approach to us a few years ago. A lot of people think of Paddington as a naughty bear but in fact he’s very serious and David understood that. My father has a cameo in the film – it’s a bit of a Hitchcock moment.
You run the business side of all things Paddington – how did you end up joining the family firm?
In the early 80s my father found that things had taken off so much with Paddington that he didn’t have time for writing. I had left my job in magazine publishing so he said while I was between jobs I could help out for a bit. That was back in 1981…
Was it fun helping to put the Museum of London’s Paddington exhibition together?
We have a huge archive of material with boxes and boxes of stuff from around the world. That made it quite a daunting job to go through it all. We pulled out some prized items, like my first edition signed by my father, but really it was a question of where to begin.
Is there a special reason why Paddington’s favourite food is marmalade sandwiches?
My father needed to have Paddington eating something for the story and he knew bears like sweet things. There are times he wishes he made it something else because we often get jars in the post from fans that have smashed!
A Bear Called Paddington, a free exhibition celebrating his 56 year journey from page to screen will run at the London Museum until 4 January; find out more at museumoflondon.org.uk