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'They were all my favourites' - author David McKee looks back on Ipswich's Elmer trail

PUBLISHED: 13:22 30 September 2019 | UPDATED: 14:44 30 September 2019

Elmer artist David McKee visited Ipswich and signed books after visiting the Elmer's on the hospice's art trail.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Elmer artist David McKee visited Ipswich and signed books after visiting the Elmer's on the hospice's art trail. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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World-famous author David Mckee was "flattered" after visiting Elmer's Big Parade in Ipswich - and now just days ahead of the auction he has spoken of the trail's success and how the character first came about.

Elmer artist David McKee visited Ipswich and signed books for young Elmer fans. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNElmer artist David McKee visited Ipswich and signed books for young Elmer fans. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The trail, organised by St Elizabeth Hospice, saw thousands of people head out and snap photos with the 55 large Elmer statues, along with many young fans completing a special sticker book and attending shows at the Ipswich Regent to see the character come to life.

Now aged 84, David first published the children's book in 1968 and said: "The trail was fantastic and it really brightened up the town.

"It's very flattering when somebody takes your character and uses it for other things, especially for things with a real benefit."

David said that he never expected the Elmer character to become so popular, but believes it is his important message which has led to his success.

George in his Elmer costume   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNGeorge in his Elmer costume Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

He said: "People can attach to the Elmer character.

"I've always been very influenced by the fables and I still am, so that has had an impact on my storytelling. The messages which were important long before I was born still seem to be important today, and Elmer helps show this to young children."

Originally the Elmer character was created after a young McKee developed a love for painting colourful squares, and one day he mixed this hobby with his elephant drawings which he was illustrating for newspapers.

He says Elmer the elephant "told him a story" and that he continues to do so today.

Elmer artist David McKee visited Ipswich and signed books Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNElmer artist David McKee visited Ipswich and signed books Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

"It's like I'm living with him," he said. "Elmer has formed a large part of my life."

David visited the town back in July when the trail was in full swing, spending his 24 hours signing books for excited youngsters and paying a visit to some of the elephants.

Speaking of his visit to the town, he continued: "What I thought was fantastic was every time you came across an Elmer there was a group of people around it.

"I didn't have a favourite, as I'm not good with favourites whether that's of my children, books or characters or anything for that matter. But they were all my favourites if you like.

"Of those that I saw they were so varied - the herd was so colourful, so alive and so full of ideas."

The author, who has created around 50 books for his publisher Andersen over the years, expressed his huge congratulations and thanks to the hospice who were the driving force behind the three-month long art trail.

He said: "My congratulations to the hospice and the artists involved both on the idea and the execution of the idea. Everything about the trail was just fantastic and thank you for deciding to use Elmer."

David had planned to attend the auction on Thursday, October 3, saying that he "loves a good auction" - but unfortunately his schedule has changed.

Tickets are still available to see the Elmer's go under the hammer at the Ipswich Corn Exchange.

You can find out more about how to bid and go along here.

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