'Accept the differences in others' - Elmer author's inspiring words on visit to Ipswich trail
PUBLISHED: 19:07 04 July 2019 | UPDATED: 19:07 04 July 2019
The colourful trail of elephants inspired by his world-famous books are bringing smiles to the faces of thousands of young people across Ipswich.
But on a visit to see Ipswich's magnificent Elmer parade, author David McKee said he hoped it would "provoke discussion" about accepting differences in others - in a town which has previously faced reported community tensions.
The 84-year-old spent 24 hours in the Waterfront town where he saw the "fantastic project" devoted to his work for the first time, which began two weeks ago and is raising funds for St Elizabeth Hospice.
While signing hundreds of books for adoring Elmer fans, Mr McKee said the collection of painted elephants dotted around the town - which will be there until September 7 - had left him "speechless".
A special souvenir sticker album and activity book has been created to accompany Elmer's Big Parade Suffolk, with 30,000 packets of stickers collected or purchased by eager enthusiasts.
Mr McKee added: "The elephants are incredible. They've been done with so much expertise and care and they look so happy to be where they are.
"They way people seem to be reacting to them, they seem to be happy too.
"It's done for such a good cause - a hospice which absolutely needs all the support it can and which does such amazing work."
But while raising money and bringing joy to children are the main aims, Mr McKee said: "If anything I do makes one or two people think, that's all for the good. I quite like provoking discussion."
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Asked whether Elmer's message of accepting differences in others would resonate in Ipswich, where there have been reported tensions between different groups in the past, Mr McKee said: "My big thing is about accepting who you are.
"Just be yourself, enjoy life and accept the differences in others.
"It's just so silly that we waste time on conflict when we all want the same thing - to sleep comfortably, to have enough to eat and not worry about things.
"I think it's sad, because most people on an one-to-one basis are good with each other - but it's strange how we find it so difficult to accept difference.
"We don't want all the trees to look the same, but we all want people to be exactly like us - and when they are like us, it's boring."
After taking part in a book signing for children at Ipswich Town Hall - otherwise known as Elmer headquarters - and attending a drinks reception there too, Mr McKee said: "Everyone involved in any way with this project has got to feel so proud of everything.
"I'm proud of what's happened here and I think everyone should be."
Every copy of the Ipswich Star and EADT contains a voucher for you to claim a free pack of stickers while some papers may contain more than one voucher.
The albums are available to buy at the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star office in Princes Street.
EADT and Ipswich Star circulation manager Ian Condron said: "The Elmer sticker and activity book is proving extremely popular, we've had to print more to keep up with demand."