ELMER and Friends: The Colourful World of David McKee, the first ever major retrospective of David McKee’s striking illustration will open at the Cooper Gallery on Saturday, 10 July.

For the first time ever, families from across the region can step into David McKee’s colourful world in this characteristically playful Seven Stories exhibition as it celebrates 30 years of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant.

First stop is Elmer’s world, where visitors will experience a giant Elmer jigsaw and enjoy the ultimate Instagram moment. The adventure continues as guests walk through Elmer’s jungle, encountering characters and stories along the way.

As well as illustrations from the Elmer series there will be original artwork from Not Now Bernard, Mr Benn and an original storyboard of King Rollo as well as the opportunity to visit the fancy-dress costume shop featured in Mr Benn, with dressing up opportunities and a reading area.

Visitors can explore David McKee’s vibrant illustrations in great depth using many multi-sensory elements including colour, texture, sound and magnifying glasses plus visualise McKee’s use of perspective through an interactive mirrored walkway. Some interactive elements of the exhibition will not be in use until Monday, 19 July as per government guidelines.

A dedicated area of the exhibition has been co-produced with Seven Stories’ Young Producers highlighting its organisational commitment to working collaboratively with children and young people.

Elmer remains one of the most widely read children’s book series of all time, selling over ten million copies worldwide since it was first published by Andersen Press in 1989. Written and illustrated by celebrated children’s author and artist David McKee, the Elmer books have been translated into more than 50 languages and now new books, toys and clothing add to the world of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant.

In the first book of the iconic series, Elmer discovers that when he tries to change his appearance in order to 'blend in' with the other elephants, they no longer recognise him, or accept him. This makes Elmer sad, and he experiences how it feels to be treated like an outcast, after being ostracised by his old friends. It's only when it begins to rain, and the grey paint that Elmer has covered himself with starts to disappear, that Elmer's 'true colours' are revealed, much to the surprise and delight of his friends, who preferred his multicoloured and fun-loving self.

Mairi Kidd, Chief Executive of Seven Stories, said: “We can’t wait to invite families to explore this vibrant new exhibition in The Cooper Gallery. This is the first time that some of David’s striking artwork has been on display and we know that families, schools and fans of children’s literature are going to be blown away by the whole exhibition”.

David McKee, author of Elmer said: “Elmer is really about accepting who you are, about celebrating difference. We are all different to a greater or lesser degree. We are all different, with so many differences, difference of colour, of accents, but also of size, shape and how we dress. The differences are what make the world so rich. It's strange because we humans seem to like difference in other things - in dogs and trees and flowers, but we don't accept it in people. If people aren't like us, we don't accept them. Elmer tried to be like the other elephants but in the end he has to be himself. I look forward to seeing the faces of all the children and families when they step into the exhibition.”

Cllr Tim Cheetham, Cabinet Spokesperson for Place (Regeneration and Culture) said: “ It is going to be fantastic to see Elmer to bring his unique joy and magic to the Cooper Gallery this summer. The free and fun exhibition is perfect for families to explore during the holidays.  Bright and bold, children of all ages will me mesmerised by the displays.”

Families and Elmer fans can enjoy the exhibition at The Cooper Gallery from Saturday, 10 July until Saturday, 18 September.

Full ticket information is available on the website www.cooper-gallery.com