The opening line of Peter Pan reads: “All children, except one, grow up.”
But he did grow up, on the day author JM Barrie gifted the copyright to the world's most famous children’s hospital, Great Ormond Street (GOSH).
Since then, the copyright has provided GOSH with a sustainable income because every novelisation and performance yields royalties for the hospital.
Along with the rights to Peter Pan, Barrie gifted a responsibility: to care for the living legacy of a fictional boy with the power to help heal the world's sickest children.
As of 2016, that legacy is 87 years old.
And the person who has nurtured it for so long is retiring.
– JM Barrie, pictured above, created the Peter Pan character and granted all rights to Great Ormond Street Hospital. He died of pneumonia in 1937. –
In February 2016, Great Ormond Street started taking applications for the role of Peter Pan Lead, to replace Christine De Poortere, who has held the job for the last 11 years.
According to the job advert, the successful applicant must have a track record in negotiating licences and rights sales, alongside an understanding and knowledge of intellectual property law, legal contracts and risks.
According to Christine, there are a couple of other essential qualities.
It's not just any other character, with endless licensing possibilities.
“Patience and integrity are very important," she told me. "Patience, because you get a lot of extraordinary, interesting enquiries from all over the world."
"Integrity, because you work for an amazing hospital and charity, so you need to be sure what you’re saying is right and in keeping with policies and image."
"It's not just any other character, with endless licensing possibilities. You must remember it’s there for the charity and the hospital. You need to feel passionate about what Peter Pan represents and the integrity of JM Barrie’s work, and be passionate about the history behind it and the future as well.”
Christine told me that if it wasn't for retirement looming and the need to put her feet up, she wouldn't be leaving.
"I've never looked back. It's been one of the best jobs in my life. It's been amazing to get to know the story of Barrie and the copyright and, from there, getting to know so many people from around the world who are interested in the story too."
"I do feel a bit sad [to be retiring], but saying that Peter Pan and GOSH will always stay with me, because I’ve been so involved with Peter Pan, JM Barrie and GOSH for the last 11 years. Everywhere you go, you see some reference to Peter Pan. It will always be there."
Amit Aggarwal, Great Ormond Street's Director of Corporate Partnerships, is responsible for choosing Christine's successor.
"Recruiting for this role feels different," he said. "You’re handling the royalties of a world-famous legacy in a fundraising-led culture. You have to really sit down and tailor the job profile to the unique circumstances.”
"It combines a requirement to understand the history of JM Barrie’s ties to GOSH and to have a good grasp of the financial implications of him leaving the copyright to the hospital."
You need to feel passionate about what Peter Pan represents.
"[Peter Pan is] a constant source of inspiration for everyone in the hospital and the charity, and for people who pass through the hospital.”
Just as Peter has a special place in the heart of the hospital, Great Ormond Street has a special place in the heart of the country. In 1988, ex-Prime Minister James Callaghan spotted a letter to a newspaper noting that GOSH's copyright to Peter Pan was set to expire.
The House of Lords – prompted by Callaghan – voted to include a special clause in the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act, granting GOSH a unique right to royalty in perpetuity from all commercial exploitation of the story of Peter Pan.
"As well as Barrie giving his legacy, the legacy of Lord Callaghan is unique and extraordinary too," said Christine. "It means we can continue to enjoy the legacy and the benefits of the Peter Pan copyright in the UK.”
As well as an income, Peter Pan lives on in the hospital: a memorial tablet to JM Barrie in the hospital chapel, the Tinker Bell play area, and the statue of Peter Pan standing guard at the hospital entrance (seen in the main image at the top of this article).
There’s also a ward named after him, for children having ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgery. Below, you can watch a little girl called Grace, who first came to GOSH when she was a few months old, giving you a tour.
As we get closer to the 100-year anniversary of JM Barrie's gift, the copyright is going strong.
But it's time to say good-bye to Christine. And hello to someone who will take the legacy under their wing, keep the everlasting memory of Peter alive, and use it to generate a financial lifeline for sick children from around the world.
"I'm a little bird that has broken out of the egg," says Peter himself.
Just a little boy, clad in autumn leaves and cobwebs, with the weight of the world's sickest children on his shoulders.
For more information on The Peter Pan Lead role at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity please visit gosh.org/vacancies. The closing date for applications is Monday 4 April.