The River & Rowing Museum reopening in a burst of colour 20 May 2021

May 19 2021

The River & Rowing Museum welcomes back visitors from Thursday 20 May with a celebratory burst of colour: a sublime new John Piper display and the original artwork and stories of David McKee.

NEW in the John Piper Gallery
A remarkable new display, Painting in Coloured Light: The modern stained glass designs of John Piper, signals the reopening of the Museum’s nationally significant John Piper Gallery. This new introduction to the gallery shines a spotlight on Piper’s lifelong passion for stained glass. The centrepiece of the new display, recently beautifully conserved and rarely seen in public before, is Piper’s vibrant ‘cartoon’ or design for the stunning stained glass window, which he was invited to create (c. 1985 – 1986) for All Saints Church, Farnborough, West Berkshire, in memory of his close friend and collaborator Sir John Betjeman.


Elmer and Friends – now extended until 21 June

There is no better way to celebrate the reopening of the Museum than the triumphant return of Elmer and Friends: The Colourful World of David McKee. This joyful exhibition, reopening 20 May has been extended until 21 June, enabling visitors from across the region to step into this storyland of colour. The exhibition from Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books and celebrates 30 years of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant.

You ‘herd’ it here first
The whole Museum, including Elmer and Friends, will be open 7 days a week during Spring Half Term. Due to divine happenstance, Elmer Day is on Saturday 29 May, as half term begins. The Museum’s colourful exhibition is the perfect venue to spend Elmer Day with the family – a celebration of reading, elephants and acceptance. You may even catch a glimpse of Elmer!

As if by magic….

As well as original illustrations from the Elmer series, this feel-good exhibition features original artwork from Mr Benn, who first appeared on our screens 50 years ago. Visitors can take a trip down the memory lane that is Festive Road. For a touch of nostalgia, the Museum will be encouraging visitors – young and not so young – to dress up in their favourite costume for a special Mr Benn Dress Up Day on Saturday 5 June.


Together again at The Chocolate Café

The Museum’s stunning riverside Chocolate Café will also be welcoming back old friends and new – with a freshly refurbished outdoor decking area. This is the perfect rendezvous for friends and family and enjoying much-needed time together over a warming coffee or hot chocolate and a bite to eat.


Tickets now available

The Museum will be strictly limiting capacity in line with governmental social distancing guidelines, so visitors will enjoy the feeling of a more ‘exclusive access’. To manage this process, tickets must be booked in advance. General admission tickets (which include access to Painting in Coloured Light and The John Piper Gallery) and Elmer and Friends tickets (which also allow access to the rest of the Museum), are now available to purchase online.


Alternatively, become a Friend of the Museum for unlimited free entry to the Museum and many more fabulous benefits.


With every ticket purchased or gift bought in the Shop, the Museum can continue to share the art and stories of the river. Thank you.


Dates for your diary

  • 20 May 2021 – River & Rowing Museum reopens all galleries, including:
    • NEW in the John Piper Gallery, Painting in Coloured Light: The modern stained glass designs of John Piper
    • Elmer and Friends: The Colourful World of David McKee
    • Wind in the Willows
  • 29 May – 7 June – Spring Half Term
    • Museum, including Elmer and Friends, open 7 days per week, including Tues 1 and Weds 2 June.
    • Saturday 29 May – Elmer Day – with colourful special guest
    • Saturday 5 June – Mr Benn Dress Up Day – come dressed in costume like Mr Benn!
    • 21 June – Last day to visit Elmer and Friends before they march off to pastures new.





Painting in Coloured Light: The modern stained glass designs of John Piper, Elmer and Friends and the rest of the River & Rowing Museum, its Shop and Café will be open Thursday to Monday from 20 May 2021, 10am – 4pm.


TICKETS NOW ON SALE – Advance booking essential
Book now for Elmer and Friends: The Colourful World of David McKee

Book now for Painting in Coloured Light and The John Piper Gallery via General Admission


Safety First: Visitor safety remains the Museum’s priority. Measures include limited numbers to ensure safe social distancing, a carefully managed one-way route, hand sanitiser stations throughout the Museum and galleries, as well as a regular cleaning of contact areas.


To find out What’s on at the River & Rowing Museum, subscribe to their e-newsletter. 




For additional press information, interviews or photography please contact:


Charlotte Kewell, Head of Marketing & Communications:

Kerri Cicirello, Marketing & Communications Assistant:



Notes to Editors:


John Piper: A Very British Artist

John Piper, who for many years lived locally to Henley on Thames, is one of Britain’s most prolific and versatile artists of the 20th century. The River & Rowing Museum’s dedicated and nationally significant John Piper Gallery, opened following successful crowd-funding with the support of the Art Fund in 2016,  features works from private and public collections, many on display for the first time, demonstrating Piper’s outstanding versatility in art – from drawing and painting  to stained glass and ceramics.


The River & Rowing Museum inspires escape and exploration, telling the many stories of the River Thames and celebrating the wildlife that calls it home. Beyond its beautiful riverside location in Henley on Thames and award-winning building, the Museum’s doors open onto art, history, conservation and the international sport of rowing. The galleries include interactive displays and stories and objects of international significance, including the family-friendly ‘Wind in the Willows’ gallery and a dedicated gallery to the work of Modern British artist John Piper, which opened in 2016 following successful crowd-funding with the support of the Art Fund.


In addition, the Museum hosts a lively programme of special exhibitions from partners such as the National Portrait Gallery, the Ashmolean, Seven Stories, the V&A and the Hayward Gallery. Working closely with local partners, the Museum’s Community Gallery showcases a wide variety of local projects. Twice shortlisted for Family Friendly Museum of the Year, the Museum is a registered educational charity, and welcomes children and adults taking part in its engaging and inspiring learning and events programme. The Museum’s Chocolate Café terrace overlooks Mill Meadows, and its shop celebrates local suppliers, specialising in children’s books and games, fashion and craft.


As a charity receiving no ongoing public funding, the Museum relies on its visitors and supporters. Please help support the Museum’s future by becoming a Friend or making a donation.




Twitter:                           @river_rowing

Facebook/Instagram:  @riverandrowingmuseum


Opening Hours:            10am – 4pm Thursday – Monday from 20 May 2021.



About Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books

Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books, works with children’s books to create playful and profound experiences for children and young people, in order to fire their imagination and creativity, and deepen their understanding of themselves and the world.

Located in a converted Victorian warehouse in the Ouseburn Valley in Newcastle upon Tyne Seven Stories offers visitors seven floors of galleries, creative spaces, a specialist independent children’s bookshop and a café to explore.

Seven Stories has a superb collection of artwork, manuscripts and archives by British writers and illustrators for children, from the 1930s to the present day, including work by such figures as Enid Blyton, Judith Kerr, Nick Sharratt, Philip Pullman and David Almond.

In 2020 Seven Stories, a registered charity, celebrates its 15th birthday in 2020 with a number of new and exciting exhibition and events.

Seven Stories is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation and an Accredited Museum.


Twitter: @7stories


Instagram: @7stories

About Elmer

Elmer remains one of the most iconic and widely read children’s book series of all time, selling over 10 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.

David McKee

David McKee was born in Devon and studied at Plymouth Art College. In the early part of his career, McKee regularly drew and sold humorous drawings to magazines and newspapers such as The Times Educational Supplement, Punch and the Reader’s Digest. David McKee has written and illustrated over 50 picture books for Andersen Press and has penned a number of children’s classics including King Rollo, Mr Benn, Not Now Bernard and Elmer the Patchwork Elephant. David McKee loves to paint and now lives in the South of France but regularly visits London.

About Andersen Press

Andersen Press is a leading independent children’s publisher, and home to some of the biggest names in the world of children’s books, including the much-loved picture book characters Elmer the Patchwork Elephant and the Little Princess. Andersen Press is the publisher of many award-winning authors and illustrators including Melvin Burgess, Rebecca Stead, Susin Nielsen, Julian Clary, David Roberts, Tony Ross, David McKee, and Jeanne Willis. The company was founded in 1976 by Klaus Flugge.

Arts Council England

Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

Elmer and Friends: The Colourful World of David McKee  is supported by:





Painting in Coloured Light: The modern stained glass designs of John Piper is supported by: