UK kids break Guinness record as world celebrates ‘Harry Potter’ series turning 20

An incredible 676 children in the UK set a new Guinness record for the world’s largest gathering of people dressed as Harry Potter to mark the 20-year anniversary.

JK Rowling.
JK Rowling. Photo courtesy: Pottermore

Author JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series became arguably the world’s most popular fantasy fiction books of all time, and have charmed millions of readers ever since she came up with the idea while on a train to London. Rowling has recounted how she sat in a coffee shop in Edinburgh to write about Harry Potter and his fight for survival against arch-nemesis Lord Voldemort, while working as a waitress and taking care of her daughter as a single parent at the time.

Looking back on her spectacular journey, Rowling tweeted: "20 years ago today a world that I had lived in alone was suddenly open to others. It's been wonderful. Thank you".

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – the first book of the epic seven-part series – was published by Bloomsbury on June 26 in 1997. To celebrate the occasion, children in Bolton, the UK, gathered wearing a fake scar, glasses, a wand and the iconic school uniform of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – the fictional British school of magic. The attempt was organised in partnership with Bolton Museum and Library Services and 11 primary schools across Bolton and saw 676 kids take part.

Official Guinness World Records adjudicator Sofia Greenacre counted and verified the record and commented that the children had a lot of fun in spite of the bad weather on the day. Previously the largest gathering of people dressed as JK Rowling’s famous wizard was 521, achieved by Tanbridge House School in the UK in 2015.

The seven-part book series — The Philosopher's Stone, The Chamber of Secrets, The Prisoner of Azkaban, The Goblet of Fire, The Order of the Phoenix, The Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows were massively popular and the buzz created by the book was such that bookstores ran out of copies on the day of release.

Daniel Radcliffe (right) as Harry Potter, Emma Watson (centre) as Hermione Granger and Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley.
Daniel Radcliffe (right) as Harry Potter, Emma Watson (centre) as Hermione Granger and Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley. Photo courtesy: Warner Bros

Warner Bros gave birth to the eight-part money-spinning ‘Harry Potter’ franchise, starring young Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. Just like Rowling, who became an overnight star, the popularity of the movie's three main leads — Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Watson (Hermione Granger) and Grint (Ron Weasley) — was no less than an A-list Hollywood star.

After the conclusion of the series, Rowling wrote the spin-off stories — Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Tales of Beedle the Bard and Quidditch Through the Ages. A play titled Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two was also conceived and penned by Jack Thorne, John Tiffany and Rowling.

Rowling provides interesting details about the Potter universe through the website Pottermore, Twitter as well as media interviews. Fantastic Beasts is being turned into a five-part film series, the first of which, starring Eddie Redmayne in the role of Newt Scamander, released last year. Both Johnny Depp and Jude Law will be a part of the second film in the series. Fans of Harry Potter took to social media to celebrate the milestone with '20 years of Harry Potter' trending on Twitter while Facebook introduced a special feature for all Potterheads.

Publishers Bloomsbury celebrated "house week" by releasing a special edition of the first book in the colours of the four houses of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry — Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw.