Tag Archives: Punch and Judy

Punch And Judy | 350th Anniversary Celebrations


Piccini Punch

Piccini Punch

THE BIG GRIN is a national celebration of Mr. Punch’s 350th Birthday.

The Big 350 Birthday Party will be held on SATURDAY MAY 12th in Covent Garden Piazza in central London where he was first seen by Samuel Pepys.

A mass gathering of UK ‘Professors’ will be joined by performers and  guests from around the world – including Japan, Australia and America  – and very special guest Pulcinella from Naples.

This will be followed on SUNDAY MAY 13th by a special edition of the traditional Punch & Judy May Fayre in the churchyard of St. Paul’s Covent Garden – the Actors’ Church.


For more information visit:

THE BIG GRIN web site


The Punch and Judy Fellowship web site.


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As Pleased As Punch!

The 325th Anniversary of Punch and Judy

Mr Punch

Image by ronwooduk via Flickr

This You Tube film clip is an extract from 1987 TV documentary film by Glyn Edwards showing highlights of the parade and mass gathering of Punch & Judy ‘Professors’ celebrating the 325th ‘birthday’ of Mr. Punch in London’s Covent Garden.

Next year, 2012, is the 350th anniversary and there will be celebrations taking place all over the UK including a massive party in London. Find out more by visiting the Big Grin web site.


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Punch Fan Finds Fun Come Rain Or Sun!

Heavy rain kept the crowds away from most events at the start of the Bank Holiday weekend. This young lady would not be put off. She was determined to see the Punch and Judy even if it was pouring down. The show went ahead and a small crowd gathered to join in the fun. Who needs sunshine anyway?

Girl waiting for Punch and Judy

Waiting for Mr Punch

Follow this link for  more information about our Punch and Judy Show

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Punch and the Devil

The Devil in Punch and Judy

The Devil

The Devil ( that's him on the left )

Ask anyone to name some of the characters in a Punch and Judy show and they will probably name Mr Punch, Judy, the baby, the policeman, the crocodile and the sausages ( although sausages are an object they will still be mentioned ). These are the main characters that people are familiar with.  Rarely will they mention the Devil. In fact this character is not seen very often in the modern version of the show.

Historical significance

The Devil was once an important character who would regularly appear in plays and stories performed in public places. He was very well known!

In medieval times people were God fearing. The church had great power and influence over the population and it was believed that wrong doers would be damned. They thought that those who lived a good life would be rewarded by going to heaven when they died. Those who were sinners on the other hand would be cast down into the fires of hell.

Hell was presided over by Satan, also known as Beelzebub, Lucifer, “Old Nick” or the Devil. This terrifying apparition, half man, half goat with cloven hooves, a barbed tail, and horns  could appear at any moment and carry an evil person off to the underworld.

In modern western society religion is less influential than it once was. People are much better educated and the power of the church has significantly declined. The majority of people do not read the bible, they attach little value to religious education, christian morality or ethics. The Devil has therefore become irrelevant in day to day life except perhaps in novels or Hollywood movies.

Audience reaction

The Devil provides a perfect adversary for Mr Punch even though the children watching have no idea who he really is. In my show the Devil’s first words are “Do you know who I am”  The children will often shout in reply “A Vampire!”

The role of the Devil is to punish Mr Punch for being naughty. He begins by telling Mr Punch off. When the Devil tries to take Punch away a fight breaks out. The audience cheer for Mr Punch which results in the devil becoming more and more agitated. Eventually Punch triumphs to the delight of his supporters.

Mr Punch’s confrontation with the Devil is undoubtedly an exciting high point and a great way to end the show.

A favorite character

Of all the characters in my Punch and Judy Show, the Devil is one of my favorites. He always provokes a great reaction from the crowd. He is brash, arrogant and not very like able. A character the audience loves to hate. Although I don’t always use him I know when I do, he will live up to expectations. Always a great crowd pleaser!

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Punch and Judy | A Short History

The History of the Punch and Judy Show

The first Punch and Judy Shows

During the seventeenth century marionettes were very popular. Italian showmen came to England to perform their shows which were miniature versions of the full scale operas that were being performed in theatres and were  all the rage in fashionable society. The puppet shows were enjoyed by the lower classes as they were cheap to watch and available to all. The first Punch and Judy Shows were performed in 1662 in Covent Garden, London. Samuel Pepys wrote about them in his famous diary. These early shows were probably quite different to the ones we are familiar with today. There were however some similarities. The casts of the shows consisted of a series of stock characters one of whom was a fool called Punchinello ( later to become known as Punch ). This comic character was well liked and would appear in most plays. He was dressed in all white and was a kind of trickster.

Punch becomes a glove puppet

By the eighteenth century marionettes had gone out of fashion and English showmen were using glove puppets. They retained Punchinello in the cast but changed his name to Punch probaly because it was easier to say. They also abandoned the original white costume if favour of the red tunic of the English Jester. Thus Punch as we know him today was born.

Punch and Judy puppets at a Georgian festival

Punch and Judy glove puppets

Material for the shows performed by the early showmen came from varying sources. Some were taken from well known myths and legends such as  St George and the dragon. Some were based on historical stories going back to Greek and Roman times. Others were based on the works of Shakespeare or Comedia Del Arte. Punch could make an appearance in any of them !

Punch goes to the seaside

By the nineteenth century Punch had become so popular he was  the main character of the show and the the storyline was resembling the kind of format we know today. Punch and Judy could be seen on street corners, village greens and fairs around the country. The showmen would travel from place to place carrying their equipment on a barrow which they would push by hand. They made their living by collecting money from the crowd and usually they had an assistant called a “bottler “ whose job it was to gather an audience and ask for money before, during and after each performance.
The shows were watched mainly by adults and could be quite bawdy and anarchic.

The industrial revolution changed the face of Britain. Factories were built and people flocked to the towns and cities to find work.  The population expanded and England became the power house of the British Empire. With this new found prosperity and the arrival of the steam engine came seaside holidays. Wealthy victorian families and the working classes all wanted to go to the seaside to escape from the dirty, crowded cities in search of fresh air and fun. Of course Mr Punch was waiting to greet them ! The Punch and Judy Showbecame an essential ingredient of any seaside holiday together with donkey rides and ice cream. Every seaside resort would have at least one resident Punch “ professor “ and sometimes several performing shows on the beach throughout the summer season. Wealthy families returning home also started to hire Punch and Judy Shows for children’s parties which would be held in the drawing room of their large houses.

Punch remained at the seaside entertaining generations of children until the advent of cheap package holidays to Spain in the 1970’s took away his livelihood. With drastically falling numbers it was no longer viable to make a living at the seaside.

Punch and Judy today

Today most Punch professors perform at children’s parties working for a fee. Punch can also be seen at Council and Corporate Events, Fetes and Galas. Punch is seen as primarily children’s entertainment but it was not always so. Even in its present form the show is appreciated and enjoyed by adults. Some older people find the show nostalgic and it reminds them of their childhood and seaside holidays.

Keeping the tradition alive

The Punch and Judy Show is a wonderful tradition with a long and interesting history. A good show performed well to an appreciative audience is a delight to behold. Punch is part of English folklore and even today is still fantastic entertainment !

Hire a Punch and Judy Show

For information about hiring a Punch and Judy show for an event or party go to our Punch and Judy page.

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Punch Arrested!

Police officers had to take action today when Mr Punch carried on in a fashion likely to provoke hysterical laughter. The long arm of the law finally caught up with him at Carlisle racecourse where he was spotted cavorting and carrying on in an irreverent and noisy manner resulting in outbreaks of  smiles and laughter on members of the audience and passers by too.

Mr Punch was eventually released because the police decided they couldn’t pin anything on him as he has a wooden head.

Asked later why he had broken the law, he said ” I never touched it! ”


Mr Punch held by two female police officers.

Mr Punch held by police!

Was he innocent or guilty? Want to meet Mr Punch?  Why not hire a Punch and Judy Show for your next party or family fun day event.

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British Legion Day, Stockton, June 2011

90th Anniversary Celebration

Crowd waiting for Punch and Judy

Crowd waiting for Punch and Judy Show

The British Legion Stockton-Yarm District 90th anniversay celebrations took place in Ropner Park, Hartburn Lane, Stockton on Tees on Sunday 12th June. The event was very well attended by the general public. The Mayor of Stockton was in attendance as were many other councillors and VIP guests. The event was organised by Stockton Council Events Team.

Proud History

The Stockton on Tees Branch was formed in 1921 and was one of the first to take up the mantel of welfare service and have been helping ex-service men and women and their families ever since.

Event Entertainment

There was entertainment throughout the day including military parades, a Drumhead service, live music in the bandstand, historical vehicles, craft activities, falconry display, Punch and Judy British Legion Bikers, inflatables and kiddies rides.

Fortunately the weather was fair until 3pm when the rain came and many people left for home. The event had however been a great success.

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Punch And Judy And Why Size Matters!

Mr Punch and Me

Image by ronwooduk via Flickr

Thinking about hiring a Punch and Judy Show for a corporate family fun day, festival, gala, fete, store promotion or birthday party? If so then size matters. Read more to find out why:

The booth or puppet theatre used by the performer can vary in size considerably as can the height of the play board ( the puppet stage ). Choosing the right one can be significant for several reasons. It can affect how many people can see the show, it can affect their enjoyment and overall impression of the event, it might not be suitable for the space available.

If you are organising a big company event with plenty of space then you should hire a show with a large size puppet theatre. This will stand out more and won’t look lost amongst everything else. It will also be more impressive which will contribute to the overall flavour of the event. A small booth is likely look a little insignificant. I know this sounds awful but it could also look like you have been penny pinching ( appologies for saying that ).

If you are expecting large crowds then you should hire someone who has a large booth in which the play board ( puppet stage ) is high up. Many Punch and Judy booths have the play board at chest height. This is not so good for outdoor events as those at the back of the audience may struggle to see the action. Having the puppets high up is much better for family fun days or public events, shopping centres etc where there might be lots of people.

For a parent hiring a show for a party at home in the house then a small booth is much better. Many modern houses have low ceilings and so height could be a problem. Also if the puppets are high up the children may not be able to see them because they will be sitting too close.

Finally Punch and Judy Shows are sometimes hired for store promotions. In this case it is likely that floor space could be the determining factor. Having a larger puppet theatre would certainly be more eye catching and attractive but it may be that it would be too big for the area allocated. Careful consideration should be given to this before making a booking.

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Punch And Judy Shows Are Not All The Same!

Everyone knows that Punch and Judy is a puppet show. Ask people what it means to them and they will probably come out with similar ideas. They are likely to mention the crocodile, the policeman and the baby. They will probably mention that it is at the seaside. They might say that the booth has red and white stripes like the cover on a deck chair. Often they will say Mr Punch’s famous lines “That’s the way to do it!” in a squawky voice. For most people that’s all they know or indeed want to know about Punch and Judy.

If you are thinking about hiring a Punch and Judy show for an event or party you might want to look into things a little further. In that case here is a list of some of the ways Punch and Judy Shows vary:

Mr Punch in the hands of Professor Ron Wood

Mr Punch

  • Height of the puppet booth. Many modern shows are low down as the puppeteer works the puppets at chest height. This is ideal for a party in someones home but not good for an outdoor show where there may be large crowds. In this case a show where the puppets are higher up and can easily be seen is much better.
  • The covers on the booths are not all red and white stripes. There are variations and some proprietors choose their own colour schemes.
  • The proscenium surrounding the puppet stage can be very plain in design or highly ornate. Some are quite magnificent an very pleasing to look at.
  • The voice of Mr Punch is produced using a device called a swazzle. This produces  distinctive high pitched sound. Not everyone uses a swazzle. The voice of Mr Punch is not authentic without the swazzle. Some of those who do use a swazzle are very audible and can make Mr punch talk quite clearly. Others are poor and hardly discernible.
  • In some shows the slapstick has been removed and there is no knock about action which means there is no vitality. Punch and Judy should be vigorous and fast paced.
  • Some shows rely on lots of verbal responding and jokes rather than visual comedy and action.
  • The quality of the puppets used also varies. The best shows have hand carved wooden figures. Sometimes puppets made of latex or even papier mache are used. When Punch slaps his hand down on the play board  a loud tap should be heard. This can’t be done with a plastic puppet. The best shows use proper wooden figures.
  • The experience, ability and character of the performer also affects the show. Its easy to tell the difference between a show in the hands of a very experienced professor, who is competent in handling the puppets and can bring them to life compared to someone who is not very good. Enthusiasm is also important in delivering a good show and this too can vary.

These are just some of the ways to differentiate one show from another. Every Punch and Judy show is different. The appearance of the show and the actual performance of the show can be very different. Some Punch and Judy shows are brilliant in every respect whilst others may leave much to be desired. It pays to do your homework before booking.

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Family Fun Day Entertainment Tips | Site Layout

I was invited to a meeting recently to talk about providing children’s entertainment at a corporate family fun day.

The organiser showed me the proposed site plan and gave me a run down on what other entertainment and attractions were being planned. There were all the usual things that you would expect. Bouncy castles, kiddies rides, fairground stalls, ice cream van, burger van, first aid tent,inflatables and games for teenagers and adults and various other things plus my Punch and Judy Show.

The event covered quite a large area and the team had decided to make the most of the available space. This is perfectly reasonable. They had made a list of all the various suppliers and then dotted them all round the site.

Sometimes there are good reasons for having the event entertaiment and attractions spread out and if this is the case then all is well. On the other hand it can be a case of trying to use all of the space just because it’s there. I have seen this approach many times and the result is never good.

When planning a family fun day it’s always better to keep the entertainment close together. If you have a massive field then consider marking out one part of it for your event and just leave the rest. Don’t try and fill it. Similarly if you are organising a company open day with tours round the factory, don’t dot your entertainment all round the premises. Keep it in one place so that people can go on the tours and then come back to it afterwards.

Here’s why it’s a good idea to keep things close together :

  • Control – When everything is spread out and the public are everywhere and your suppliers and staff are everywhere too, it’s difficult to coordinate and control the event. Unless you are using  radios ( an important consideration for larger events ) then passing information, sorting out problems, finding individuals etc is going to involve a lot of leg work.
  • Health and Safety – It’s much easier to walk round and keep an eye on things when you haven’t got too far to go.
  • Atmosphere – If you want a really good atmosphere then keep it tight. Having lots of people having fun in one area creates a buzz. It’s probably better to have less attractions grouped together in a small area than lots of things miles apart.
  • Music and PA – Music also creates atmosphere. In a compact area you can easily provide music without having to hire in an expensive powerful pa system. Also you can make regular announcements which everyone will hear. It’s difficult to let people know what’s going on if they are in the far corner of the field or playing beat the goalie at the back of a warehouse 500 metres away.

Every event is different. There are no hard and fast rules. I have organised corporate entertainment packages for company family fun days many times and I am quite experienced in event planning. I have also worked as an entertainer many times at events where I have been positioned in a remote location and the event has not been as good as it could have been if the organisers had brought everything closer in.

Site layout at a corporate event

Corporate Event

The photo above was of a corporate family fun day for which I drew up the site plan and organised and ran all of the entertainment. I had a staff of sixty which included a team of entertainers and all of the fairground men and supervisors for the inflatables and side shows. The anticipated attendance was up to 3,500 people. It was a large site and we did have to bring in a pa system and use radios for communication. In this case we had so much to fit in that we had no choice but to spread out.

If you are planning an event for the first time and have a question please ask me.  If you have organised events yourself and would like to contribute any ideas please use the comment section below. Many thanks, Ron

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