Professor Mark Poulton: “Are you ready? I thought you’d be louder than that. Are you ready? I still can’t hear you, are you ready?"
It’s Mr Punch’s 350th birthday this year and we’re having a big party in Weymouth, the Big Grin Maritime Mix to celebrate.
We’ve chosen Weymouth as the venue because of the long history Punch and Judy has at Weymouth, it dates back to the 1880s here with continuous performances apart from the war years, and it’s one of the very last, if not the last permanent seaside pitch.
It was only in the 1860s that Punch and Judy came to the seasides, when the seaside holiday boom started. It was a busking show, Punch would go wherever there were people.
I’ve built a replica Victorian style Punch and Judy show for the Big Grin birthday this year. As you can see, it’s blue and blue and white checks because it wasn’t red and white stripes back then.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. I’ve brought you to this spot for a reason. Punch and Judy was seen at Weymouth in 1880 by a man called Professor Murray. And he had a show like this and he wheeled it up and down.
This is where he used to do the shows but at that time this was still beach. So I think we’re going to do three cheers for Professor Murray. Hip Hip! Hooray!”
Weymouth was a typical seaside resort, in keeping with places more like Margate Blackpool, Brighton for example.
You would get all the people coming down from places like Swindon and Bristol when they had the week off work.
The 1950s were incredibly busy, that was probably the golden years.
There would have been Punch and Judy at every major resort. At Weymouth there was Frank Edmonds and he was here for fifty odd years.
He pushed his show from Chester all the way to Weymouth, stopping off at towns and villages and doing shows to earn money and then at the end of the summer he’d push it all the way back up to Chester.
“We can do it louder than that. Hello! That’s very nice, you enjoying it so far?”
With performing on the beach I definitely feel like I’ve got a connection with the past showmen because it’s certainly not a seaside thing any more.
I’m 40 and to think that I’ve got more experience working on the beach than any one else living is a worrying thing. People think of Punch and Judy at the seaside and it’s all nostalgia, it’s romantic idealism. And there is something very special and unique about watching Punch and Judy on the beach. It’s just magical.
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