Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Mr Punch's Birthday and VE Day Celebrations

On Sunday, a slightly crazy yet very British event took place in Covent Garden. Puppeteers from all over the country gathered in the small church gardens of St Paul's to put on one heck of a show in celebration of over 300 years of Punch and Judy. 

Stalls vied for space amongst the puppet theatres which lined the church’s garden, wall to striped wall, each a different design and promising a show throughout the day.

As the little garden filled with people, a marching band got ready to parade around the surrounding streets, while all the puppeteers (and a couple of Morris Men) flooded behind them, holding puppets aloft as they marched along.

 The fair kicked off once the 12 o’clock puppeteers church service (a rather jolly affair, complete with a sermon from a man on stilts dressed as Punch) came to a close. I settled down on a small patch of grass as the first puppet show started.

I don’t know if you remember from childhood, but the classic stories of bad Mr Punch tends to go pretty much the same way, no matter where you see a show. He’s either throwing the baby down the stairs while Judy isn’t looking, bonking policemen on the head or having his sausages stolen by a rather snappy crocodile, all while the audience cries ‘Oh yes you did!’ at regular intervals in response to Punch’s squeaky denials of any wrong doing. What hadn’t quite registered when I was little though was just how liberal all the puppets were with whacking each other with sticks, frying pans and the like. Despite this senseless violence however, the show had adults and children roaring with laughter!

Throughout the early afternoon, I happily watched show after show. It was fascinating to see the variety of puppets, theatres and story telling styles which brought this classic form of entertainment to life. What became very apparent rather quickly was just how passionate each and every puppeteer was about their show. Groups of them could be seen huddled together (they were easily spottable in their rather eccentric clothing) all around, swapping performance tips and trade secrets.

After a number of shows (and getting my face painted) I thought it was time to move on. I grabbed a quick Snog (of the frozen variety!) and pottered off towards Trafalgar Square.

Here, the 70th anniversary of VE day celebrations (the celebration of the end of WWII) were still in full swing. A Palace guard band in their bear fur hats and red jackets were playing on a stage in front of the National Gallery while members of the public lounged in stripped deck chairs in the sun. I stopped to listen before heading on down the Mall towards Queenie’s house, Buckingham Palace.

The Mall was lined with billowing British flags, and on the grass, a number of army vehicles were on display including an incredibly fragile looking hurricane plane! More band music could be heard drifting through the air. An official celebratory event had just finished in a marquee and veterans were walking out to claps and cheers from a waiting crowd. Green Park (the park surrounding the palace) was alive with people out celebrating (and also with some rather interesting wildlife).

I finished my day with a catch up with my friend Sarah in the little cafĂ© next to the boating lake in Hyde Park. We sat overlooking the lake as the sun started to lower in the sky and the ducks fought with pigeons over crusts of bread. There really is something just perfect about London when the weather warms up- the city and its inhabitants simply come alive in the sunshine. All in all, I’d had a fabulously British day. But hey, in the famous words of Mr Punch, ‘That’s the way to do it!’

1 comment:

  1. This has brought back so many memoires of Punch & Judy from when I was a little girl. I wish I was there.

    Katie x