Several weeks ago (Royal Wedding bank holiday I believe..so more than several…) I decided to randomly follow some links on a website suggesting interesting things I could do in London. I wanted to have a day out in London, somewhere I hadn’t been or something a little bit different I had not done before, for article writing purposes. After following several links I came across information about Covent Garden Puppet Festival and May Fayre, after doing a little bit of research I decided this was just what I was looking for.
So, belatedly (due to me enrolling on an A Level English Language home study course…more about this in another post, probably) here are my thoughts and some fascinating facts about puppets, Mr Punch in particular.
Celebrations have taken place in Covent Garden for the past 36 years, the party starts with a grand procession which includes a brass band and clowns.
The fayre and puppet festival takes place in the gardens of St Paul’s Church (known as ‘the actors church’ as the church is often frequented by performers from the nearby theatres) One area was set aside for all the Punch and Judy shows, which had different start times but some shows would be overlapping. The Punch and Judy professors travel up and down the country with their shows so there is a community spirit between them all. The P&J (as it shall now be known) area was packed and got quite confusing when the shows overlapped but the atmosphere was great. It’s been a while since I have seen a P&J show so I quite enjoyed watching a few shows and watching the audience too.
Waiting for Punch and Judy
Throughout the day visitors could also see Maypole dancing, folk music, ventriloquism and of course bump in to the odd (in both senses of the word, clowns wandering around. There were also a good selection of the stalls around the garden which were interesting.
As I wandered around the site I found myself becoming fascinated by the history of puppets and puppet theatre, particularly from the Victorian era. This is exactly the reason I thought(and hoped ) it would be good to go to. The puppet festival gave me some writing ideas, especially for next year as it will be Mr Punch’s 350th birthday. I bought some little information books and guides which are quite useful.
I was almost persuaded to become a puppeteer by one stall holder. I asked him if he could recommend any good books for research but he seemed intent on persuading me to become a puppeteer. I might have a go, all in the name of research of course…
Next year, to celebrate Mr Punch’s big birthday the festival will be held over two days, definitely worth a visit (I will be)
And finally…a visit to Covent Garden is not possible without mentioning the atmosphere the area always has and some of the amazing street performers. Whilst I ate the world’s most amazing jacket potato (it was delicious, try one from the vendor near the transport museum!) I watched a singer guitarist, he was great. However, a special mention needs to go to the person who performed as the head of a dog! He was incredibly creepy but fascinating and brilliant all at the same time. This post ends with a picture of him.
(UPDATE: here is a link to a 2012 post I have written on this subject https://suddenflashesofinspiration.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/350-years-of-mr-punch/)