Happy birthday, Mr Punch!

PUBLISHED: 01:44 23 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:32 20 February 2013

Happy birthday, Mr Punch!

Happy birthday, Mr Punch!

Brighton's Professor Glyn Edwards has been performing Punch and Judy shows for over 50 years.This year he is organising events to celebrate Mr Punch's 350th birthday. Susan Brookes-Morris spoke to Glyn about his love of the Red Nosed Rogue

Glyn Edwards first became interested in Punch and Judy in the late 1940s. His father was an entertainer, and the family spent the summer season in a Brighton flat. Punch and Judy shows were staged at nearly every seaside resort then and Glyn used to plead with his mum to take him to see the show under the pier three times a day.

He says he always enjoyed the shows but began to realise he preferred some more than others. He discovered this was because two different men took turns to do the show and that the success of the performance depended on the abilities of the showman.

Glyn said: Mr Punchs anarchic nature appealed to the rebellious streak in me. I was never interested in sports. I was more of a Just William kind of boy and Mr Punch seemed to be the embodiment of that type of mischief.

He began to practice with puppets himself after seeing Punch and Judy performed at the Festival of Britain in 1951. With the decline of the theatre his father had bought a Punch and Judy set with a friend but both were hopeless being unable to make their two hands work separately. Glyn had been attending a puppetry class after school and when the booth ended up unused in the corner of his room he decided to give it a try. He found that he was able to work the puppets and began to practise endlessly.

At this time shows were characteristically performed by smart showman with bowties or white flannels with a boater. The performance usually included Punch and Judy tossing the baby between them, a baffled policeman, cheeky Joey the clown, a crocodile eating sausages, a spooky ghost, a comic hanging scene and a dangling creepy crawly spider.

Due to his popularity at the seaside, Mr Punchs unofficial theme song became Oh I do like to be beside the seaside, but he was also starting to appear at childrens parties, Christmas events, childrens theatres and city parks.

Glyn did his first paid public event in a London park on August Bank Holiday 1961. He said: I absolutely loved it. I could see the audience laughing and heard them respond each time the characters asked whether Mr Punch had been naughty. It made me feel really good and from that point on Punch and Judy became a huge part of my life. The more shows I did, the more I saw the audience enjoying it, the more I understood why Old Mr Red Nose had survived so long.

In 1962 I was the youngest performer at a gathering to unveil a plaque commemorating the 300th anniversary of the date when Samuel Pepys had seen the Italian Puppet Show Pulcinella, the show from which Mr Punch developed. I found being amongst many of the legendary performers truly inspirational.

Glyn trained as a teacher and went on to produce programmes for schools. Then he moved to mainstream childrens television as a producer of the infamous Tiswas. Glyn developed the phantom flan flinger character. He says it was great, because like Punch and Judy, the show was full of anarchy.

Since leaving television, Glyn has been devoted to performing puppet shows and developing the skills of other puppeteers. He has also developed educational displays and workshops about Punch and Judy, the history of toys and the history of the British seaside. Glyn is also heavily involved with Punch and Judy organisations at home and abroad.

He describes himself as a Punch and Judy activist, 68 on the outside but with an 11 year old at the controls. Glyn jokes: I have Brighton Punch and Judy running through me like the writing through a stick of Brighton Rock.

This year Glyn has been involved in organising the celebrations for Mr Punchs 350th birthday. Under the banner of The Big Grin, these have been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and some form part of the Cultural Olympiad. Events close by include: displays and activities at the Museum of Childhood in London, workshops and exhibitions at Brightons Fishing Museum where Glyns daughter Katey will also be running educational workshops. As Pleased as Punch an exhibition and series of events taking place at Worthings Museum and Art Gallery and, An Audience with Punch and Judy at Hoves Museum and Art Gallery. Glyn will also be doing impromptu performances on Littlehampton and Brighton beaches.

Brighton Fishing Museum

A new permanent seaside display featuring Punch and Judy

Hove Museum and Art Gallery

16 & 17 August
A fun-packed show and accompanying talk about the history of Britains favourite seaside entertainment

Worthing Museum and Art Gallery

Until 1 September
Take a peek inside Mr Punchs family albumn and find out what lies behind that famous big nose and cheeky grin. Where did he come from? This hands-on exhibition about the seaside life and times of the famous puppet and friends also gives you the chance to go backstage and have a go at being a performer or Professor yourself. Rarely displayed items of costume, ephemera, and fine art will come from the museums collection

V & A Museum of Childhood, London

Until October
A Punch & Judy display including classic Punch & Judy booth and complete set of puppets used by Professor Gus Wood (1912 1962) and an elaborate 18th century Italian marionette theatre. Plus new material from private collections and selected items from the George Speaight archive, recently acquired by the V&A and not previously seen in public.

Puppet Festival Fridays
Fridays 10, 17, 24, 31 August, 12.0016.00
Cant get away to the seaside? Then come along to the Museum for our waterfree, pseudo-seaside experience. Enjoy free outdoor puppet shows. Play in sand boxes. Make puppets in our drop in Art Smarts area. Take a photo in front of our funny seaside backdrop. Paint a T-shirt using a puppet template, or make a creative design of your own (cost 5 per t-shirt or free if you bring your own).
Drop-in All ages

Puppet Making Fun
Fridays 10, 17, 24, 31 August, 10.0012.30, 14.0016.30
This is a fantastic opportunity to work with a specialist puppet maker from The Little Angel Theatre to create your own puppet to keep. Practice simple manipulation techniques to enable you to bring your character to life.5 per child. Bookings taken 14 days in advance before each workshop Age 5-11

Punch Professors in England (photographic exhibition).
July - December
A display of photographic portraits of Punch & Judy performers commissioned from a leading photographic artist. The exhibition will be shown in the Museums front foyer.

During this time the Museum will also offer:

Exploring Punch & Judy: a Museum tour activity for schools and families , led by the Museums team of Activity Assistants, introducing the history of Punch & Judy and followed by a short performance and a chance for visitors to touch and explore replica puppets. (Offered to families at weekends and during school holidays, and to schools on weekdays during term-time as one of the Museums Spotlight Tours for classes from Reception to Key Stage 2.)

Punch Professors in England (photographic exhibition).
July - December
A display of photographic portraits of Punch & Judy performers commissioned from a leading photographic artist. The exhibition will be shown in the Museums front foyer.

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