Can the Community Unite to Save Punch & Judy in Weymouth

Weymouth, the resort that families have returned to year after year, simply because it catered for everything they wanted.

However, on Sunday 2nd September, a change will take place which I believe very few people realise. Whatever your age, it may come as a shock to learn that on that day, it will be the last day for Punch & Judy for ever.

Most residents of the Borough will know that the last few years, have become a problem financially for Mark Poulton the man behind this traditional seaside entertainment.

So many things contribute to making this form of entertainment possible. Ground rent, accommodation (as he lives away), storage for props, maintenance of props and since children are required to take holidays during a given period, they are either all here at once or not at all. Then there are those who watch and fail to donate.

If when children are here, the weather is poor, that’s it, no income.

In a perfect world, the word sponsorship would not be uttered, but as we don’t live in a perfect world, this is one thing that could possibly salvage the situation. It is my understanding that an annual figure along the lines of £5,000 would probably secure Weymouth’s Punch & Judy. It isn’t too late for anyone, any company, or group of individuals to secure this piece of Heritage for Weymouth.

I’m reliably informed, there are only three Punch & Judy shows in the UK. One iin Swanage, one in Llandudno and our’s. On Sunday, our’s could be gone forever.

The press I am told are not overly interested.

Next year, in all probability you or your family could gaze out at an empty spot where once Punch & Judy stood and entertained thousands and thousands, if that happens, it will be a very sad day for Weymouth.

No doubt one of the reasons, why Mark Poulton was invited to be presented to HM The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh when they visited Weymouth on that sunny day in 2009, was because it was felt, he was an asset to the town, something his Punch & Judy show helped to create that traditional piece of entertainment that had stood the test of time for a great many years. Part of the tapestry which along with countless generations of children looked forward to annually.
 
Paddling in the sea, playing in the sand with buckets and spades, fishing for crabs, slot machines, fairgrounds, candyfloss, Punch & Judy. Each amounting to excitement for children and pleasure for adult as they watched having worked and saved for this week or two if they could afford it. So yes, Mark’s show, tiny though it might have been and still is, was and is, part of our heritage.
 
Because no charges are made to view, but charges are levied to enable him to perform, it really is a difficult situation. For about a year now, things have been getting progressively worse. Outgoings financially have increased all round, yet income does not. Income has been reduced considerably since the summer firework displays ceased as this apparently was a welcome source of revenue as they were extremely popular. When education authorities introduced rules regarding children being absent during term time meant there is no point in performing if there are no children to view/donate. Heaven forbid the weather isn’t favourable at weekends.
 
Many people have voiced opinions during the last week. Many are throwing their arms up in disbelief that the end really is “nigh”.
 
But it needn’t be.
 
If those people that felt it was in their interest to put Mark and his Punch & Judy show on a pedestal to present to The Queen way back in 2009 as representative of part of Weymouth’s heritage , that is W&PBC, then one would like to think, the current members of W&PBC could show some degree of compassion and take a long hard thought about trying to retain his services.
 
Similarly, those who endeavour to entice tourism throughout the year by offering accommodation in whatever form, perhaps collectively/ shared or whatever, could maybe try to offer some financial support simply to cover overheads, not a wage, simply overheads.
 
Wow, some words. Hopefully no-one will have been offended. Hopefully, carefully chosen words. The only concern I have, is that to wait and do nothing might seal his fate. That is why, I’ve chosen to produce this last minute plea.
 
Sunday Sept 2nd, should not go on record as the last time Punch & Judy appeared in Weymouth.

What can we do to help?.

Colin Hatch