Puppeteer celebrates Punch and Judy's 350th birthday

Puppeteer celebrates Punch and Judy's 350th birthday

Sophie Flowers

Puppeteer celebrates Punch and Judy's 350th birthday

One of the country's oldest entertainment duos celebrate their 350th birthday this year. And Punch and Judy performer Gary Trimby, of Florence Avenue, Maidenhead, will be taking part in the events to commemorate the anniversary.

The 58-year-old has been performing shows regularly for about five years, including as part of the Maidenhead Carnival, but has been fascinated with the puppets since he was at school.

He said: "I always loved Punch and Judy, I used to see it when I was a kid down at Weymouth and I was doing it at school when I was 11."

But growing up in West Drayton he never considered becoming a professional puppeteer. Instead he played football in Uxbridge and was on the books for Charlton as a schoolboy before a knee injury at 16 ruled out a sporting career.

Now Gary, who lives with his wife Sharon, works for Roots Garden Design in Taplow three days a week keeping the rest of his time free for performing.

He can perform more than 100 shows a year in 30-40 bookings, with summer being the peak season, alongside shows in schools and residential homes.

"The best bit of the job is hearing the laughter," he said. "You know if you're doing a good show if people are laughing."

The puppets have fallen foul of the PC-lobby in recent years with their representation of 'domestic violence' but Gary said: "It's not any more violent than EastEnders that you watch every night.

He added: "The show has adapted over the years, it wouldn't have lasted 350 years if it hadn't."

Also known by his stage name Professor Dumpling, Gary is a committee member of the Punch & Judy Fellowship and a trustee of Puppetlink, which is organising events to celebrate the 350th anniversary.

Punch and Judy can trace its roots back to the Commedia dell Arte street theatre of 16th century Italy and was first recorded in England by Samuel Pepys in Covent Garden on May 9, 1662.

Since then Covent Garden has been seen as the home of the puppets, commemorated with a plaque on the wall of St Paul's Church, dubbed the 'actors' church', in Covent Garden.

On the second Sunday in May each year, performers and enthusiasts from around the world gather in the gardens of the church to celebrate Mr Punch's birthday.

This year, the Big Grin will be a national celebration of the 350th anniversary, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, kicked off at the Little Angel Theatre, Islington, on Wednesday, May 9.

It will be followed by a Big 350 Birthday Party on Saturday, May 12 in Covent Garden Piazza with performers from around the world.

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