Punch and Judy museum to open at long last in Blackpool
If you imagine a traditional British seaside scene, it would not be complete without a Punch and Judy show.
The shows have become iconic features on beaches across the UK and their history in the country can be traced back to the 17th century. Even in a UK poll in 2006 they were voted onto the list of icons of England.
With such a long history, especially in Blackpool, you would be forgiven for thinking there was a museum or dedication to them in the resort. There isn’t.
That will change over the summer when the first Punch and Judy Puppet museum is opened at Pelham Lodge hotel on General Street. The museum is the creation of resort magician and puppet performer Martin Scott Price.
He says the museum will be a Punch and Judy Puppet museum but will also feature other displays such as Pelham Puppets and Sooty and Sweep. Live Punch & Judy shows will be on offer as well.
Martin says: “The concept of the museum is fun for all the family with many moving musical items and a show too.
“The museum will be educational and hopefully schools will be invited to come along and listen to the history of Mr Punch and actually take part in a hands on show with plenty of audience participation.”
Martin, who has performed for Princess Diana, the Queen and Prince Philip, is an avid collector of Mr Punch memorabilia and puppets. It will be these collections that will make up the displays in the new museum which is being built in the basement of Martin’s hotel.
When Martin was a child, his parents ran a bed and breakfast in Morecambe. They were from fairground’ decent - working for the famous Pat Collins Family travelling showmen from the Midlands, where Martin was born.
It was this seaside childhood where he fell in love with the Punch and Judy attractions after being given papier mache Punch and Judy puppets when he was five-years-old.
His father made him his first marionette theatre and he would perform a show in the back street, for three pence with all of the money going to the local blind centre.
He performed all over Morecambe until the resort lost its popularity with holiday-makers. He then moved to Blackpool.
Martin said: “I followed some great showmen and traditional Punch workers, my shows have been seen by thousands of holiday-makers and have been featured in commercials, Coronation Street and many other series on the television and local programmes.
“I later worked for Blackpool and Fylde Council and Wyre, performing my shows at all the seaside resorts - Cleveleys, Fleetwood, Blackpool, St Annes.”
The museum itself has been a long-time coming for Martin and has taken years to come to fruition.
In 2014, his bid to convert part of his hotel into the museum was refused by Blackpool Council’s planning committee.
This was even after Martin turned up in full puppeteer’s costume to address councillors at the town hall.
He said: “I turned up at the meeting in my costume because I am a professor of Punch and Judy, and I wanted to show them what they would be missing.”
They turned the application down over building work but did support the idea of the museum.
Now five years late Martin’s dream has come full circle.
He said: “It’s absolutely wonderful that I am finally going to be able to open the museum will all of my memorabilia and collections.
“It has been a lifelong hobby and this has always been the dream to open my own museum.”
A wide collection will be on show for visitors including puppets, pottery and figurines.
Martin says one of his favourite pieces is a rare Royal Doulton figurine of Punch and Judy which his mum bought for him when he was in his early teens.
Part of the museum will also have a Sooty and Sweep exhibit in memory of Bill Lamb, who sold the original Sooty to Harry Corbett on Blackpool’s North Pier in 1948. Bill died last month at the age of 87 following a short illness.
Martin said: “Bill was a very dear friend of mine and as a fitting tribute to Bill and Sooty, I would like to dedicate a section of our Punch and Judy Puppet museum in remembrance of Bill“I have spoken to Richard Cadell who is Sooty’s presenter and has given the go ahead to feature Sooty and a dedication to Bill the founder of Sooty in Blackpool.”
Martin thinks there will always be a future for the famous puppets adding: “I am sure Mr Punch will be carried on to the next generation and many more to come, as they say that’s the way to do it’.”
Martin Scott Price is setting up a Punch and Judy museum at Pelham Lodge this summer. He is pictured along with some of his puppets and exhibits.
Searching for a former performer
Martin is trying to contact and locate Ted Green, who performed shows on the beach in Blackpool in the early 60s and 70s.
He would like to invite him to the opening of the museum. Martin added: “I believe he still lives in Blackpool and he would probably be in his 90s by now. “I would love Ted to come along to the museum and possibly be a key figure in the Grand opening.”
Anyone who can help can email [email protected] or call (01253) 625127.