People have used puppets to tell stories for at least 30,000 years, probably originating in India, where puppetry is still hugely popular today. Glove puppets, marionettes, stick puppets... inanimate objects brought to life by the skills of the puppeteer.
Celebrating his 350th birthday this year is the irascible Mr Punch, who with his wicked grin, beak like nose and jesters clothing spends his days berating Judy and other characters, often beating them over the head with a stick as large as himself! Punch and Judy epitomise all that is traditional about the British seaside and are probably among the most famous puppets in the world.
Italy is the home of the marionette, the traditional string puppet. Originally marionettes were used to perform morality plays in church. Then comedy crept into the plays and they got so rowdy that the church banned puppetry. It continued to thrive outside the church, though, and another world famous puppet, Pinocchio, came out of that tradition.
Glove puppets are very portable and were as a result very popular in medieval times and were used by travelling minstrels and other entertainers. The shows were probably based on Bible stories and Greek and Roman legends. Today's glove puppets are generally still kept simple; Shari Lewis's Lamb Chop was little more than a sock! Few adults today did not have Sooty, Sweep or Sue in their toybox as children.
From the highly visible strings of The Woodentops and Thunderbirds through to the diversity and sophistication of The Muppets, puppet shows never fail to trigger a childlike excitement in all of us. Puppets have often been used to deliver a mixture of education and entertainment giving children the opportunity to learn while still having some fun... counting and singing along with much loved characters.
So why not head out down to the Southend Puppet Festival at Southend Pier from the 3rd until 5th August 2012, where the children can join in the fun and you can maybe re-live your childhood!
Find more details on our Events page.