Covent Garden's Puppet Festival Returns This May

Covent Garden's Puppet Festival Returns This May
Children sitting on the grass watching a Punch & Judy show at the Covent Garden Puppet Festival
© Ned Dyke-Coomes

That's the way to do it! Covent Garden's May Fayre & Puppet Festival is back for 2024.

The free, family-friendly event celebrates the anniversary of the first recorded sighting of Mr Punch, an early version of today's Punch & Judy shows.

It was diarist Samuel Pepys who recalls seeing "an Italian puppet play — a great resort for gallants within the rayles of Covent Garden" in May 1662, making this year the 360th anniversary. Pepys' puppet sighting is recorded by a plaque on the wall of St Paul's Church, unveiled in 1962.

This then led to the first Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival being held in 1976, which brought together Punch & Judy professors and puppeteers from all over the world. Aside from during the Covid-19 pandemic, the event has taken place on the second Sunday of May ever since.

A Punch & Judy show at the Covent Garden Puppet Festival
© Ned Dyke-Coomes

At 11am, a grand procession, led by a brass band, takes place around the Covent Garden neighbourhood to kick off the day's celebrations. This is followed at 12pm by a special service in St Paul's Church — also known as 'the Actor's Church' for its theatrically-inclined congregation — with Mr Punch in the pulpit.

After the church service, the fayre takes place in the church garden with stalls, Punch & Judy shows (tell the kids that this is what kids TV used to look like), puppeteering workshops, live music and maypole dancing. Basically, it's an afternoon of wholesome, free, family-friendly fun.

The Covent Garden May Fayre & Puppet Festival takes place on Sunday 12 May 2024 at St Paul's Church, Covent Garden, 11am-5.30pm. Admission is free.

Last Updated 29 February 2024

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