Covent Garden's Puppet Festival Returns This May

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 8 months ago
Covent Garden's Puppet Festival Returns This May
Three stand-alone puppet theatres in a garden. A clown stands next to one of them, and a group of children are seated on the floor, watching.
It's 360 years since Samuel Pepys recording seeing a Punch and Judy show. Photo: Alternative Arts

That's the way to do it! Covent Garden's May Fayre & Puppet Festival is back for 2022.

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.

A Punch & Judy puppet theatre, with Punch and Judy puppets on the stage.
The inaugural Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival was in 1976. Photo: Alternative Arts

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.

A1 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 church service in St Paul's Church — also known as 'the Actor's Church' for its theatrically-inclined congregation — with Mr Punch in the pulpit.

Young girls in various pastel coloured dresses, some with flower crowns, holding onto ribbons and maypole dancing as a large crowd watches
Maypole dancing and puppeteering workshops are part of the festivities. Photo: Alternative Arts

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 8 May 2022 at St Paul's Church, Covent Garden, 11am-5.30pm. Admission is free.

Last Updated 03 May 2022