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That’s the Way to Do It!’ But Not Anymore

Residents rally to save beloved summer puppet shows through online petition

In a move that has disappointed many, the traditional Punch and Judy shows that have been a staple of summer entertainment on Eastbourne’s seafront are set to end. A recent announcement from Ray Sparks, the current provider of the beloved puppet shows, has confirmed that due to funding cuts by Eastbourne Council, this year will mark the last for the historic performances.

A petition has been launched in response to the council’s decision, highlighting the community’s dismay: “Eastbourne Council have informed us that there will be no funding for Punch and Judy. Every summer, the shows are packed full of families enjoying the two free shows in the sunshine. There are hardly any activities for kids in Eastbourne without the cancellation of this wonderful show for the whole family. Please sign this petition to bring back this for our children to enjoy.”

Ray Sparks, who has been behind the joyous performances alongside Jaquie for the past 34 years, expressed his sadness over the decision. “Very sad to report there will be NO more Punch and Judy on the seafront from this year,” he stated. Despite the council’s offer to waive the pitch fee for this year, the financial viability of continuing the shows without funding proved insurmountable. “We could not afford to put on a show for free and certainly won’t be in a position to cover a pitch fee and basically busk for money,” Sparks added.

Punch and Judy shows have been a feature of Eastbourne Seafront since the early 1900s, starting with Uncle Bertie, followed by Ray Elgar, and then Jaquie and Ray Sparks. Their discontinuation marks the end of a long-standing tradition that has spanned over a century, bringing joy to generations of families.

The shows have been more than just entertainment; they’ve provided a free day out where families could enjoy picnics and spend quality time together in a time when childcare and holiday activities can be prohibitively expensive. The loss of Punch and Judy is felt deeply by the community, as evidenced by the outpouring of support and nostalgia in response to the news.

Ray Sparks concluded his announcement with gratitude for the years of support: “I would like to say a very big thank you to all the people who have supported us and the many friends we have made.”

As the petition gains traction, the community of Eastbourne holds out hope that their collective voice can bring about a change, ensuring that Punch and Judy can continue to be a cherished part of their cultural and community landscape.

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