Capturing the spirit of the May Fayre
On the 9th May 1662, the civil servant and diarist, Samuel Pepys, wrote an entry for the day that included the following: ‘Thence to see an Italian puppet play that is within the rayles there, which is very pretty, the best that ever I saw, and great resort of gallants.’
The Italian puppet play was almost certainly Pulcinella, a puppet described as having a ‘squeaky, reedy voice’ and large hooked nose. The ‘sly rascal’ Pulcinella was soon transformed by British entertainers into Mr Punch and for the past 47 years Professors from all over the country gather in Covent Garden each year around the 9th May to celebrate Mr Punch’s birthday.
The event is called the Covent Garden May Fayre & Puppet Festival, and whilst Punch is the central attraction, the event is a celebration of traditional family entertainment.