Fun parade with giant puppets opens Marlborough's tribute festival to Pelham Puppets on their seventieth birthday

Written by Tony Millett on .

The were plenty of strings attached in Marlborough High Street on Saturday morning (July 8) - it was the opening parade of the town's puppetry festival to mark the seventieth anniversary of the start of one of Marlborough's major industries: Pelham Puppets.

Pelham Puppets took the town's name around the world as 'Made in Marlborough Pelham Puppets' became an export phenomenon.

The opening parade of the Marlborough World of Puppets featured a brass band, the Town Mayor with his official attendants and the Town Crier, a very large Punch and Judy with their not so large baby, an amazing dragon made by St John's Academy students and lots of puppets of varying age - including the original Muffin the Mule - carried carefully in his owner's arms.


Tha Mayoral Party...don't look behind you - there's a dragon AND a cross BaronTha Mayoral Party...don't look behind you - there's a dragon AND a cross Baron  Muffin the Mule - first seen on TV in 1946Muffin the Mule - first seen on TV in 1946   Visiting puppets Visiting puppets

The very-large-indeed Mr Punch had a 'puppeteer' whose unenviable job was to keep Punch from getting into mischief.  As one lady said after she had been patted on the head by Punch: "Those were VERY large hands."

The one other outsize figure had been rescued from St John's storage:  it was the Baron students made for the Magna Carta celebrations in 2015.  Being a Baron and having been woken up somewhat abruptly, he looked very cross indeed.

Leaving St Peter's Church, the parade went along the north side of the High Street, turned at the Town Hall and went along the south side - and then into Priory Gardens.  here there was a call to attention by the Town Crier, a short speech of welcome and history by the Town mayor, Councillor Mervyn Hall, and a an opening by the Festival's director David Leech - who had the original idea this very happy event.

Festival Director David Leech risks an embrace by Mr PunchFestival Director David Leech risks an embrace by Mr Punch  "What's the matter Judy?""What's the matter Judy?"  "Mr P's run off with someone's pushchair.""Mr P's run off with someone's pushchair."
There is a lot more happening on Sunday - including a puppet theme to the Civic Service in St Mary's Church at 10am.

There are exhibitions in St Peters's Church, The Merchants House and the Town Hall.  And Priory gardens will be alive with Punch and Judys of more normal size.

Details are here.

And you can read a feature telling the memories of three of those who worked with Bob Pelham - including the famed archaeologist Phil Harding.

Fully supported by the Town Council, Marlborough History Society and many others, the opening event of the Festival certainly intrigued many people we talked to along the High Street - far better than shopping!