The 'hand-over.'

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Postby Chris » 19 Feb 2009, 12:58

Or the contrary might be true? The fewer performances you do the more time you have for faffing?

I do know one Punch Prof who repaints his figures between each engagement, and carries paints to touch up between performances.
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Postby Professor Joe » 19 Feb 2009, 15:58

I belive it is the way the costumes are made, I have been using my punch and judy for nearly two seasons and neither are showing signs of wear to their costumes, punch has needed his hands repainting. the costmes are lined with a heavy calico.

As I have a natural ability to sew ( I cannot do anything else practical though!) I know that using a strong thread and a small stich will ensure the seam will stay. I have never made a puppet costume but would love to. The last time I was at the may fayre I noticed Bryan Clarke's puppet costumes are overlocked. does anybody else use an overlocker in making punch costumes?

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Postby Tony James » 19 Feb 2009, 16:36

Faffing is a Yorkshire word Chris. And you are as usual absolutely right.

The less you have to do, the greater the opportunity to faff.

Which is why my redressing and major repainting takes place now during the quiet period along with frame maintenance and re-varnishing of the showfront.

If travelling a number of spare figures is normal then I haven't heard about it. Instead, I carry my paint and repair box so I can make good any noticeable chips or repair any spalling of the wood which doesn't often happen. That's the difference working away from home on a circuit which only brings you back once a week.

Your formula for wear and tear is excellent. Reducing it to its simplest, April to September is my main season and conveniently that's six months or twenty six weeks and I average 16 performances weekly. So.................

16 x 26 = 416 performances

Then there's October to March, some of which is quiet and some, like November and December which is very busy. I average about another 80 or so during the Winter.

Overall, 500 performances annually and my Punch normally lasts me two years. So that's 1000 performances and then generally he needs redressing.


Quote from Nick: As to your Codman question, Tony, from what they tell me, I think they start the summer season with three or four newly dressed Punches and, by October, it's time to redress them all


Let's say Codman uses not four but three Punch figures and wears them to the redressing point by October. In my experience that equates to 3000 performances in just six months.

That's 500 shows per month = 125 per week = 17.8 shows per day.

Something doesn't add up.
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Postby lesclarke » 19 Feb 2009, 21:49

I got a bit lost with your reckoning Tony, but sort of agree that 'it doesn't add up' - or rather that there seems a huge variation the time that costumes, paintwork, and swazzles last.

Obviously, some difference can be put down to the materials used and a lot is due to the individual performance style, but I wonder if there is also yet another significant factor ie the general care of the puppets - as they come 'offstage', as they are discarded, packed and transported.

Some people by their nature take better care of their belongings, their clothes and cars etc seem to remain looking 'good as new'.

I'm not 'precious' with my figures, but have always used a small piece of carpet in the booth, saves heads banging on hard surface, and have always packed away each figure in its own 'sleeve', which stops wood-to-wood contact. I reckon that my 'fairly busy' figures can probably last a good five years between needing much attention.
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Postby Chris » 19 Feb 2009, 22:08

I don't think faffing is a particularly Yorkshire word Tony. Certainly I use it, but so did Eric (Cheshire) and his mother (London) and many others in literature. It is a perfectly legitimate word, and in the Oxford dictionary.

As for the rest: all you people with duplicate Punch figures and spare costumes and annual re-costuming and repainting, you make me feel distinctly inadequate. How have I survived all these years with a single set and a bit of patching and make do and mend. I'm wary of doing anything more drastic - I just don't seem to have the time between shows. Of course that's where the duplicate set would come in handy. But I've been threatening to make a new set for many years now. Still I must be honest, I prefer doing the shows.

Prof Joe - overlocking? Oh dear me no. Punch figures' costumes have to have french seams or nothing.
That is unless you use Copydex.
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Postby Tony James » 19 Feb 2009, 22:34

I agree with Les. My figures are individually bagged for travel. I bought some fent end quilted material intended for cheap clothing. Showerproof outer layer, cotton inner and some form of kapok type sandwich for insulation all sewn together with diamond stitching. Very easy to hem and stitch around three sides to make bags.

You see I'm lazy. Seriously. Took me half a morning to cut and run up those bags - I made 25 - back in 1994. Consequently I avoid any travel knocks and rubbing so no paint loss there. Touching in takes time. And then there's all the cleaning up and brush cleaning afterwards. I still use Humbrol enamel paint. It's tough. That half morning sewing has repaid dividends.

Can#'t do much about stick wear on the side of Punch's face nor Judy either though her wear takes quite a while to show.

I'm satisfied that another grief-saver comes through spending good money on good costumes. They simply last longer and remain looking good for longer too.

Investments repay looking after.
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Postby Nick Jackson » 22 Feb 2009, 21:04

Goodness – hadn't meant to open such a big debate. I just thought everyone got the sewing machine out just before Easter. Jack Codman always had a spare Punch in the show with him and, again, I just took that to be the norm so I've always done the same. And as a Punch did once lose a left leg mid show, I was glad to have a spare to hand. Also, I sometimes swap over between shows – Punch can get a tad sweaty.
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Postby CvdC » 24 Feb 2009, 12:01

Joe if you have a natural ability to sew then may I encourage you to take up the art of making puppets. You were astute to notice the overlocking. I think it is important that the costumes not to come apart because of fraying. Which is why french seams may be of some advantage as well.
While lining the puppet with calico does give the costume body I think the wear may be more a problem from outside. The stick or the playboard rubbing against the costume. Unless you made Punch's costume like a shooter's jumper with a leather patch stategically positioned I think the only way would be to use heavy hard wearing fabric, like for upholstery or curtains. If you can find the right colour. Otherwise you must resign yourself to repair and replacement. How often you replace your costume could well be a sign of how good a performer you are. (?) Or is that a case of making a virtue out of a necessity?
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Postby Chris » 24 Feb 2009, 12:30

Although of course there is wear to the outside of the costumes I find that there is more wear to the linings. I think this is not only the frictional wear from your hand going in and out of the figure, but also the rotting of the fabric frequently soaking up perspiration. This is probably more of a problem to those of us doing multiple shows in a day.

Another advantage of a very strong undergarment like Joe suggests is that when you come to re-dress you may be able to build on the original undergarment rather than a whole new costume.
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Postby Tony James » 24 Feb 2009, 13:33

If you work mainly outdoors one of the more off-putting sights first thing in the morning is to peer into a well used figure like Mr Punch. If the lining is pale in colour it will be dirty and stained even after only a season of use. There's not a lot you can do about that. Use a dark lining perhaps but that doesn't make it any cleaner.

I've not found linings wearing significantly and certainly not rotting. But then my most used figures are redressed regularly and before the linings reach that state.

I hope Nick is not regretting stirring this thread. I am pleased. There must be many other interesting aspects apart from carrying spare duplicated figures. Just as it seemed normal to you Nick, it never occurred to me.

One of the outcomes of being professional at anything is the elimination of risk associated with a smooth, troublefree function. It's down to individual practise, experience and judgement. If you assess the risk as slight you don't carry a ton of materials to eliminate that slight possibility. I inspect my figures as i unpack and hang them every day. I check paintwork and costumes. if there is stitch coming undone I attend to it, there and then. A stitch in time really does save nine.

Marker pens are useful for making good slight chips and other paint chips are best left alone. But if there is damage I make good. I carry a paint box and whilst its scope is limited it does keep the show looking good whilst I'm away. Some flesh and red paints and various mixes of the two will touch in most of the figures. keeping up appearances is important to me. I can only speak personally.

Much depends on your business. If your work is mainly visiting places to show and travel home afterwards then anything other than a major disaster can be attended to on arrival home. If you travel, moving from one days work to the next and being on the road for a week and sometimes two, then you have to take account and carry the tools and materials necessary.

These last three years or so the damp problems with my figures have come more from rain penetrating from outside than sweat soaking in from inside. Any of the figures can be wet from rain but mostly it's only surface damp which dries overnight if the figure is hung. I use clothes hangers at the digs and hang them in the doorway between bed and bath rooms. The troublesome ones for me are Punch, Joey and Judy because they are the most exposed and become wettest.

I allow them to dry naturally overnight and then use a hairdryer the next morning. Joey and Judy soon finish off but Punch can take a while. It's the heaviness of the damp lining.

If you try this be careful not to push the dryer nozzle too far into the figure. It is more effective to keep the nozzle towards the opening. If you push it in too far there is a danger of the thing overheating and the thermal cut-out kicking in. I can do without delays and irritations like that first thing, with a show to get to and onto the ground before the gates close. At some shows the gates shut at 8 a.m. and after that getting your car in can be impossible.
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Postby Chris » 24 Feb 2009, 13:59

I don't mind having to be on site by a specific time so much, I can understand they do not want vehicles moving around when the public have been admitted. What does bug me is having arrived early and fitted up, correctly, even though you may have a good time to kill before your first performance is required, you find someone else drives on a couple of hours later without hindrance. There are some people who make a habit of ignoring instructions and seem to get away with it.
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Postby Tony James » 24 Feb 2009, 15:18

It's when people pull onto my pitch and park that I dislike. Specially old vehicles, the vintage types quietly dripping oil where my punters are going to sit, if it turns out dry.

Some shows are easier going than others. Some use contract labour on the gate who simply apply the rules. Some contract labour is regular every year and one gets to know them rather like the small events where the gate man is the chairman's brother and everyone knows each other. Some security can be like little Hitlers.

Did you know that it is a criminal offence in Germany punishable with a gaol term to call any official a 'little Hitler'?

The worst part though is getting off at night. Daytime nearly all have an embargo on vehicle movements. This applies to everyone except the committee, relatives, neighbours and friends of the committee, guests of the committee and anyone else who claims some association with the committee. They drive all over the place in buggies, often at frightening speeds.

Smaller shows use their own vehicles and totally ignore their own rules. But you try and move yours.

Some shows are paranoid about vehicle movements and when I question anyone why - there's no substantiated answer. They fall back on the old bureaucratic 'Because it's the rule.'

In all my years I have never, ever seen any hint of evidence about accidents on showgrounds. There's nothing anyone ever quotes that provides any hint of a link between numbers of visitors to numbers of accidents. There's nothing.

As far as I can see and understand, it is a local authority inspired condition of the operating licence based on some long held belief by their heathl & safety executive that any vehicle movement is a danger. But there is no evidence produced to support that at all.

And if you think you have any, please tell me.

The worst part is not the movement embargo nor the having to be on site early but the inability to get off at night. Mostly it's a 6 p.m. opening of the gates but at some bigger shows it is 7 p.m. and at a few even later.

Hundreds of vehicles of every type are edging their way to the exits surrounded by thousands of people, young, old and infants, all making their way to the same few exits. Now if that's not asking for accidents i don't know what is.

But nobody seems to be bothered.
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Postby Chris » 24 Feb 2009, 16:19

I don't like being separated from my vehicle. I like to have it behind the booth so that in the event of rain I can sling the electrical stuff and puppets inside. Also it is somewhere for me to escape between shows - and if I'm doing a bit of magic I can change props etc.

But there are some shows where they insist that you can only drive onsite before the public arrive, and all vehicles must be off the field and on designated parking areas by a certain time. This is the case with the International Annual Event at which I have performed on several occasions.

One time I arrived late and was refused entry at the gates. I was told I must park up and carry my gear on foot. I protested that this was impossible and that if they did want Punch they had better consult someone who could over-ride the regulations.

After using telephone, radio and smoke signals they failed to contact God or who ever was his deputy at the time so it looked like stalemate and a good twenty minutes passed while the security guard explained that he didn't write the ten commandments and I explained that I had no intention of making a series of half a mile journeys carrying heavy equipment when I had a perfectly serviceable car with wheels, and they had a road which lead straight to where I wanted to go.

Eventually a more reasonable security chap arrived back from his tea break and suggested that he would accompany me, walking in front of the car. This simple expedient would help to reduce to a minimum the numbers of mums and toddlers I would inevitable mow down in my progress.

So this is what we did, he walked in front shouting "Unclean!, unclean!" while I slowly drove behind marvelling at the co-operation of people who took not a blind bit of notice, only moving aside at the last possible moment. The whole journey must have taken a good twenty minutes.

I found out where I was sited, negotiated show times, set-up stall and was just about to start my first show - this must have been nearly an hour later - anyway I had my first audience assembled when security man number one arrived (the uncooperative one remember?). He had, he said, come to escort me and the car back to the car park.
I explained that I was just starting a show. He explained that he couldn't help that but I couldn't leave the car where it was. Why not? Because it is dangerous. But its not moving!
I tried to argue that surely the car was safer, left stationary, tucked away behind my booth, that being driven back through the crowds, but he was adamant.

"Give me one moment - er, what's your name? Stan. Just a moment.
Ladies Gentleman, boys and girls, this is Stan, and he is going to explain to you why you can't watch Punch and Judy. I know you are all ready and want to see it. And I'm all ready and want to show it to you, but Stan here will explain to you just why it is quite impossible."

But Stan seemed to have disappeared! Must have been taken short I suppose.

That was my first visit. On subsequent enquiry I refused the booking unless I could have my car on-site, and I haven't had any difficulties. The last time, marvelously I discovered that there is another loading entrance I can use, a gate very close to my performance area and now nothing could be easier.

This is a long running event and has experienced professionals in charge so is actually very well and efficiently organised. But you only have to get one minion who is over enthusiastic in rule enforcement, and has forgotten that there is something called common sense, and what should be simple becomes a huge problem.
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Postby Tony James » 24 Feb 2009, 17:22

Oh yes! That's just how it is. Or can be. In my olden days, pre radio mikes and rechargeable batteries, I used to park my car tail end on to the back of the frame and run a power lead from the car lighter socket to the speaker/amp in the frame. There was a lot less fuss about where you put your car in those days.

It surprised me the number of people who insisted on trying to climb through the space between car and frame and caught themselves up on the power lead, either tripping themselves or wrenching the plug out of the socket. I ended up fastening the lead to the ground with tent pegs and they still managed to trip up. So I fenced myself off.

With heavy duty rechargeable battery power I haven't needed to lay power leads for years but I do still fence myself off at certain very heavy shows and create a compound with the car behind. Otherwise the public is prone to hold picnics all around and right up to my frame. People still climb over the barrier and when I remonstrate I'm told to F off and similar salutations. You will gather these are not upmarket county shows but the rather more down market town shows with free entry. You need your wits about you in these places.

I too like my car close to hand. If asked why I reply in obscure terms that 'I need to service my show from it.' Rarely does anyone ask me to explain just what 'service' means. But I don't usually need it to be on top of me provided it is reasonably to hand.

It helps, I find, if my car is hidden behind a marquee, close by. At certain events I derive some comfort from being able to sit in the warmth of the car to eat my lunch whilst also being able to keep an eye on the show. Out of sight in this sense also appears to be out of mind from the organisers viewpoint. They can't see it so they don't bother about it. The only bit of tricky timing is later in the day when slipping the car quietly and oh so slowly in behind the frame for the pull down.

All in all, whilst I enjoy new events older regular jobs are usually easier. I know the sensitivities - or not - of the organisers and they know - or should know - that they can rely on me to play by their rules - or appear to!

My rule - learned long ago when dealing with masters at school - is to try and never draw attention to yourself in a manner that will attract their unwanted attention and never, ever ask permission to do something. That obliges them to acknowledge a situation they might otherwise pretend they were unaware of. That way you force a decision which in the circumstances might well not suit you.

Just behave as if you own the place and get on with doing whatever it is. I always do
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Postby CvdC » 24 Feb 2009, 21:41

Steady on Tony there may be young impressionable types reading this and taking your advice.
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