Chance encounter with Broadstairs Punch & Judy man leads to book publication in aid of charity

The Punch & Judy Man by Liane Smith will raise funds for charity Porchlight

A collection of short stories by grandmother Liane Smith will raise money for homelessness charity Porchlight.

Liane, who divides her time between living in Broadstairs and Whitstable, has created The Punch & Judy Man and other stories as a not for profit venture with 40% going to Porchlight.

She says the spark for the tales was first ignited by a chance encounter with the Punch & Judy man who entertains the youngsters at Viking Bay every summer.

She said: “The stories in this collection begin – and began – with a chance meeting on the main beach steps in Broadstairs: the ones that rub shoulders with the old funicular lift shaft. “I was standing on the concrete landing, halfway down, looking across a childless beach. It was the first day of autumn term, lockdowns not dreamt-of. A familiar, tuneless whistle piped through the laughter of the gulls.

‘Good morning to you!’

“Into view came the minstrel figure of the Punch and Judy man, his boater at a jaunty angle, his manner unhurried, as one whose days are given to making children laugh. We talked for a while, looking out over the deserted beach. I asked where Mr. Punch was bound for next, now that his audience was back in school.

‘Ah, there’s a question!’ His brow wrinkled and he paused, considering, wondering perhaps how far I might be entrusted with information. ‘Now, d’ye know the Peter Pan statue in the London park?’

‘In Kensington Gardens? Yes, I do.’

‘Well, by next Friday, after dark, he will be there, and he will throw his stick up in the air and whichever way it points, that will be his way.’

“Mr Punch’s excellent method of way-finding turned out to be mine, too. The story I wrote, following this encounter, was accepted by the wonderful Broadie Magazine and began an association which, for me, was to prove a life saver.

“Although I did not know it at that moment, a difficult time in our lives was beginning during which my husband’s mobility would decline dramatically until he could only get around in a powered wheelchair.

“For the next year and more, pencil and writing pad tucked into the back carrier, we took to spending our days in sheltered spots watching Broadstairs go about its business. Each of the stories that was to follow reflects a corner of the beach or promenade, a chance observation, an overheard remark, and my fantasy – these are fictional tales set in a much-loved seaside town.

“My enormous thanks go to Richard Chamberlain, of the Broadie Magazine, for publishing the collection and giving his time and considerable talent to make it possible for the stories to go on sale as a not-for-profit venture in aid of Porchlight. Kent’s largest charity for the homeless provides for countless vulnerable people.

“If you come across The Punch & Judy Man, a brightly coloured, pocket sized beach-read, and decide to buy a copy in support of this excellent cause, then thank you, and I hope you enjoy reading my stories.”

The book also includes a history of Punch and Judy – a fascinating extract from That’s the Way to Do It, reprinted with permission from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

It is also available online at https://lianesmith.bigcartel.com

1 Comment

  1. Many years ago I met a Punch & Judy man in a Broadstairs pub one afternoon, and said are you still inflicting domestic violence with your puppets? He looked a bit disconcerted, but did say that it was acceptable tradition or words to that affect! Well yes I said, but so was slavery once, and bear baiting, and pushing little children up chimneys, he didn’t say anymore!

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