Punch and Judy anniversary marked

Punch and Judy have marked their 350th year with a celebration of Britain's favourite puppet show.

Fans of the bawdy seaside staple took part in a Punch and Judy party at The Patrington Haven Leisure Park near Hull.

It included a Mr Punch sound-alike contest, Punch and Judy jousting, children's fancy dress competitions and a performance by a professional showman.

The event is one of many across the country to celebrate 350 years of the show, which originated in Italy where it starred a character called Pulcinella.

Punch and Judy man Paul Derek, of Hull, who performed at the party, said: "Punch and Judy is special because although it originally came from Italy, it's been adopted by Britain as its national puppet show.

"But it keeps evolving and a show in 50 years' time will be very different to a show 50 years ago."

Initially a form of political satire, the first recorded performance in England was in Covent Garden in May 1662 and was watched by famous diarist Samuel Pepys. In its heyday, it became a favourite seaside attraction, with the irreverent antics of Mr Punch proving popular throughout the Victorian era and early 20th Century.

But changing attitudes and political correctness made their mark on the show, which was recently reworked for TV channel Gold by scriptwriters John Phelps and Gary Lawson - who have written episodes of Goodnight Sweetheart and Birds Of A Feather - to take "modern sensibilities into account".

In their version, Punch, a tracksuit-wearing benefits cheat, does not beat his wife or drop the baby. While the devil is no longer in it, new hate figures include an EU sausage inspector and a loan shark.

However, Mr Derek said: "You can do a version which is politically correct, but the children always enjoy the non-PC one the most."