Feb. 4, 1998
That's not the way to do it any more, Mr. Punch
By Tom Leonard
A Punch and Judy book has been withdrawn from a public library
service following claims that Mr. Punch's "sickening violence"
could corrupt children. The book - which follows the traditional
plot - recounts how the puppet tricks a policeman into putting
his head into a noose and hangs him, coshes Judy and bangs their
baby's head to get it to go to sleep. The I4-year-old book with
illustrations clearly showing the characters as puppets rather
than people - has not before met with complaints, but Wiltshire
County Council ordered its two copies to be withdrawn pending
a review of its suitability.
The decision won support from the Police Federation, which said
the book "sent completely the wrong message". Puppeteers, however,
described it as 'political correctness gone mad'. The county's
library staff were alerted to the perceived horrors lurking in
their children 's section after the book was borrowed by Evie
Kerton, six, during a weekly school trip to Marlborougbh Library'.
Her parents, Paul and Tracy, complained to the school, which in
turn notified the council. Mr Kerton, 27, a carpenter from Mildenhall
near Marlborough, said yesterday: "I sat down with Evie to read
the book with her and was shocked with what I saw. I'm not a politically
correct type but some scenes were a disgrace. The violence in
the book was quite sickening. The policeman 's head is put in
a noose and Punch pulls the rope and hangs him. We are supposed
to teach children to respect the police." He said the book was
obviously popular because extra library lending sheets had been
A spokesman for the Police Federation said: "We are constantly
having to counter this sort of thing. We recently took action
against a video game which awards points for mowing down policemen
in a car chase. Itjust doesn't encourage any respect for law and
order." Michael Ancram, Tory MP for Devizes, promised an investigation,
and Paul Sample, chairman of the council's libraries and museums
committee, apologised to the Kerton family. Peter Stedman, a member
of the Punch and Judy Fellowship, said: "lt is political correctness
gone mad. Punch and Judy is a moral tale. Mr. Punch is violent
but he gets his come-uppance at the end and has to say sorry and
promise to be good." A spokesman for Harper-Collins, which acquired
the Picture Lions Book series of which the book was a part, said
it had been out of print for years.
Feb. 5, 1998
Letter to The Editor
Seeing dear old Punch in your pages cheered me up tremendously.
This cheer soon turned to dismay when I read the tragic, puzzling
news that our dear old friend has been banned from Wiltshire libraries.
This is, of course, political correctness gone mad. Are we to
ban the works of Shakespeare and Dickens for their violence? Even
at the great age of 76, my annual seaside holiday is always booked
in a town which boasts a Punch and Judy show on the promenade.
These days they are becoming increasingly rare. Aberystwyth recently
show following a change of personnel on the local council. My
choice is now limited to Weymouth, Southport and Llandudno. Taking
care over what our children watch is one thing. Throwing away
their heritage is quite another.
Ruth Hart, Wirral, Merseyside
Feb. 12, 1998
Mr Punch KO's the PC brigade
By Damian Whitworth
A blow was struck against political correctness yesterday after
a Punch and Judy book, banned for being too violent, was returned
to library shelves. The book was withdrawn from Wiltshire County
Council's libraries last week after a couple complained when their
six-year-old daughter took it home. But last night it was back
on the shelves after the council decided that it was harmless.
"This book stems from our cultural heritage and we have to draw
a line to prevent political correctness damaging our long-held
traditions," Councillor Paul Sample, chairman of the Libraries,
Heritage and Arts Sub-Committee, said." We have to be on our guard
against our long-held traditions and cultural heritage being damaged
by a tide of political correctness which is sweeping in from America.
Punch and Judy are alive and well in Wiltshire. "
However his comments met with an angry response from Paul Kerton,
27, who with his wife, Tracy, 33, asked for the book to be withdrawn
after they saw Mr. Punch proclaiming "That's the Way to do it!"
while hanging a policeman and banging a baby's head to get it
off to sleep.
"I have never said a word against Punch and Judy - it was just
that particular book," Mr. Kerton said. "The main reason for complaining
about it was the hanging. I regret this decision by the council.
I was not being politically correct, I will not be letting my
daughter read this book in the future, " he added.
Evie Kerton took the book home from a school trip to the library
at Marlborough. At the time Mrs. Kerton said: "l was very upset.
This has wife bashing, child beating and how to hang a policeman.
We complained to the county council because we wanted to protect
other children. Mrs Kerton, from Mildenhall, near Marlborough,
Wiltshire, said that she realised what was in the book only when
Evie asked her to read it to her.
But the council was unmoved. In a statement the council said:
"We feel this book is clever in its translation of a puppet show
into book form and contains an historical note at the back which
explains the popularity of Punch and Judy through the ages. "lt
is a show, a fantasy, and all is well at the end. "
Thursday, June 18, 1998 Published at 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Sort out your attitude problem, Mr. Punch
Punch and Judy isn't just for kids
Mr. Punch, whose violence and bad attitude has graced Britain's
beaches and entertained its children for years, has been ordered
to improve his anger management techniques.
In response to parents' complaints, a Derbyshire council has
introduced regulations banning Mr Punch's traditional vices from
In the children's show which dates back at least 300 years, the
Punch puppet regularly beats his wife with his 'slapstick' and
murders his baby by battering it against a wall and throwing it
Councillors say that these sights may further traumatise youngsters
with violent backgrounds and they add that the use of a cap gun
in the act is no longer funny in the wake of the Dunblane massacre.
Vivienne McDonald, a council spokeswoman, said: "We are not
against Punch and Judy or clowns - only certain features of their
'Professor' Glyn Edwards, who heads The World Wide Friends of
Punch and Judy and has himself been a Punchman for 40 years
ridicules the suggestion that Punch and Judy are harmful:
"Attacking Punch and Judy is rather like animal liberationists
complaining about Tom and Jerry. You are treating a fantasy as
if it was real life. "If one clown kicks another in a circus ring,
it's funny. If the same thing happens in Marseille it is football
North Derbyshire Women's Aid, however, which deals with domestic
violence, said it was pleased at the council's move:
"A lot of children who come to us have witnessed violence in the
home - if they are going out to a show and seeing that again,
we would think that would have an effect on them."
This is not the first time that Punch and Judy has come under
attack. When protesters tried to enlist the aid of Charles Dickens,
he responded: "I regard it as quite harmless in its influence
and no more than an outrageous joke."
Some Derbyshire councillors and parents, it seems, no longer find