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Monday, 20 August, 2001, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Stamp of approval for Punch and Judy
Punch and Judy
Punch and Judy: First class service from September
Two much-loved seaside characters have taken centre stage at the launch of the latest set of UK stamps on a Yorkshire beach.

Punch and Judy puppets were used to unveil giant versions of the new stamps which feature the comic pair and four of their colleagues.

Crowds of children watched Punch and Judy "professor" Tony Clarke put the puppets through their paces at South Bay, Scarborough.

Also featured on the stamps, which go on sale on 4 September, are the Policeman, Crocodile, Clown, and Beadle.

Traditional feel

The six first class stamps celebrate more than 300 years of Punch and Judy tradition.

They have been designed to fit in with this year's theme of producing stamps that depict 'British obsessions', such as the weather and pets.

Alison Wright, Royal Mail manager for the Scarborough area, said: "We are 350-years-old and wanted a traditional feel for the stamps, so the wooden puppets were created specially for the designs.

"Punch and Judy are obviously linked with seaside performances.

"We thought it only right for people in Scarborough to be among the first to see the new stamps, which is why we chose the town for our launch."

The images on the stamps were taken from photographs of six hand-carved wooden puppets made by Mr Clarke's father Bryan, 62, also known as Professor Jingles.

He was the youngest Punch and Judy "professor", as expert practitioners are known, when he took to the puppet booth aged 12.

'Knockabout nonsense'

There has been criticism of the characters from women's support groups, claiming Punch and Judy perpetuate acceptance of domestic violence.

But a spokesman for the Punch and Judy College of Professors said: "The set of six stamps acknowledges the affection in which Punch and Judy and their knockabout nonsense is held by the public."

Mr Punch was introduced to the UK over 330 years ago, and is mentioned in Samuel Pepy's diary.

Before that he was a character in the Italian Commedia Dell' Arte with a lineage said to stretch back to the ancient Romans and Greeks.

More than 15 million of each of the new stamps will be printed.

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