Tuesday, October 12, 2004


A puppeteer who has been putting on his Punch and Judy show for English children for the past 15 years is likely to have his show banned by councillors in the Cornish town of Bodmin in southwestern England. Bodmin's Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre had bombarded Reg Payn (48) the town's officially licensed puppeteer with leaflets on domestic violence, The Times reported on Friday. "They harassed the audience, accusing me of promoting domestic violence against women and threw leaflets at me," Payn told the newspaper. "Children of four and five know the difference between puppets and reality. I'm a father and a husband and I've no intention of promoting violent behaviour," he added.

In the traditional show, Punch beats up his wife Judy, lies about it to the policeman and also batters his child, the policeman and even the devil. It was introduced to England from Italy during the reign of Charles II in the 17th century. The show contains asides of a topical and usually scurrilous nature for the benefit of the adults standing behind the children seated on the ground. The children are encouraged to join in by pointing out to Punch that he is not telling the truth to the policeman. "Oh yes you did, Mr Punch," and "You're fibbing, Mr Punch," are common cries.

"It's part of our heritage, an old tradition," Payn said. But Maggie Parks, director of the abuse centre, said: "It's appalling that children are encouraged to sit, watch and laugh at a baby's head being battered and a woman being beaten up with a stick when one in four women experience domestic violence."

Bodmin would decide on the issue next month, and if it passed a ban it would become the first council in Britain to outlaw the characters.Newcastle City Council had to rescind a similar ban when it emerged that the official who recommended it had never seen a performance



("Conkers", or knocking chestnuts together, is a traditional kids' game in British schools)

A primary school headteacher has banned children from playing conkers because some of her pupils are allergic to nuts. Veronica O’Grady of Menstrie Primary, Clackmannanshire, claims she had no choice after health experts said the playground pastime threatened the lives of pupils who suffer severe reactions to nuts. The ban comes days after a school in Carlisle forced youngsters to wear safety goggles when playing the traditional game.

Inevitably, the move has infuriated some parents, who say measures to protect children from nut allergies have gone too far. One parent, who did not want to be named, said: "We feel our children are being discriminated against. We do understand that nut allergies are very dangerous, but the banning of conkers is just mad. "This chestnut ban and the ban of nut products throughout the school also includes nursery classes, so now three-year-olds will not be taught about parts of nature." Another parent added: "Two children were apparently reprimanded recently for playing conkers. It is one thing asking them not to take peanuts for lunch, but banning the children from taking chestnuts to school for conkers is a bit much. How far is this going to go?"

Parents learned about the conker ban in a recent edition of the school newsletter. The newsletter article said: "We have several pupils in the school who have allergies or conditions that affect what they can eat and be exposed to. "To help keep all of our pupils safe, please ensure your child doesn’t bring nuts or nut products to school. This includes tree nuts such as chestnuts."

More here. (Story via Nanny Knows Best -- which has lots more on the incorrectness of "Conkers" and nuts generally).


Brainless British do-gooders at work again

"Proposed new rules on broadcasting standards could be so tough they end up banning Bambi, the BBC has said. A draft broadcasting code being drawn up by industry watchdog Ofcom threatens the BBC's long-established tradition of self-regulation, the corporation said. In a consultation, it argued that a clause requiring children be protected from "psychological harm" could hit Bambi because it scares some children.

Ofcom said the BBC's response would be taken into account.

In what the corporation describes as a "detailed and considered response" to the proposed code, it complained rules would have a "chilling effect" on broadcasters' freedoms. It believes the code's section on broadcasting to children has the "potential to severely restrict the programme choice accessed by adults in the UK". Programmes featuring religious content - such as Songs of Praise - may have to carry a warning, which the BBC said could "severely restrict" its religious coverage.

A recommendation that adult scenes be shown "well after" the 2100 watershed, seemed excessive when the majority of households do not have children, the corporation added. The BBC argues that a phrase in the code that under-18s must be protected from "potential or actual moral, psychological or physical harm" is too vague.

"Some children are distressed by Bambi and others by natural history programmes," the BBC said. Many programmes and films can disturb and distress children, like Schindler's List or even news coverage on a subject like the Soham murders, it continued".

More here.

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