Britain's longest serving Punch and Judy man

Mike Stone on Brighton beach in June 1999
Photo reproduced courtesy of

Mike Stone was Britain’s longest serving Punch and Judy man. He died in April 2005, aged 54. Below we publish a tribute to him by David Gray, who has published a whole set of photos of Sergeant Stone on his website at Mike Stone created his own personal tour of Brighton for ‘My Brighton’ in 1994.

A thirty year career
Mike Stone was Brighton’s Punch & Judy man for thirty years. Last week, at the sadly young age of 54, he died. This picture is one of a set of pictures at that remembers him and his stage persona, Sergeant Stone.

He had great humour and charm
Mr Punch and his dysfunctional family and friends are historic characters who mix innocent fun with more than a hint of menace and danger. So, in his inimitable way, did Mike Stone. He had great humour and charm, but his life was a journey, not so much along the straight and narrow, as veering constantly towards the edge.

An outrageous but lovable character
Well known is the story of the grateful mums who, after one of his seafront shows, went to the back of his box to congratulate him and found the celebrated puppeteer welcoming but also completely naked. There was also his outrageous adult version of his show and a particularly alarming personal appearance at Glyndebourne. But he had a wonderful range of stories of his own and he knew and loved Brighton with a passion.

Fun and pleasure more important than wealth
His 25th anniversary as Brighton’s Mr Punch was marked by a party on the seafront. It rained cats and dogs, everything was soaking wet, even the sausages, but absolutely everyone, including himself, had a marvellous time. If, as it should be, giving fun and pleasure is more important than wealth and respectability, Mike Stone’s life was a tremendous success.

Comments about this page

  • I worked on the original My Brighton back in the early 90’s and one of my favourite parts of the site was the inter-active Punch and Judy screens with Mike’s sound effects. I particularly like Mr Punch’s horse clip-clopping on the screen! What was special about Mike was his depth of knowledge of the whole Mr Punch history, even down to describing the different aspects of the genre that surfaced in different national presentations of Punch. Comforting to know in this increasingly PC society that Britain’s Mr Punch was the most volatile and brutal! I was at Mike’s funeral and it was easy to spot the party at the Crematorium who had assembled for Mike’s ‘do’ as none of the other sober-suited groups had drag queens or someone wearing a Martian’s Head.

    By Geoffrey Mead (10/08/2005)
  • I was talking to a friend yesterday about the tradition of Punch & Judy and that I’d known a real ‘Professor’ back in Brighton during the 70s. It didn’t take long to find mention of the irrepressible Mike Stone on the net, but my sadness at hearing of his death was just terrible. My sister and I joined the New Venture theatre club in 1975 and were members during the days when Mike maintained a private warren backstage where I believe he actually lived a lot of the time. His passion for theatre was inspiring and his set building skills were simply astonishing. I have particularly fine memories of his turn of the century railway waiting room set for a production of ‘The Ghost Train’. Mike had it rigged in such a way that a real train seemed to rush past the back of the stage. This effect took six people (including me) to achieve and involved a huge garden roller to make the building shake. Mike was a true Brighton legend and I will never forget him. As Mr Punch so often observes; “That’s the way to do it!”.

    By Alan Knight (14/08/2006)
  • I have just read of Mike’s death here and I am deeply saddened. Until I left Brighton I would often drink with Mike and he always embodied the spirit of the Brighton I loved.

    By Dave Clayden (23/02/2007)
  • I’ve just read about Mike Stone’s death. He really did embody the eccentric Brighton I knew and loved in the 1980s. I worked next to him on Brighton Pier for two seasons and every word of his show is still embedded in my head. I particularly liked his X-rated Punch and Judy he did for adults. A great guy to hang out and drink with – they don’t make them like him anymore.

    By Nick Blacknell (31/07/2007)
  • I knew Mike many moons ago when we were both children. My family moved down to Brighton from London early in 1961 and I spent the first year and a half at St Mary Magdalen’s RC Primary School in Upper North Street. Mike was in my class.
    My abiding memory of him is the fact that he asked to go to my birthday party one summer. He was the only boy there, but that did not phase him at all! He brought his magic set along and amused us with a few tricks: he was a born performer even then! He was a big hit with the adults at the party too: he was always so polite and respectful to everybody as a child.
    At 11, we went on to different secondary schools but I met him by accident many years afterwards in Western Road. I remember telling him that I was about to marry, so it must have been around 1974. I recall that he mentioned he was doing some acting at the time. Later, when my children were small, I read about his Punch and Judy show. We saw him in action once on the pier: I was tempted to talk to him, but chickened out when he didn’t appear to recognise me. Sadly, that was the last time I saw him in person.
    Brighton lost a very colourful personality when he died. I’ll let you all into a little secret though: every time I read about him in the papers, he always knocked a few years off his age! I used to get confused sometimes about whether or not it really was him that I was reading about! I was interested to see when he died though that he was indeed the Michael that I had known so long ago – and that he was, after all, the same age as me! How sad that he died so young.

    By Chris (15/10/2007)
  • I was around Brighton in the seventies and knew Mike well during that time. He used to do his adult Punch and Judy show as a warm up act for several bands of the punk era at the Alhambra etc. He had a distinctive voice and style that set him apart, that wonderful ingredient we call charisma. I remember sinking several gallons of pints with him and a wicked sense of humour. What a shame he died so young he would have made a fab and stylish old man. As it is, I will remember him and his quick wit as he was then in the prime of his youth.

    By Vanessa Lindley-Blunt (04/02/2009)
  • I used to know Mike personally during the mid-seventies, we even lived together for a few years, he was one of the most charming, quick witted, talented men I have ever been fortunate enough to meet. He taught and showed me how to operate a Punch and Judy show, which I still perform from time to time around the piazza of Covent Garden, London. We had not been in touch for several years and I heard of his death from a passing street person, who told me he used to know him.
    When I knew him, I was an impressionable seventeen year old and a bit of who I am today I owe to him.
    His passing saddened me and the thought of the time we spent together invokes some happy, mad memories. God Bless Micheal.

    By Tony Fortune (29/04/2009)
  • I am sorry to hear that Mike died, he was great fun! Now come on Judy, give me back my stash! I also remember Vanessa Blunt – above.

    By Simon Goddard (21/08/2009)
  • My memories of Michael are special – he was a lovely man who was always supportive and caring. My girlfriend and I drove him and his show around Hampshire where he did shows for schools. I was glad they didn’t know what was in the ‘cigarettes’ he was smoking after the show.

    By Jim Cullen (29/12/2010)
  • My first sighting of the legend that is Mike Stone was when he performed in 1990 at the Hangleton & Knoll Festival. The distortion he achieved as he shouted hysterically into his microphone was certainly something, and rapidly drew crowds across the park at Harmsworth Crescent. Earlier on, my old pal Big Al and I had clocked the six cans of Carlsberg Special Brew lurking amongst the Sarge’s kit as he set out his stall, and I recall us commenting that someone was determined to have fun. His sense of timing wasn’t what it could have been that day because at one point Mr. Punch was addressing a hand holding a can of said brew, to everybody’s great fascination. Performance art indeed!

    By Steve Andrews (06/06/2011)
  • I’m real sorry to hear Michael died at such a young age, we shared many a drink together the 10 years I lived in and around kemptown in the 1990is. He was one of my close circle of friends at that time, some of my best times and memorids are of Mike. He wasn’t perfect, but he was defintly a one off, always had a smile on his face, he loved practical jokes and caught me a few time too. Sadly I moved from Brighton and lost touch with him as I did a lot other friends. It wasn’t so easy to stay in touch as it is today. Thanks for all the fun memorit’s Michael, I’ll never forget you.

    By John Roberts (09/01/2016)
  • He was a great man, but he also had a lot of tragedy in his life, but mostly you could not tell, as he was larger than life, a great friend he was always there if I would need him, sadly we lost touch as I moved away.

    By John (05/07/2020)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *