WEYMOUTH could lose its Punch and Judy show, ending a traditional seaside tradition of almost 150 years.

Every summer for close to 150 years, the unmistakeable cackles and shrieks of the Punch and Judy puppet show have rung out over Weymouth beach.

But with audiences dwindling, one of the resort's most enduring features could be under threat – unless a fundraising campaign can save the show in the short term, and viable solutions can be found for the long.

Weymouth has had a Punch and Judy show since 1880, making it a tangible reminder of the town's heyday as a fashionable resort, but modern times are proving a tough test of the tradition's viability.

Mark Poulton is the current custodian of Weymouth's Punch & Judy show, having taken over from long-standing predecessor Guy Higgins in 2005.

Mr Poulton told the Echo that a shorter holiday season had hit his takings, while expenses and overheads remained the same.

"The long and the short of is it that a 17-week holiday changing to a seven-week holiday is a big drop," he said, referring to stricter rules preventing parents taking their children out of school during term-time.

Mr Poulton, who has to pay the council for a licence to operate as well as forking out for public liability cover and a music licence, does not charge for shows, instead asking for donations from the crowd.

A crowdfunding campaign set up last summer has seen a recent fillip of publicity, driving a surge in donations.

"I'm gobsmacked by the response," said Mr Poulton. "It goes to show that people care so much about having this [show] in Weymouth."

The campaign was boosted last week by the efforts of fellow puppeteer and former Weymouth resident David Leech, who publicised it via Facebook and other social media.

"I spoke to Mark last week and he was a little downhearted about his prospects," said Mr Leech, speaking from his home in Staffordshire, where he moved after living for 20 years in Portland and Chickerell.

"I told him, 'Don't give up yet'. And the response since then has been incredible."

Between that point and time of writing, there were donations of at least £200 of the total of just over £600; the target sum is £3,500, which will allow Mr Poulton to carry on the glove-puppet show for this summer at least.

Further ahead, Mr Leech and Mr Poulton said they were looking at ways apart from public donations of securing the show's viability.

The council's options for funding are limited, but Cllr Christine James, who has been in correspondence with Mr Leech, said the Weymouth Business Improvement District (BID) management could possibly help, while sponsorship from local businesses is another possibility.

Mr Poulton, who lives in Paignton, Devon when not in Weymouth, said he was increasingly confident of working out a solution.

"It's a great draw for Weymouth," he said. "A lot of families come down specially for the Punch & Judy - a lot of them have special needs children who won't go anywhere else.

"I love performing the show and I want to keep it going for future generations."