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Morris Dancers Defy Critics And Wear Controversial Make-Up

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Morris Dancers Defy Critics And Wear Controversial Make-Up

A Morris Dance troupe who parted ways with the UK national body over their continued use of all-black face makeup defied critics with a performance in Lancashire yesterday (1 May). You can watch a clip below:

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The Britannia Coconut Dancers took part in May Day celebrations outside the Crown Inn in the village of Bacup on Sunday - continuing to wear the controversial makeup which has landed them in hot water with activists and the national Morris dancing body.

The Coconut Dancers argue that their use of all-black makeup harks back to a time when the dances were devised by local miners, who had blackened faces because of their work.

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Another theory on how the tradition began is that underpaid mill workers in the 1400s painted their faces black so their employers didn’t recognise them and discipline them for earning extra cash on the side by begging - which was illegal at the time.

However, others say the use of blackface is linked to the popularity of racist minstrel shows and is unacceptable.

In 2020, the group parted ways with the Joint Morris Organisation after refusing to comply with the national body’s demand to ditch the all-black face makeup.

The Britannia Coconut Dancers at the Crown Inn in Bacup. Credit: Facebook/The Crown Inn
The Britannia Coconut Dancers at the Crown Inn in Bacup. Credit: Facebook/The Crown Inn
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They said in a statement at the time: "As a team we have discussed the use of black face makeup in great detail and have come to a unanimous decision that this will continue to be part of our unique mining tradition, removing any part of our costume will take away the mystique of who we are.

"The dances were devised by local miners. Since they all had permanently black faces on working days, from the outset it became an essential part of the tradition that they also performed with black faces.

"This tradition has now been maintained continuously for more than a century. It has no connection with ethnicity nor any form of racial prejudice."

Online reaction to the dancers’ continued use of black makeup has been mixed. One Twitter user wrote: “Well done to the members of the Britannia Coconut Dancers in Bacup, Lancashire, who took part in traditional celebrations.

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The Britannia Coconut Dancers were kicked out of the Joint Morris Organisation in 2020. Credit: Facebook/The Crown Inn
The Britannia Coconut Dancers were kicked out of the Joint Morris Organisation in 2020. Credit: Facebook/The Crown Inn

“The black makeup they wear is to represent Moorish pirates who settled in Cornwall and worked in the local mining industry.

“It has NOTHING to do with race.”

However, some still slammed the dancers’ performance, with one writing: “On Sunday 1st May 2022, Britannia Coconut Dancers in Bacup, Lancashire wore Blackface at the Crown Inn parade.

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“Apparently, there’s nothing wrong with this blackface, it’s tradition they say.

“In 2022 I’m not sure why I have to say this but BLACKFACE IS RACIST!!!”

LADbible has contacted the Crown Inn for a comment. The Britannia Coconut Dancers declined to comment further.

Featured Image Credit: Facebook/The Crown Inn

Topics: UK News

Simon Fearn
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