Morris dancers drop traditional blackface over racism fears

The Herefordshire group performed painted dark green instead

Published

A group of Morris dancers have performed without their traditional blackface over racism concerns.

The Herefordshire-based Silurian Border Morrismen voted against painted their faces black for the Boxing Day Tour to avoid causing any offence.

The group’s foreman Ian Craigan said not everybody was happy with the decision.

“There are people who feel it is a step too far or a compromise.

“But the main purpose is to dance and share the tradition which is unique to Silurian which is more important than what we wear or how we decorate ourselves.”

Morris dancers perform in blackface as a historical reference to labourers covering their faces with charcoal to evade their bosses as early as the 1450s.

Chris Mulvey, a 71-year-old morris dancer, said the group felt it was the right time to change, despite the majority wanting to to continue in black face.

Mr Mulvey said the public did not make any antagonistic comments regarding the changeduring the group's performance.

“[The public] just want to see people having a laugh and making fun of themselves.

“We're not in the business of wanting to upset people, we've made the change to a greenish tinge.

“We're not taking the mick out of anyone. If anybody is offended we do not want to add to that.

“We had the controversy of racism, so we changed - we don't want any confusion on that matter.

“I personally would have liked to continue with the original black face, but I am not worried about changing to green.

“We just want to concentrate on the dancing and the element of disguise."