It’s not blackface, it’s “tradition”
A troupe of Morris dancers have refused to stop performing in blackface as it is a ‘Lancashire tradition’ that dates back more than 100 years. On Sunday they had their first post-lockdown performance and said it was a “big hit”.
The Coconut Hazards, also known as The Nutters, performed for the first time since being kicked out of the national Morris dance body. Despite this, the band are backed by the Lancashire BME Network, a group advocating for diversity and inclusion, as they “recognize that this is a rich cultural tradition linked to Lancashire”.
The detailed history of blackface is relatively unknown, but the prevailing theory claims that its origin lies with coal miners who used to dance after emerging from mines covered in black dust.
However, another theory suggests that factory workers would dance for money after painting their faces black, as it meant their bosses couldn’t tell it was them.
Last year, the Joint Morris Organization and the Nutters parted ways, with the governing body saying that “full face makeup of black or other complexion is a practice that has the potential to cause deep wounds”.
The organization, which represents more than 800 troupes in the UK, demanded that the Nutters stop wearing makeup, which the troupe of dancers refused.
“It has nothing to do with ethnicity or any form of racial bias,” they said.
Apparently their first performance on Sunday was well received despite some initial backlash from the town market organizers. “The audience turned out in their hundreds. The day was a great success,” said Gavin McNulty, band secretary.