A group of Morris dancers has abandoned their blackface traditions dating back 500 years, and instead performed today while wearing green.
To avoid offending the Black Lives Matter Movement, Silurian Border Morrismen voted to remove the black paint from their Boxing Day Tour.
They performed the English folk dance to a large crowd in Ledbury.
Ian Craigan, Silurian’s foreman admitted that some members ‘feel it’s too much’ but said he wants to stay ‘on the right side’ in order to attract new members.
He added: ‘It would be foolish to pretend everyone in the side is happy with the decision. It is not a perfect solution.
“But, the primary purpose of dancing and sharing the Silurian tradition is greater than how you dress yourself or what clothes we are wearing.
Black soot is thought to have been used by English folk dancers in the past as a cover for their efforts to get money and avoid getting into trouble.
Chris Mulvey (71), Morris dancer, said that the majority of group members would have liked to keep the black mask on, but decided it was time for a change.
Morris dancing in green face paint at The Market House, Ledbury (Herfordshire),
An ensemble of Morris dancers, who renounced blackface paint in the face of racism have entertained crowds in green for first time since 500 years.
File photo: Morris dancers in Ledbury with the black paint they used to use
Today, a Morris dancer performs in green face paint at The Market House, Ledbury.
Mulvey is a member of the club since 1978.
“There were about fifteen of us performing today and hundreds have come to watch us dance,” said a spokesperson.
“We received no comments directly from anybody, we weren’t anticipating any animosity from the public at large – that’s been proven.”
“They want people to have a good time and laugh at themselves.
“We are not trying to cause trouble, but we have made the effort to give it a more greenish tint.”
“We don’t take the mick from anyone. If anyone is offended, we don’t want any more.
“We are just trying to get out there and dance the same thing we do – this has never been about a visual mask.”
“The disguise originated from begging laws. If anyone is caught out you can say, “I don’t even know who they’re because of their disguise.”
“We were racialized, and we decided to change our minds – that will not cause any confusion.
Today, Morris dancer in green face paint performing outside The Market House.
Silurian Border Morrismen decided to end the five-century-old tradition in the event it was deemed offensive by people following the Black Lives Matter movement
“I would prefer to keep the black-faced look, but it is not something I worry about.
“We want to focus on the dance and element of disguise.”
Silurian Mr Craigan said: ‘We’re often asked why we wear blackface but in all my time I have been a member of the side we have never been criticised or challenged by anyone on the grounds of it being racist.
Morris dancing in green face paint, outside The Market House Ledbury
“But, we know of side who has experienced antagonism. There was a story about a holidaymaker in Worcester who saw the Welsh Border side at the Guildhall. She shared the news on social media.
“We don’t want to obscure the topic, and are not interested in being controversial”
The performance was viewed by many people who had differing opinions on whether to scrap the traditional dance form that dates back over 1400 years.
Terri Fowler (32), mother-of-one, from Ledbury said that while she understands the importance of British traditions, it is her decision.
“In today’s world, it’s not enough to just wear black makeup for fancy dresses or any other purpose. So why shouldn’t Morris dancers have this right?
“If anything this highlights racial concerns even further, and anyone that does that is surely a positive thing.
“Sometimes, traditions have to be adapted and a different color face paint doesn’t detract or distract from the dance so I don’t see any problems with it.”
Another resident disagreed and said that he didn’t want to be identified.
“Surely, you place it in the context of its time. Back then it had no racist connotations. That is certainly not the intention of Morris dancers today.
“It’s just a sign of the times in which things that aren’t bothering most people get cancelled for a few people who complain.
“We’re in danger of losing identity due to the desire to appease a few snowflakes, and that’s not healthy.