Banned Morris dancers refuse to stop blacking up their faces as they dance again

A highly controversial group of Morris dancers who were kicked out of the national body for refusing to stop blacking up their faces have danced again for the first time since they were banned.

The Britannia Coconut Dancers in Bacup, Lancashire, claim that blacking up is part of a tradition that dates back more than 100 years.

But The Joint Morris Organisation, which represents the country's 800 Morris dancing groups, banned the group last year.

They initially said that "full-face black or other skin tone make-up is a practice that has the potential to cause deep hurt" and asked all of The Coconut Dancers to stop.

However, the group ruled to carry on blacking their faces and claimed "it has no connection with ethnicity nor any form of racial prejudice".

The group danced for five hours in Bacup, Lancashire on Sunday (3 October), marking their first performance since the split.

"It was a very good day, the public turned out in their hundreds. The day was a great success," said Gavin McNulty, secretary of the group.

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Organisers of the town's maker's market reportedly tried to object to the dancers but eventually backed down, LADbible reports.

The Lancashire BME Network say they don't object the troupe's use of black face as they "recognise it's a rich cultural tradition linked to Lancashire".

Jonathon Prasad, from Lancashire BME Network, told LancsLive: "From our point of view, as an organisation, we don't object to blackface in this context as we recognise it's a rich cultural tradition linked to Lancashire.

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"The cultural background of it is that the mill workers who were quite poor had to earn extra income, so one of the things they did was they painted their face black so their employers wouldn't know that they are dancing for extra money."

He added: "From our point of view, as an organisation, we represent this rich diversity of Lancashire's cultural traditions and we actually support it."

Prasad added they wanted to "break down barriers between communities rather than erecting them".

It is also claimed that the tradition dates back to when local miners danced while leaving the pits with their faces blackened by coal dust.

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