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Black-faced Morris dancers

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blacked up morris dancers abused in uk (323)
Shrewsbury FF to ban 'blacked up' Morris (264)
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GUEST,Mike Yates 14 Oct 14 - 09:11 AM
GUEST 14 Oct 14 - 09:21 AM
GUEST,Rahere 14 Oct 14 - 09:24 AM
GUEST 14 Oct 14 - 09:54 AM
Bounty Hound 14 Oct 14 - 09:55 AM
GUEST, topsie 14 Oct 14 - 10:34 AM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 14 Oct 14 - 10:42 AM
GUEST,Spleen Cringe 14 Oct 14 - 11:09 AM
GUEST,Reynard 14 Oct 14 - 11:27 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 14 Oct 14 - 11:29 AM
Paul Davenport 14 Oct 14 - 11:34 AM
GUEST,Ed 14 Oct 14 - 11:38 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 14 Oct 14 - 11:48 AM
GUEST,# 14 Oct 14 - 11:50 AM
GUEST,Derrick 14 Oct 14 - 11:57 AM
GUEST,Phil 14 Oct 14 - 12:24 PM
GUEST, topsie 14 Oct 14 - 12:25 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 14 Oct 14 - 12:33 PM
GUEST, topsie 14 Oct 14 - 12:44 PM
Richard Bridge 14 Oct 14 - 12:45 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 14 Oct 14 - 12:48 PM
GUEST, topsie 14 Oct 14 - 12:48 PM
Steve Gardham 14 Oct 14 - 01:25 PM
Les in Chorlton 14 Oct 14 - 01:38 PM
Jack Blandiver 14 Oct 14 - 02:26 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 14 Oct 14 - 02:41 PM
Bounty Hound 14 Oct 14 - 03:01 PM
GUEST 14 Oct 14 - 03:05 PM
bubblyrat 14 Oct 14 - 03:22 PM
Jack Blandiver 14 Oct 14 - 03:32 PM
GUEST 14 Oct 14 - 03:33 PM
Bounty Hound 14 Oct 14 - 03:50 PM
Steve Gardham 14 Oct 14 - 04:50 PM
GUEST 14 Oct 14 - 04:57 PM
Steve Gardham 14 Oct 14 - 05:11 PM
Steve Gardham 14 Oct 14 - 05:13 PM
GUEST,Selby 14 Oct 14 - 05:26 PM
Bounty Hound 14 Oct 14 - 05:54 PM
Phil Edwards 14 Oct 14 - 06:53 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 14 Oct 14 - 07:00 PM
GUEST,Rahere 14 Oct 14 - 09:03 PM
Jack Blandiver 15 Oct 14 - 04:14 AM
GUEST,Derrick 15 Oct 14 - 04:24 AM
GUEST,Howard Jones 15 Oct 14 - 04:25 AM
Jack Blandiver 15 Oct 14 - 04:32 AM
MGM·Lion 15 Oct 14 - 04:50 AM
Bounty Hound 15 Oct 14 - 04:53 AM
MGM·Lion 15 Oct 14 - 04:54 AM
MGM·Lion 15 Oct 14 - 05:01 AM
GUEST,Spleen Cringe 15 Oct 14 - 05:29 AM
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Subject: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 09:11 AM

I am surprised that nobody has commented on the press reaction to a recent photograph of PM Cameron standing in the midst of some black-faced Morris dancers. Needless to say that the media are concentrating on the non-PC faces, rather than on the PM's interest(?) on traditional dancing!


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 09:21 AM

What a load of tosh. Surely our PM should stand up for English traditions?


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 09:24 AM

And the buggers let him get away intact? I thought that's what rapper was about.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 09:54 AM

A thread to discuss why people didn't comment on the original thread!


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Bounty Hound
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 09:55 AM

Goes to show the ignorance shown about our traditions, blacking up is historic, not racist.

The thing I fail to understand is why any self respecting morris side would want to be photographed posing with Cameron!

John


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST, topsie
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 10:34 AM

Some Morris outfits are not SO different from some of these, and I would be surprised if the Papuans are criticised for being racist.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 10:42 AM

Ye Gods. The press making a mountain of a story out of a nothing type molehill. Whatever next?

Well, think back very carefully. Much the same thing happened at Bacup this year.

All I can say is the dancers in question can't be very good trade unionists. If they were, they'd have blacked Cameron. (Blacked; as in to ostracise blacklegs or strikebreakers, or anti-trade union politicians.)


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 11:09 AM

The 'disguise' theory is only one of several, alongside the 15th century influence of Moorish dancers and the 19th century influence of minstrel shows (this last theory also relates to the Bacup dancers). Certainly for a modern audience, blacking up is synonymous with minstrelry, so its no surprise racist connotations are assumed. I'd suggest that regardless of the theories, if you black up at least expect some shit to fly.

I doubt tribal customs whereby black people paint their faces black are going to attract criticisms about racism, Topsie, unless you're suggesting these Papuans are being racist towards themselves! Though Robert Hornback compares border morris to crude parodies of African tribal war dances, predating minstrelsy and contributing to that tradition.

There's nothing to stop modern morris dancers in a multicultural society painting their faces in other colours, as some do. It's not like BM hasn't been reinvented in other ways...


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,Reynard
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 11:27 AM

It's pretty clear to me that there is at least some minstrel influence, even if this tied into a pre-existing tradition of disguise.

Frankly it's cringe-worthy that people still think it is fine to black-up.

Every time a story like this blows up, it does enormous damage to the public perception of Morris, and folk traditions in general.

Border Morris was revived in the early 70s anyway- so stop pretending you are part of some unchangeable tradition- it's pathetic!


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 11:29 AM

Why settle for Black face.. ???

Why not start a new tradition of morris face painting inspired by and as tribute to
designs for First World War Dazzle Ships !!!???


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 11:34 AM

I draw your attention to the Waltham 'Black Act' 1723
This Act of Parliament which proscribed the disguising by blacking the face, on pain of death. The 'Waltham Black Act', was fully entitled;

'An Act for the more effectual punishing wicked and evil disposed Persons going armed in Disguise, and doing Injuries and Violences to the Persons and Properties of His Majesty's Subjects, and for the more speedy bringing the Offenders to Justice.'

This act was so punitive that one writer suggests that a study of this one statute is fundamental to the understanding of the use of the Death penalty in the 18th century. Its intention was to proscribe any and all activities where people committed criminal acts whilst disguised especially by the blacking of the face. Hence the name of the act. The 'Black Act' was repealed only in 1827, one supposes that this date might occasion a national celebration and, perhaps, a sudden upsurge in 'face-backing' in recognition of the removal of a draconin legislation? A short extract of the Act is shown here;

'For the preventing which wicked and unlawful practices, be it enacted by the King's most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal and commons, in parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same. That if any
person or persons, from and after the first day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twenty-three, being armed with swords, fire-arms, or other offensive weapons, and having his or their faces blacked, or being otherwise disguised, shall appear in any forest, chase, park, paddock, or grounds inclosed with any wall, pale, or other fence, wherein any deer have been or shall be usually kept, or in any warren or place where hares or conies have been or shall be usually kept, or in any high road, open heath, common or down, or shall unlawfully and wilfully hunt, wound, kill, destroy, or steal any red or fallow deer,'

So it can seen that the tradition of black-face as disguise was well known and actually has been enshrined in British Law.

Now if you start to peruse the newspaper reports of the last two hundred years for incidence of black faced morris dancers you might be surprised to note that they occur, almost invariably after 1830 - wonder why?

Incidentally, the Royal Marines, SAS etc use black face make-up for disguise in night ops. Why aren't the 'right on' PCers calling this practice racist? I suspect its because Morris Dancers are seen as a softer target that the Armed Forces! Enjoy.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 11:38 AM

Mike Yates, could you please provide a link to said photo?

At least we'll then know what we're discussing.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 11:48 AM

Lucky for town shopping centre teenage hoodies
that they didn't live in the 18th Century...

Though more than a few Mail & Express readers might demand to see similar legislation
enacted nowadays...


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,#
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 11:50 AM

http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2014/10/14/1413283381292/David-Cameron-poses-with--011.jpg


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,Derrick
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 11:57 AM

Look for post" a blessing for Lewes " further down the page (don't know how to do links) this shoes the article and photo.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,Phil
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 12:24 PM

I've changed my mind about this one. I used to agree with Spleen - to the extent that neo-Border blacking-up draws on historical roots, some of those roots probably do lie in late-C19 minstrelsy rather than more ancient practices of camouflage and guising (I can't look at the Coconutters without thinking of Wilson, Keppel and Betty). Where it doesn't draw on historical roots, on the other hand, there's no reason to use black rather than purple or green.

Then I saw Black Pig.

I don't know if anyone's ever accused Black Pig of being racist on the grounds of blacking-up, but frankly I doubt it. They do black up; they also wear top hats, frock coats, scarves, feathers, badges, veils, goggles - you name it - and perform stick dances with such ferocity that they can finish with one fewer stick than they started with. When we saw them at Bakewell, my (Russian folk-dancing) daughter was so enchanted with them that I seriously looked into whether they had a satellite side near us. (Alas, they don't.)

Now, admittedly this is an argument from lack of evidence - I don't know for certain that Black Pig don't get accused of racism, and I'm open to correction if anyone knows differently. But let's assume I'm right about this, and

a) a Morris side that looks like a steampunk version of Hawkwind (but with black faces) doesn't get accused of racism, but
b) a Morris side that looks like a Morris side (but with black faces) does...

I'm wondering, in other words, if the reason the accusation of racism comes so easily is that the guys Cameron posed with look a bit... old-school. A bit old-timey. A bit fol-de-rol-de-riddle-ol-day. A bit finger-in-ear... The accusation only works so well because it draws on suspicion of people who want to preserve old traditions - and I think that's a suspicion we should be fighting, not accommodating ourselves to. The accusation of racism, in this case, is just a different spin on the bad name that tradition already has.

(Not that I'm immune myself. I ask myself, would I ever black up, and the answer's immediate - "Good God, no! It might be perfectly innocent but it's such a mixed message - why take the risk?" Then I ask myself, would I black up if I had a chance to perform with Black Pig, and the answer is "What, now? Hang on while I have a shave...)


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST, topsie
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 12:25 PM

Spleen cringe - how about this chap?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-2721716/Mock-battles-tribal-clothing-pig-feast-Inside-celebrations-traditions-one-world-s-decorative-Papua-tribes.html#i-d89b95c307cee62

[I couldn't do a clicky because the link-maker hasn't got a big enough space to put in the whole url for the one picture out of a long article. You can copy and paste it into the search box at the top of the screen.]


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 12:33 PM

That law sounds so extreme it makes me wonder how safe coal miners felt
walking home at night...???


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST, topsie
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 12:44 PM

The law seems to be aimed at poachers - coal miners wouldn't have been lurking in the undergrowth armed with weapons.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 12:45 PM

Well my girlfriend who is Yoruba gleefully demanded and posed in pictures with black face and black mask sides at Sweeps this year, put the pictures on facebook, and sent them to her family.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 12:48 PM

Topsie, well... yes..
miners might probably have thought twice about a quick short cut home
through the fields and bushes carrying a pick or shovel on their shoulder....

you'd hope.. anyway...


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST, topsie
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 12:48 PM

... Morris dancers carrying big sticks and wearing hats filled with pheasant feathers would have looked doubly suspicious


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 01:25 PM

Regarding the issue of using other colours. In the 19thc these lads were right at the bottom of the economic ladder and their antics were more in line with earning a bit of money or festive cheer than celebrating an annual festival, whatever their earlier origins with those further up the economic ladder. They wouldn't have been able to afford to buy greasepaint so in order to effect the essential disguise they went for the cheapest option, carbon. Nowadays we can be any colour we want so I agree with those suggesting and using other colours. More aesthetically pleasing as well IMO, and it shuts up the PC lobby.

As for 'dazzle paint' I thought that had already come in. The pic of the side in the Times certainly looked like some had gone in for this effect.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 01:38 PM

If you think that most Morris Dancers have any understanding or respect for historical evidence go and read their websites.

Ok, we all cherry pick evidence on places like this. Spleen is spot on the major influence - probably the only one - for 'Blackface' is music Hall where white people mocked black people by blacking up.

As Steve says "Nowadays we can be any colour we want so I agree with those suggesting and using other colours" but the dig at the PC lobby is cheap and unworthy.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 02:26 PM

Goes to show the ignorance shown about our traditions, blacking up is historic, not racist.

Racism is quite a tradition in this poxy country of ours as the VERY RECENT proliferation of 'niggering' (to use the not so very-recent traditional term for the practise) in REVIVALIST Morris Circles proves only too well, which goes hand in hand with other mainstream traditional racism now finding popular support even amongst certain of my folkie cohorts. Poxy as I say.

In the UK the only black faces you see at folk events are morris dancers and local security guards, like when we played at the Moseley Folk Festival a few years back and I actually felt moved to apologise to the chap on the backstage door as a bunch of blacked-up neo-pagan morris-dancers (or whatever the fuck they were meant to be) capered past and he looked on with understandable alarm. Depressed was not the word.

Ignorance about our Traditions, huh? Well, my England is multi-cultural - the only ones that bother me are racial diversity and respect of same; anything else is anathema, so - no room for blacked up morris-dancers & their idiot apologists for whom ignorance has become quite a tradition in itself.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 02:41 PM

Even this American Morris Side has figured out how to stay true to their tradition
without risking being racially offensive...

USA MORRIS


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Bounty Hound
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 03:01 PM

Having read some of the comments above, I'm amazed! The 'minstral' is something completely different, and I totally agree that it has no place in today's society, but are those that object to black faced morris dancers really too dim to see the bigger picture, or can you not see the tatter jackets, the decorated top hats, the bells, the sticks, black is just a colour, and how any intelligent person could interpret someone in morris kit as some kind of racist display is completely beyond me!

We are also talking here about traditions that pre-date our multi cultural society, and we should be as fiercly proud of our traditions as those others from different roots that make up that multi cultural society.

Whilst I'm at it, there is no evidence to link morris with paganism, that is indeed a modern phenomena, there are however, records of parish churches giving the village side allowances to buy bells, there is a stained glass window (not a new one) in a church not far from me, and even the horns at Abbotts Bromley have historically been kept in the parish church between dances!

John


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 03:05 PM

Guardian: david-cameron-risks-row-posing-blacked-up-morris-dancers


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: bubblyrat
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 03:22 PM

I have often seen films,documentaries etc ,about Australian Aborigines in which they have very WHITE yes WHITE face paint on ; are THEY "racist" too ?? Probably not , and I don't give a SHIT anyway, Mr Reynard , and nor should you !!


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 03:32 PM

there is no evidence to link morris with paganism

The Paganism is as much a recent invention as the 'Tradition'. We're living in the fecking space-age. Contemporise, man! Contemporise!

History? WHY they did it is NOT IMPORTANT, fact is DOING IT THESE DAYS is just bollox headed idiocy.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 03:33 PM

I have just been doing images searches for Border Morris dancers and Minstrel show performers. Do people really think that they are similar ?


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Bounty Hound
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 03:50 PM

Anon guest, exactly the point I was making, a morris side blacking up is in no way 'niggering' as Jack suggests, although judging by his most recent post, he's one of those who is not bright enough to see that bigger picture!


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 04:50 PM

Paul will be able to put me right as always on this one, but indeed there is strong evidence to show that 'blacking up' is in some dance traditions at least, related to Minstrels from the early 19th century.

The blacking up by stage performers can be traced back at least to 1800 if not further. In troupe formation this came from America in c1840. All of the pictures I have seen of morris dancers prior to that do not show any disguise or colouring, but I could have just missed them.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 04:57 PM

Local reports around our area suggest that Micklemass was the hiring time for farm labours,after Christmas they where skint so to make money they cavorted ie danced to boost their funds with black faces so they could not be identified by their boss and accused of begging that could mean loosing their house and income. True or not I do not know you can decide


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 05:11 PM

I'm sure that will be right GUEST. Other forms of disguise were wearing masks that covered the face. In some cases the disguise was to give an air of mystery, to make local lads look more exotic if they couldn't be identified, in some cases to make them look frightening/threatening. It may well be that the links to the Minstrels where they exist were an add on, i.e., the blacking up preceded the Minstrel boom, but was utilised when it happened, just as the mummers teams incorporated more contemporary characters as time went on.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 05:13 PM

Whilst I don't doubt that a lot of this went on around Michaelmas surely the universal hiring time was Martinmas (November). Where is 'our area'?


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,Selby
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 05:26 PM

Sorry Steve you are of course right on the time of year In our area Selby. Although there is Paul Davenports picture that trashes the argument possibly perhaps maybe
Keith


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Bounty Hound
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 05:54 PM

Just picked up some information from a discussion of this topic elsewhere, and you are correct Steve, that there is a school of thought that blacking up was inspired by the popularity of the minstrel shows. I'm far more inclined to the disguise theory, particularly when you consider that the minstrels were a 'formal' staged show, and the morris or molly dancers would have used soot from the chimney.

However you look at it, I still don't understand why any self respecting morris side would want to pose with Cameron, even if they are in disguise!

John


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 06:53 PM

I agree that anyone who can black up their face is also capable of painting it blue or green. I'm asking why we - or people in general - worry about blackface, why we don't give it the benefit of the doubt.

The reason I mentioned Black Pig is that I don't think anyone would look at that photo and think "oo-er, might be a bit racist" - the thought just wouldn't arise. The face paint looks weird, but so does everything else about them.

By contrast, if you combine black face-paint with a more conventional border Morris get-up (and, perhaps, a higher average age), those suspicions seem appropriate. Conventional Morris sides start out under suspicion & need to prove they're not racist. But why is this, and should we accept it?


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 07:00 PM

Yes, being objective, the black face makeup in the Cameron photo does look very 'good';
in the sense of a disconcerting other worldly theatrical masked persona.

I like the look of it.

But, in a modern Britain of over-reactive social media
and oportunistic scandal & confrontation driven news journalism agendas;
is it really worth it for a bunch of old time dance hobbyists,
braving all the inevitable disdain and aggro to be expected from 'blacking up' in public ???

Even if it is not the concious intention, 'blacking up' is very likely to be widely received
and perceived as an act of overt rectionary provocation.

Yeah, let them carry on fighting for their right to freedom of cultural expresion.
Yeah, why not...

Why should morris be forced to make concessions to us hairbrained lefty 'PC brigade'.

Yeah let them be as stubborn as they like.
They are all grown ups,
they can accept total responsibility for how they portray themeslves in full public view
to a baffled multicultural populace.

It's not as though traditional British folk customs are being at all
appropriated as an inspirational rallying cause for the E*L & B*P....??????


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 14 Oct 14 - 09:03 PM

Part of not finding it earlier is because you're looking in the wrong place: Grimaldi blacked up, as did the guy playing Othello, the Moor of Venice. Will Kemp, from the same company, was renowned as a morrisman, and may have had a hand in the build of the play (1601-3), although he was dead by the time it was staged in late 1603. We know that the early morris came from these same Court circles at the same time, making the proximity of theme more than tempting.

It's only once morris leaves the stage in the Restoration that you'll find blackface as a tradition. By that time the slave trade was well established, and so it's also part of a social discrimination: what might originally have been a mostly ignorant attempt at cultural integration had by then become somewhat derogatory. And so it remained.

The question of blackface comes from an entirely different and utterly racist origin, the minstrel tradition of the US. Extending it into the folk domain is probably excessive, as there is no common ground: the folk world is not derogating or being in any way abusive of people of African descent. IF there were tunes which did so, then there would be a case. However, the race card is being overplayed of late to the extent where it is actually being used in reverse racism, as a way of making it impossible to criticise people of that ethnicity (Manchester child abuse police problems being a case in point). In practice, it is simply racism in reverse, colour on white, and that we should no more tolerate than white on anyone else. We're people, folks, and skin colour should make fuck all difference either way.

The answer, then, is not to black up black on black, but as camo, and collect for one of the veterans charities. That makes this untouchable!


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 15 Oct 14 - 04:14 AM

although judging by his most recent post, he's one of those who is not bright enough to see that bigger picture!

Personal insults aside, Bounty Hound - the Bigger Picture of the UK is a vast and diverse interconnecting society of some 64 Million souls of a multiplicity of ethnicities and cultures each engaged in the pursuit of personal & forward thinking cultural happiness as is their right and privilege as human individuals. Within this, somewhere, there is a tiny cult of self-serving attention seeking Folk Dancing Hobbyists who feel that by blacking up their faces they are doing something Historic and Traditional when, in reality, the History of their Tradition goes back to a bunch of revivalists fired up by the Folk Zeitgeist of the 60s & 70s using God alone knows what sort of fakelore to justify the unthinkable.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,Derrick
Date: 15 Oct 14 - 04:24 AM

The answer, then, is not to black up black on black, but as camo, and collect for one of the veterans charities. That makes this untouchable!

Veteran supporters might regard it as taking the mickey and anti war campaigners could interpret it as glorying war.
What ever you do someone will read it as offensive if it suits them.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 15 Oct 14 - 04:25 AM

When you consider the huge part minstrelsy played popular culture throughout a large part of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it is difficult to conclude it cannot have had some influence on morris, and it certainly contributed some tunes. My own view is that it probably reinforced an existing tradition of blacking up, but blacking up does not itself come from minstrelsy.

The point is that there are other reasons for blacking up besides imitating, let alone derogating, black people. There is nothing else in morris which appears to have any other connection with black culture or gives any suggestion of imitating or derogating it. Many black people have no difficulty recognising that blacked-up morris is not about them. If some take offence, the answer is to explain it, not change it.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 15 Oct 14 - 04:32 AM

Explain what exactly? The very act of deliberately blacking up is racist. Anything else is just an excuse. Remember - you guys only started doing this is the heady days of the 60s and 70s.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 15 Oct 14 - 04:50 AM

Not necessarily, Jack There are other longstanding traditions being overlooked, which, it could be urged, are equally relevant and which you are ignoring.

The various superstitions concerning chimney sweeps, for example, are being forgotten, it seems to me. A black-faced sweep -- so from his work, no connection whatever to race -- has long been regarded as a bringer of good luck -- ("Good luck omen:- In Great Britain it is considered lucky for a bride to see a chimney sweep on her wedding day" -- Wikipedia).

Is there not, arguably, more connection to this tradition, in the black-face morrismen & guisers, than to US-derived blackface minstrelsy?

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: Bounty Hound
Date: 15 Oct 14 - 04:53 AM

So what about the question posed earlier then Jack, are Aboriginal dancers with white faces racist, or is that just their tradition?

The blacked up morris dancer is in no way attempting to be insulting to black people, as I said before look at the bigger picture, and then tell me that a morris dancer is attempting to imitate someone of a different ethnic origin. Painting faces is simply part of the kit!


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 15 Oct 14 - 04:54 AM

... particularly [look again at that pic of Cameron & the dancers] as some do not black up completely, but over only part of the face. If they were aiming for a racist 'ho-ho Sambo'n'Rastus' image, they would black up completely, with those contrasting exaggerated white lips & all, surely? Which they don't.


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 15 Oct 14 - 05:01 AM

Jack is one of several, it seems to me, who are determined to identify racism as endemic & epidemic in all sorts of innocent activities and attitudes.

Counter-productive!

Remember the moral of one of Thurber's Fables For Our Time -- "You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward".

≈M≈


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Subject: RE: Black-faced Morris dancers
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 15 Oct 14 - 05:29 AM

I think there is some serious missing of the point going on here.

First of all, let's get over this irrelevant crap about "the PC brigade" - that's a right wing media invention to smear anyone with progressive politics deemed to have stepped out of line. It's a dubious tradition with its own history of fakelore and invented scandals.

Let's also get over this 'people will always find something to be offended by' trope, too. I'm not offended by blackface morris. I just think it's a little sad and pathetic. It reminds me of the tired jingoism of UKIP.

I also think Paul Davenport's cheap shot about morris been an easy target compared with the military is indicative of the kind of flawed thinking on display. Don't pretend you can't see the difference between the two examples? Likewise, the people who compare aboriginal Australian rituals to blacked up morris dance. Once Australia's apartheid system and historical racist campaign against indigenous Australians has ended and there is true equality between the races over there, come back and discuss the matter, eh? Racism always has a power dynamic.

It really doesn't matter whether the origins of blackface morris are in disguise when begging, Moorish/Spanish dancing, minstrelry or lampooning tribal dances. What does matter is that we live here and now, when the main association of blackface entertainment is with minstelry, which is beyond dispute a racist tradition. Anyone, regardless of their own views on race, who blacks up will be doing so in the full knowledge of this key cultural context unless they've spent their entire life deep in a hole in the ground. It's entirely up to the morris sides concerned whether they do it, but if they do so, accusations that they are echoing a racist tradition will come their way, whether they like it or not. particularly as it's largely a reflection of a fakelore tradition reinvented as part of the late twentieth century folk revival.

As for Black Pig, I don't think their modern take on morris would be in any way compromised by painting their faces other colours. They simply choose not to.

This whole thing reminds me of people who insist 'gay' simply means 'happy'. We live in an age now where Bellowhead and the Unthanks are probably the best selling purveyors of traditional folk. Not blacking up is no more of a move away from "the" tradition than them not sounding anything like Walter Pardon or May Bradley is.


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