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Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?

GUEST,Howard Jones 10 Jan 09 - 04:07 PM
Steve Gardham 10 Jan 09 - 04:21 PM
The Borchester Echo 10 Jan 09 - 04:50 PM
McGrath of Harlow 10 Jan 09 - 05:25 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 10 Jan 09 - 05:26 PM
Liz the Squeak 10 Jan 09 - 05:39 PM
GUEST,Ebor_fiddler 10 Jan 09 - 05:54 PM
Azizi 10 Jan 09 - 05:55 PM
Azizi 10 Jan 09 - 05:59 PM
Jack Blandiver 10 Jan 09 - 06:04 PM
Snuffy 10 Jan 09 - 06:54 PM
GUEST,Howard Jones 10 Jan 09 - 07:46 PM
Snuffy 10 Jan 09 - 08:06 PM
The Borchester Echo 11 Jan 09 - 07:50 PM
Azizi 11 Jan 09 - 08:46 PM
Dead Horse 12 Jan 09 - 02:06 AM
GUEST,Howard Jones 12 Jan 09 - 04:03 AM
davyr 12 Jan 09 - 05:19 AM
Will Fly 12 Jan 09 - 05:42 AM
Les in Chorlton 12 Jan 09 - 05:47 AM
Mr Red 12 Jan 09 - 05:51 AM
Will Fly 12 Jan 09 - 05:53 AM
Les in Chorlton 12 Jan 09 - 06:04 AM
Will Fly 12 Jan 09 - 06:11 AM
Les in Chorlton 12 Jan 09 - 06:23 AM
melodeonboy 12 Jan 09 - 06:25 AM
Sleepy Rosie 12 Jan 09 - 06:27 AM
Les in Chorlton 12 Jan 09 - 06:27 AM
pavane 12 Jan 09 - 06:28 AM
John MacKenzie 12 Jan 09 - 06:34 AM
Les in Chorlton 12 Jan 09 - 06:37 AM
greg stephens 12 Jan 09 - 12:29 PM
Les in Chorlton 12 Jan 09 - 12:37 PM
Ruth Archer 12 Jan 09 - 01:08 PM
Les in Chorlton 12 Jan 09 - 01:18 PM
Ruth Archer 12 Jan 09 - 01:29 PM
Dead Horse 12 Jan 09 - 02:20 PM
The Borchester Echo 12 Jan 09 - 02:24 PM
Les in Chorlton 12 Jan 09 - 02:27 PM
Sleepy Rosie 12 Jan 09 - 02:43 PM
GUEST,Howard Jones 12 Jan 09 - 02:56 PM
Les in Chorlton 12 Jan 09 - 03:09 PM
The Villan 12 Jan 09 - 03:20 PM
Ruth Archer 12 Jan 09 - 03:49 PM
Les in Chorlton 12 Jan 09 - 03:57 PM
John MacKenzie 12 Jan 09 - 03:58 PM
The Villan 12 Jan 09 - 04:01 PM
Les in Chorlton 12 Jan 09 - 04:01 PM
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The Borchester Echo 12 Jan 09 - 04:03 PM
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Subject: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 10 Jan 09 - 04:07 PM

I was prompted to ask this question by comments in the Morris Dodo thread.

Blacking-up is a feature of some morris styles, as well as some mummers plays. Modern morris dancers accept and repeat the viewpoint that this was simply a means of disguise, and there is no racial connotation - indeed, they are rather put out at the suggestion that there might be any racial connection.

But it is also suggested that it came from the "Nigger Minstrel" craze which was wildly popular in the later part of the 19th Century. If that is the case, then there is a racial connection, however unintentional.

I have some doubts over this second interpretation. For a start, although a number of Cotswold sides adopted minstrel tunes, they didn't start blacking up. Even in the traditions which do black up, they don't seem to have adopted anything else from the minstrel shows, with the possible exception of the bones which are occasionally seen in old photos (but bones and similar percussion instruments are among the oldest musical instruments in the world and are found in most cultures).

On the other hand, blacking up isn't all that effective as a disguise, especially in a small community when the individuals would be known anyway. However, it may have been more to do with taking on a different persona - anyone who has worn any kind of uniform will recognise the change that comes over you when you put it on - and soot or burned cork would be more readily available than other colours - although there are records of sides where the leader, for example, wore a different colour while the others blacked up.

So, are there any records of morris dancers and/or mummers blacking up before the minstrel craze came along?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 10 Jan 09 - 04:21 PM

The use of minstrel songs probably was suggested by the blacking up rather than the other way round. Minstrel songs were used by plough lads in the East Riding in the early 20th century, but the use of disguise in all forms of folk drama and dance are well documented long before the minstrel innovation. If the East Riding is anything to go by the disguise was essential because of some of the tricks they got upto and at various times this form of 'begging' was actually illegal. Blacking up wasn't the only option. Goathland Ploughstots used red as well.

The derivation of 'morris' from 'morisco' or 'moorish' has never been proved and is highly unlikely. The morris as we know it today is largely a product of the 19th century. If you look at earlier pictures of morris dancers you'll see something quite different, something attached to official pageants.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 10 Jan 09 - 04:50 PM

My grandfather who'd been a Morris musician since he was a boy in the 1880 /90s in North Yorkshire right up to the outbreak of WWI said that, like the Ploughstots, they used red earth on their faces. This is also the case in the East Midlands so I suppose they just used what was readily available. My grandfather's side also wore beekeeping veils to dance (a tradition recently revived by the Flag & Bone Gang) which would also have served as a disguise when they were out begging at this time of year when there was little work on the land. It's now 50 years since he died but I can't recall him ever referring to the "nigger minstrel" craze or that it influenced them.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Jan 09 - 05:25 PM

The blacking up of Rochester sweeps is to do with being covered in soot, and that's something associated with sweeps as a trade since long before the Mistrels came along.

And the term "guysing" in relation to mummers plays and so forth woudl appear to be cognate with the word "disguising",


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 10 Jan 09 - 05:26 PM

Blackface American minstrels were popular in England from the 1850s, but blackface in mummers and morris dancers (see Steve, above) seems to have been well-established earlier- a change in persona if not a disguise.
If any racial connotation was there, it more likely would have to do with the Moors, but impersonation and mime traditions involving them are only documented for European areas formerly governed by the Moors, or for areas such as Mexico-southwestern U. S. where Spanish immigrants settled in the 16th-18th c.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 10 Jan 09 - 05:39 PM

Although you say that 'blacking up' is not an effective form of disguise, I would challenge you to recognise a close friend if they were to appear at your door one night, blacked up and wearing a costume you'd never seen. It's incredible the difference that a blackened face and limited light will make to facial features, hair or eye colour. An example is my old friend Bob. I would have sworn Bob had ash blonde/dark grey hair. The day I saw him 'blacked up', it was pure white... he looked like a badly poured pint of Guiness, and I only realised it was him when he put his glasses on.

Disguise or 'guise' is indeed related to 'guising' or 'guysing', the act of going around in disguise - and is the origin of the word 'guiser' or as we spell it now, geezer.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: GUEST,Ebor_fiddler
Date: 10 Jan 09 - 05:54 PM

There are several African traditions, on both sides of the continent, where participants in rituals "white up" as disguise (or are they being racist too?). I think that this is suggestive of good evidence for the probable traditional origin of our "blacking up", rather than from the Minstrel Show.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Azizi
Date: 10 Jan 09 - 05:55 PM

I posted a number of comments about the custom of "blacking up" in this thread:

Padstow Darkie Days

Fwiw, I cringe when i read the word "n****r" that is found in a couple of the posts in this thread. I wish there was some warning ahead of time that that word would be used. But I guess I should have prepared myself given the title of this thread.

I don't feel the need to repeat what I said in that thread whose link I provided. But I will offer my theory that the origin of "blackening up" is connected at least in part to the ancient reverence for ashes/soot and, by association, the connection of chimney sweeps with good luck..

See this excerpt:

"That [chimney] weeps bring luck is implied by the Jack-in-the-Green, known since the late 18th century, and is explicitly stated in many texts from the 1880s to the present. On seeing a sweep in the street in his working clothes and with his face blackened, one had to bow, raise one's hat, curtsey, or call out a greeting; some of the references show that this belief was particularly strong among coachmen and race-goers (Opie and Tatem, 1989: 71-2).

Still common is the custom of having a sweep outside the church at a wedding to kiss the bride and shake hands with the groom, generally interpreted as a means of ensuring fertility. A recent press report (Sunday Telegraph (28 Dec. 1997), 17) states that sweeps can earn £60 for this, as against £25 for a cleaning job, and that many do two or three weddings every weekend; they generally attend in pairs, wearing top hat and tails, carrying their brushes, and with their faces blacked. They claim that George II decreed that sweeps would 'bring good luck to the land' after his life was saved by one who managed to halt his carriage horses when they bolted, and that this is generally known: 'Old people have always come up to us in the street and touched us for good luck, and since the National Lottery began everybody has been doing it.'"

http://www.answers.com/topic/chimney-sweep

Also, see this article which I will post in its entirety since I'm concerned its link might go bad long before Mudcat's:

"'A chimney sweep's lucky as lucky can be...'

Many people will be able to sing along with that song from the Walt Disney version of Mary P. Travers' "Mary Poppins," but not as many know that In Germany, Austria, Hungary, and contiguous regions, the chimney sweep is considered a particularly auspicious omen of good luck if you meet with him on New Year's Day.

The postcard shown here is inscribed in Hungarian "Boldog Ujevet" (which, according to reader Marcell Revisnyei, means "Happy New Year"). It was postally used on January 1st, 1938. It is typical of Central and Eastern European New Year's postcards in which a chimney sweep -- often a blond child -- is shown frolicking in the snow, tossing out lucky talismans by the basketful.

The imagery on this card is unusual to American eyes because the slipshod young chimney sweep is not only sprinkling the ground with four-leaf clovers, he is equally generous in his distribution of toxic red and white Amanita muscaria mushrooms. This is not as strange as it seems, however, for while the four-leaf clover is considered lucky throughout Europe and North America, the Amanita muscaria or "gluckpilz" ("lucky mushroom" in German) is deemed fortuitous in Central and Eastern Europe, where there are remnants of respect for its ancient use as a shamanic hallucinogen.

When i asked my mother Lilo Glozer, who was born in Germany, about the chimney sweep as a bringer of New Year's luck, she replied:

New Year's was not celebrated in Germany until the l7th century, according to an old book I have on German folklore, so originally, this took place on Christmas or Saint Nicholas' Day, but anyway, gifts were given on New Year's Day to people who delivered bread or did household chores that were not performed by live-in servants. In exchange, these purveyors of services often handed out little cards with a blessing or good wishes.
Meeting a chimney sweep -- called a Schornsteinfeger or Schlotfeger -- at New Year's meant good luck for the year, especially if he would give you his card. However, by the time my sister and I were children, in the 1910s and 1920s, chimney sweeps were sufficiently rare that meeting one at any time of the year was considered lucky.

Chimney sweeps can also be found in the form of silver bracelet charms, small figurines, Good Luck Semi-Sweet Chocolate labels like the one shown here (which also depicts a lucky horseshoe), and even edible mid-winter gifts in which the chimney sweep's body is made of dried prunes.
Other European postcards in my collection show chimney sweeps giving people money bags, riding in toboggans with lucky pigs, and strewing about prodigious amounts of four-leaf clovers and Amanita muscaria mushrooms.

Perhaps i am fingerpainting here, but i see in this sooty New year's mushroom-bringer the folkloric remains of a shamanic Winter Solstice tradition now long lost to history".

http://www.luckymojo.com/chimneysweep.html

[Reproductions of greeting cards featuring chimney sweeps are found on this page]


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Azizi
Date: 10 Jan 09 - 05:59 PM

My apologies.

The sentence in the first except of my 10 Jan 09 - 05:55 PM post should read "That [chimney] sweeps bring luck is implied by the Jack-in-the-Green, known since the late 18th century, and is explicitly stated in many texts from the 1880s to the present.

-snip-

I would very much appreciate it if Joe Offer or another moderator would make that correction.

Thank you.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 10 Jan 09 - 06:04 PM

Owing to a shortage of open fires, our old chimney sweep in Co. Durham did a lucrative side-line in weddings. And I once met our coal man in the pub and didn't recognise him without the black face.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Snuffy
Date: 10 Jan 09 - 06:54 PM

As a mummer who "blacks up" quite often, I've never thought that it was a particularly effective disguise. Till last month.

On St Nicholas' night (Dec 6th) I was playing two roles as we were a mummer short. Along with us were a couple: he had joined our morris side a couple of weeks earlier with no previous experience. At the last pub of the evening's tour he was persuaded to take the smaller of my roles, and went off to the gents to put on his face and costume. He returned to the bar before the performance started, and his own wife did not know who it was! (But I did)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 10 Jan 09 - 07:46 PM

I've never been entirely convinced by the theory of minstrel influence, but while the "disguise" argument is regularly put forward (including by me) I've never been sure whether there was actual evidence or whether it was just received wisdom. So much of the historical information appears to come from a time after the minstrel craze, and I was seeking historical records before that period.

Diane's comment about using red earth, although coming from a time after the minstrels, seems to support the disguise argument - the colour was incidental. I believe raddle (a red dye used to mark sheep) was also used, but soot or burnt cork would have been most readily and cheaply available so black was widely used.

Azizi, apologies if you took offence, but in the specific context in which I used the word I didn't really know what else to put - I didn't use it unthinkingly, but I don't think you should hide from history. So far as I am aware, that was the generic term used, from a time when sensitivities were different from today. Using asterisks is, with respect, a cop-out since everyone knows what you are referring to.

Blacking up is an effective disguise if you see someone unexpectedly, or for the first time. But when it is someone who regularly blacks up as a dancer or mummer, and you are used to seeing them like that, it doesn't really work, in my experience. Morris was a regular seasonal event, involving only a small group of individuals (sometimes limited to particular families), and I think everyone in the community would have known who they really were.

I feel that blacking up (or whiting up for that matter) is more to do with taking on a different persona rather than trying to hide the person's identity (although that's probably part of it, especially in the more aggressive begging customs such as the ploughboys on Plough Monday). I used to be a Cotswold dancer so I didn't black up myself, but I know that just putting on the kit makes you feel different - it immediately sets you apart.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Snuffy
Date: 10 Jan 09 - 08:06 PM

Morris was a regular seasonal event, involving only a small group of individuals (sometimes limited to particular families), and I think everyone in the community would have known who they really were.

Isn't it all a typically English way of going about it? It's all about communal pretending in order to save face and dignity all round. Consider the following scenario;
  • In winter there was little work to do on the farms
  • No work meant no wages
  • No wages meant starvation
  • Beggars were frowned upon as the "undeserving poor"
  • But providing entertainment was approved, as it was providing value for money, thus deserving of payment.
  • But there was still a residual shame about being forced to resort to such measures.
  • So they disguised themselves
  • And the rest of the community agreed not to recognise them.
  • So the poor got fed, and the community survived with everybody's dignity intact


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 11 Jan 09 - 07:50 PM

Azizi is objecting to the term "nigger minstrel" but I really don't think she should, It is an established term for a distinct musical genre used by the musicians themselves. A banjo player friend (he is white but doesn't black up) has had this problem over pieces he has written for music mags about banjo history, This is as inappropriate as the objections of those who object to strikebreakers being called "blacklegs" on the (wrong) assumption that "black is being used negatively to mean "bad" when there are no racial connotations but merely a reference to dark clothing as a cover for surreptitious activity.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Azizi
Date: 11 Jan 09 - 08:46 PM

Diane, yes I find that term offensive {or "objectionable" as you phrased it}. I have a visceral reaction everytime I hear it or read it regardless who says it or who writes it. It's like a very unpleasant electric jolt {I added the words "very unpleasant" since I suppose some electric jolts might be pleasant for some people}.

I posted a number of comments about the subject of blacking up in that other thread whose link I provided. I don't intend to post any more to this thread.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Dead Horse
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 02:06 AM

There is a whole load of facinating stuff to do with ancient rituals and their connection with fire.
Blacking up is one of them. The ashes from a bone-fire applied to the face would convey the magic of the fire to the person wearing them, and to those he "blessed". I say HE because this magic was mans stuff, tho the actual tending of a fire was considered womans work. Hence the man/woman Molly (tho for some reason SHE is usually the only one NOT blacked up in black face morris sides, go figure)
The "Moorish" connotation should be well and truly debunked, as should the use of the "n" word which in any right thinking society, not cowed by misplaced guilt or preconcieved notions of racism, would be seen as merely another term to describe people of colour.
Black is a colour. Brown is a colour. Mulatto is a colour. It's only the association it has been given by racists which make it a "bad word" and subject to what is, after all, senseless sensorship.
I am not in any way racist, and I deplore racism in any form.
By I object to being told I cannot use a word in its proper context because it offends the sensibilities of the ignorant.
Having said that, I am not going to use the "n word" gratuitously, to shock, or to hurt. I use it when I sing sea shanties that were sung by ..................people of colour...........non white.........of African stock............or whatever word DOES suit my readers/listeners.
Sorry if this sounds a bit over the top, merely putting my own personal feelings out there.
It sickens me to know that folks take exception to what was a perfectly normal word 100 or less years ago. And all because of bloody racists.
P.S. I just LOVE cajun AND zydeco music, and make no distinctions of black or white in that area either.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 04:03 AM

I don't want this to divert into yet another discussion of the "N" word. I realise that many find it offensive, however I do feel it is necessary to distinguish between using it today and its use in a historical context. I was also using it in an English context, where it didn't pack quite the same punch it did in America - but I realise this is an international forum with different sensibilities.

It is not a word I would dream of using in normal conversation, but in the specific context in which I used it I really can't think of an alternative.

As an observation, when I was growing up it would have been considered offensive to call someone "black" - now it is the accepted term.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: davyr
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 05:19 AM

The British government in 1723 obviously thought blacking-up was an effective disguise - they introduced an Act of Parliamnet forbidding it in certain contexts (admittedly to do with poaching and/or affray rather than Morris):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Act


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Will Fly
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 05:42 AM

Slightly off-topic, with apologies. When I started to perform Gus Elen's "A Nice Quiet Day" (written around 1890) in public, I had a long debate with myself over the very first line which, in the original, goes:

"I works just like a nigger, but I isn't very strong, and I'm mostly on me trotters all the time".

I reasoned that, when I performed this in a folk club where people might appreciate that I was reproducing the song faithfully, they would understand that my intention was not to denigrate, but to preserve the original reading of the song. On the other hand, when I performed it to a non-folk club audience, I would substitute some other, more appropriate word such as "navvy", for example. In the end, however, I decided not to sing the original line anywhere. Just seemed to make more sense - and the original's on record if anyone want to hear it.

Relating this to the thread topic - is anyone actually offended by, say, the Bacup Britannia Coco-nut dancers, believing their blacking-up to be non PC?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 05:47 AM

I think Howard opened this thread partly in response to my reference to blacking up. I used the N word, in the thread concerning the survival or otherwise of Morris, to make a point about attitudes to what is traditional, what is revival and what is new.

Lots of people on that thread argued for the appropriateness of people creating sides and in some cases dances and costumes where none had previously existed. Howard made that point particularly well.

My point was that if Morris can evolve as it clearly has can it please evolve from blacking up to greening up or some other colour that does not have racist undertones (!).

Some people, black and white, are offended by white people blacking up. That's it really. It is no use saying they should not be offended, they simply are.

Now, what should be the Morris response? Do dances want to offend. I doubt that any Morris dancer ever meant to offend anyone. But they do. Do they offend many? Probably not. How many can be offended before it really counts?

Cheers

L in C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Mr Red
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 05:51 AM

The hiding of identity is a tradtion well preserved in some sides .....................


For good reason.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Will Fly
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 05:53 AM

Now, what should be the Morris response? Do dances want to offend. I doubt that any Morris dancer ever meant to offend anyone. But they do. Do they offend many? Probably not. How many can be offended before it really counts?

Les - interesting comment. I'd personally never have thought of Morris dancing being offensive (in the sense of this thread) - just never occurred to me. Do we have evidence of this? And I ask the question in a genuine spirit of curiosity - not to stir up a heated argument.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 06:04 AM

Yes, I am offended and a number of my friends are and if you read the responses to the "Darkie Days" in Padstow you will see that other people are offended.

The usual response seems to be that we shouldn't be offended because it's not intentional or that we are PCGM (politically correct gone mad) imposing our views on others.

Cheers

Les


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Will Fly
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 06:11 AM

Thanks Les - understood. Glad I chose to perform my Gus Elen song with altered wording - regardless of venue!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 06:23 AM

The whole business of sensitivity in our country is tricky. I have Jewish friend who is very funny and can tell a good story in mixed company making fun of aspects of his own origins and culture and no one one takes offense or feels uncomfortable. But he feels distinctly uncomfortable when watching the Britannia Coconut Dancers.

This is not about crimes against humanity but blacking up offends some people.

L in C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: melodeonboy
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 06:25 AM

"My point was that if Morris can evolve as it clearly has can it please evolve from blacking up to greening up or some other colour that does not have racist undertones (!)."

I must protest most strongly at the blatantly racist practice of "greening up". I intend to report you forthwith to the inter-galactic authorities.

Kev the Martian


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 06:27 AM

Morris are so colourful, it seems that to slightly adjust the traditional 'sooty face' for something more creative which a) cannot be misconstrued by the casual observer, and b) which could also help to prevent any misappropriation of the tradition by 'undesirables', whilst c) nevertheless still fully remaining anchored in the spirit of the guising tradition, would be a pragmatic move?

A fellow poster here, told me of her villages BNP Morris Side... One wonders if the opportunity for such abuse of the tradition, is worth it's strict maintenance in pure historic form?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 06:27 AM

Goog point Kev.

or some other colour that does not have racist undertones (!)."
L in C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: pavane
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 06:28 AM

Which colour to use? Surely someone will take traditional "redding up" as an insult to native Amercians.

But is it the description, or the actual activity of Blacking up which is being questioned? Or both?

I see no good reason why this traditional activity should be affected by a SUPPOSED or IMAGINED link. Are we going to prevent childrens face-painting, actors make-up, clowns, and all similar things?

It is similar to the thinking of the PC "gender police" who tried to ban the word MANAGER because it looks like it contains MAN.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 06:34 AM

Rewriting history is a power game.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 06:37 AM

Pavane,

I have tried my best to put the case simply.
1. Morris has been changing for 500 odd years its what happens.
2. Some of us are offended by white people blacking up.
3. We are no more gender or PC Police than dancers are racist.
4. Although as you can see from the post above we need to be careful.

Native Americans are not red they, like most people are variations of brown

Cheers

L in C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: greg stephens
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 12:29 PM

You are quite right, Les, that Red Indians are not actually red, but black people are not generally really black, either.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 12:37 PM

True enough Greg, Black People use the term Black to describe who they are. But I am not sure how that relates to Morris sides who are prepared to change all kinds of things except the one thing that a number of people have pointed out offends some of us.

Cheers

Les


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 01:08 PM

"A recent press report (Sunday Telegraph (28 Dec. 1997), 17) states that sweeps can earn £60 for this, as against £25 for a cleaning job,"

If someone can direct me to a sweep who will do my chimney for £25, I will be very grateful.

Just to clarify Rosie's point, the side I have spoken about in the past has two BNP members - it would be wrong of me to characterise it as "a BNP morris side", as I'm not sure the other members approve of the racism in their ranks. I do feel fairly sure they know about it.

I have to confess that I find the fact that this is a side that blacks up rather disturbing. Am I right to?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 01:18 PM

Ruth, this is an emotional thing, if it disturbs you, what does it do for all sorts of other people?

The BNP are evil racists. I am not suggesting for a second that Morris Dancers who black up are racists - I simply do not know.

Cheers

Les


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 01:29 PM

what I meant, Les, is that I draw a connection, knowing what i do, between the BNP membership of two of the members and the fact that the side blacks up. My feeling is, it's bad enough they're morris dancers. That it's a black-face side seems to compound the insult.

But maybe my respose is totally inappropriate. I just don't know. I remember taking part in another long thread about Darkie Days, and minstrelsy, and blacking up, which didn't come to many conclusions...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Dead Horse
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 02:20 PM

So do we stop referring to cowards as "yellow"?
Is it wrong to call a defect a "chink"?
Is it racist to call sludge "gook"?

It soon will be if The Yellow Peril ever gain supremacy - nuke 'em now!

err       :-)

(just in case you thought I was serious)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 02:24 PM

I thought you were the ghost of Kenny Everett . . .


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 02:27 PM

Yes, we have all been here before. I feel sure that in keeping something alive that has survived for 500 odd years people are reluctant to change things. But I have seen Border Morris sides with bands that seem closer to New Orleans Jazz Bands than anything else and they still wont change from black to green/ red/ rainbow or a few of each.

You response is your response based on who you are and what you have experienced.

I taught in almost all white Gorton when I danced with Gorton, Northwest, no blacking up, and kids I taught saw me dancing and were always polite and interested and never gave me any trouble in school. I later taught in Hume in a school that was about 50/50 white and Afro-Caribbean. I think I know what the Black Kids would have had to say if I had danced blacked up.

Cheers

Les


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 02:43 PM

My apologies for unintentionally misquoting you there Ruth.

There has been some highly enlightening discussion on this board regards the appropriation of English traditions by right-wing Nationalists.

Personally I see a threat to English traditional arts, arising from contamination by association to such groups, whose political agenda in 'blacking up' (amongst other things), may be quite utterly other than the innocent guising practice from which it origionally arose.

The question for me here, is about context. Our modern England is not the same place that it once was, and the symbolic language of our modern England is also not what it once was.

Holding to *some* traditional practices, may possibly muddy the tradition in a contemporary context, where such practices may be open to abuse of the most ugly kind.

Should folk traditions adapt to current contexts, in order to actually preserve their *integrity*?

This is an exceedingly interesting thread which addresses some very pertinant and current issues. I hope it will remain so.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 02:56 PM

Firstly, this thread is about blacking up for morris - Padstow Darkie Day is something rather different and has been discussed at length elsewhere.

The question of whether blacking up by modern sides may give offence is a tricky one. There is nothing else in the costume, music or dancing to even suggest any reference to black people.

Les, with respect I am a little surprised at your blanket taking offence at blacking up, regardless of circumstances. I understand it where it is clearly in imitation of a black person, but I should have thought you would have been able to differentiate other situations. What about military camouflage? What about a recent TV programme where two people used make-up to change race, to experience the other's situation? Since there is no racial element, what is different about morris?

It is true that some local authorities have raised objections, but they are notoriously quick to see imagined offence to ethnic minorities when none is actually taken (compare with nativity plays, carols and "Winterval" for example).

On the one hand, my instinct is to be defensive about our own traditions when people try to stop them on the grounds of a misunderstanding of the basis for blacking up. I don't think we should necessarily give in to the PC brigade.

On the other hand, we must recognise that we now live in a multi-racial society and that we should try to avoid giving offence, even where the offence is based on a misunderstanding. If someone is offended by seeing blacked up morris dancers they are unlikely to stick around for an explanation. Also, it is clear from the responses on this thread that the actual colour was of less significance than the masking aspect, so perhaps we shouldn't get too hung up over using black rather than other colours.

I think it is up to individual sides to decide whether to continue blacking up or to use another colour, on the basis of the response they receive from their audiences. The experience of a side based in a multi-cultural town or city is likely to be rather different from that of a rural side in a predominantly white area.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 03:09 PM

Thanks Howard - lots of salient points. It gives offense, thats it really. It's not the intention and it's not the fault of the dancers if they don't know it gives offense.

I think I will say it one more time, as I think you did yourself elsewhere, the Morris has changed in many many ways. Why are they so reluctant to change their faces?

Cheers

Les


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: The Villan
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 03:20 PM

Well I am definately not rascist.

However I love morris dancers blacking up and am not offended or even thought of it as being rascist until the politically correct brigade came along.

What a sad world we live in.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 03:49 PM

Howard, I feel fairly certain I've read that many of the tunes appropriated by border sides came out of minstrelsy, and that there was little evidence that these sides had ever blacked up before minstrelsy. I think this is where the origins come into question.

What if morris gets into the opening ceremonies of the Olympics? Would everyone be happy to see blacked-up sides dancing for a world-wide audience?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 03:57 PM

Villain

"Well I am definately not rascist."

I don't doubt it

"However I love morris dancers blacking up and am not offended or even thought of it as being rascist"

Some people are offended

"until the politically correct brigade came along."

this might be true. Lenny Henry appeared in the Black and White Minstrel Show. He says he was young and didn't understand the significance of at all but wouldn't do it now.

What a sad world we live in. "

Not so Morris brings much joy and would bring a little bit more if they stopped blacking up

Cheers

L in C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 03:58 PM

Well how about the understanding going both ways for a start?

We understand your concerns
You understand our traditions


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: The Villan
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 04:01 PM

>>What a sad world we live in. "

Not so Morris brings much joy and would bring a little bit more if they stopped blacking up

Cheers

L in C <<

Sorry Les. I don't want to fall out with you, but I don't agree.

Les in Faldingworth


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 04:01 PM

Given the history of the British and other European Empires, slavery and the treatment of black people in this and other European countries this is not likely to be an equal exchange.

Cheers

L in C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 04:02 PM

Me neither Les but people are offended and that's not to be disagreed with is it?

Les


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 12 Jan 09 - 04:03 PM

I used to save up scrap pictures of golliwogs from jam jars and send them away to get enamel golly badges.
Till somebody told Robertsons that such an image was racist and stopped them from supplying the badges.
And took the golly pics off the jars.
Sad.


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