Yorkshire morris dancing group hits out over festival stopping performers with black face paint

A MORRIS Dancing team from Yorkshire has criticised a decision by a major folk festival to stop people from performing with black paint on their faces, after complaints that it could be seen as racist.

The drummer of the Flagcrackers at the Wath Festival in 2012. Picture: Andrew Roe

The decision was taken by Shrewsbury Folk Festival (SFF), which is happening this weekend, following the threat of legal action last year.

It has been welcomed by equality group Fairness, Respect, Equality Shropshire (Fresh) but the Flagcrackers of Craven have objected. The group, who are based in Skipton, have accused festival organisers of “capitulating to a small group of politically correct individuals.”

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The squire of the Flagcrackers of Craven, Julie Greenwood said: “We sincerely hope that Fresh, and other well-meaning but misguided individuals, concentrate the fight against racism on cases where individuals or groups are genuinely racially offensive and dangerous, rather than entertainers whom crowds of all race and creed enjoy watching.

“It’s fair to say that we are offended at the implication that we, and other teams, are racist.”

A statement from the festival said: “After last year the festival was accused of racial harassment and threatened with legal action by an organisation called Fresh – following performances by Morris sides wearing full face black make up in the town centre.

“The festival finds itself caught between two sides of this opposing argument and believes this is a national issue that should not be focused solely on SFF.”

It said that the use of full face black make up was an age old tradition, particularly within the Border Morris style of dancing.

However it added: “The Morris movement has always evolved over time and some sides have made their own decisions to move away from using full face black make up towards other forms of colour and disguise. In the past 18 months, of the three sides we booked for this year’s festival, two have already moved away from wearing full face black make up of their own volition.”