27th Mar, 2017

Bromsgrove councillor wades into Morris dancing row, claiming performers should 'think twice' about blacking out their faces

Tristan Harris 23rd Jan, 2017 Updated: 24th Jan, 2017

A BROMSGROVE District Councillor has waded into the row over the Alvechurch Morris dancers following the incident in Birmingham where they were abused by a man who questioned why they ‘blacked out’ their faces.

West Midlands Police confirmed they are investigating a complaint – about the abuse and threats made to someone linked to the dance group following the ‘Plough Monday’ performance.

Now Coun Michael Thompson has put forward the following question for Wednesday’s full Bromsgrove District Council meeting calling on Morris dancers to ‘think twice’ about using black face paints.

He wrote: “This question refers to the ‘Alvechurch Morris Dancers’ who featured recently in the local and national press.

“The Morris dancers, representing our district, caused racial offence to some members of the public in Birmingham by blacking out their faces.

“I have looked into the origins of this practice and found there is divided opinion upon the subject.

“Whilst some argue that this tradition started as a form of disguise whilst begging, others believe that it began as a mockery of African tribal war dancers.

“No matter what one believes, it is without doubt that a significant number in our society, a society that champions inclusivity, sensitivity and diversity, are offended by it.

“Surely, no matter what the origin of this practice, if it causes offence, then the sensitive, humble and proper thing to do, is to stop it.”

Coun Thompson has also criticised MP Sajid Javid who spoke out in support of Alvechurch Morris who he said were following the age-old tradition, and Coun Thompson will also be asking Bromsgrove District Council leader, Coun Geoff Denaro, what his views are on the subject.

Coun Thompson added: “No matter what the reason for doing it, I believe that if blacking out one’s face is offensive to anybody (which it is), then it is the decent thing not to do it.

“Cannot Morris Dancers clank their batons and ring their bells without having to black out their faces (for whatever reason they claim it necessary)?”

Mr Javid tweeted about the Morris dancers’ performance: “Proud of traditional Morris dancers from Alvechurch (in my constituency). They are as racist as I am #PloughMonday.”

Speaking to The Standard afterwards, Mr Javid added: “Plough Monday is a great English tradition which dates back to medieval times. I’m proud to see Morris dancers from Alvechurch upholding this agricultural ritual, which has no racial overtones whatsoever.”

Wednesday’s meeting is at the Council House, Parkside Suite, at 6pm.