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HomeUK NewsSilurian Border Morrismen dancers ditch 'blackface' tradition after 500 years

Silurian Border Morrismen dancers ditch ‘blackface’ tradition after 500 years

A troupe of morris dancers have ditched their tradition of wearing black face paint during their Boxing Day tour.

Silurian Border Morrismen wore green paint instead for a performance in Ledbury, Hertfordshire, today.

Until now, they had performed wearing black paint in a tradition that dated back 500 years.

It is thought the custom was originally developed by dancers wearing black soot as a disguise, so that they could beg for money without getting in trouble with the law.

But they settled on a dark green shade amid controversy that the practice was seen as a form of blackface.

Silurian foreman Ian Craigan said: “There has been some controversy for a long time.

“We need to be on the right side of things. We want to be a side that can turn up and dance and everyone feels comfortable watching and welcome new members from every spectrum.

“It would be foolish to pretend everyone in the side is happy with the decision.

“But the main purpose is to dance and share the tradition which is unique to Silurian, which is more important than what we wear or how we decorate ourselves.”

Dancer Chris Mulvey said he would have preferred to stick with tradition, but had no issue adhering to the change.

“We’re not in the business of wanting to upset people, we’ve made the change to a greenish tinge,” he said. “We’re not taking the mick out of anyone. If anybody is offended, we do not want to add to that.”

The group, which was set up in 1969, successfully performed in front of crowds in Ledbury and didn’t report any antagonism from onlookers.

Their bigger worry before the performance, they said, was to ensure they got the right shade of green, not wanting to look like “the Incredible Hulk”.

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