Morris dancers paint faces green not black as audience moans about ‘snowflakes’

A troupe of Morris dancers have broken a 500-year old tradition by painting their faces green, rather than the traditional black.

Silurian Border Morrismen voted to scrap the tradition due to the world wide racism row relating to the Black Lives Matter movement.

And their first green-faced performance took place on Monday in Herefordshire.

The history of the black face relating to the Morris dancers comes from English folk dancers who painted their faces with black soot in order to beg for money without fear of reprisal from the law.

However, Morris dancer Chris Mulvey, 71, did admit that the majority of the group would like to have continued with the black disguise, despite feeling that it was the right time to change.

He said: “We are on our Boxing Day tour and this is the first time we have our green face disguise.

“There have been about 15 of us out performing this morning and we have had hundreds come and watch us dance so far.

“We've had no direct comments from anyone, we were not anticipating any antagonism from the public at all – and that has been proved.

“We're not in the business of wanting to upset people, we've made the change to a greenish tinge, and we're not taking the mick out of anyone.

“If anybody is offended we do not want to add to that, we just want to come out and perform the dance we have been dancing – it has always just been based on a visual disguise.

“We had the controversy of racism, so we changed – we don't want any confusion on that matter.

“I personally would have liked to continue with the original black face, but I am not worried about changing to green – we just want to concentrate on the dancing and the element of disguise."

Residents watching the performance today had mixed opinions about scrapping the tradition for the dance form, which dates back to the 1400s.

Mum-of-one Terri Fowler, 32, of Ledbury, said: “I understand that a lot of people cherish British tradition but I think this is the right call.

“In this day and age, you can't just go around with black face whether it be for fancy dress or whatever – so why should Morris dancers be exempt from this?”

"If anything, this is highlighting racial issues even further and anything that does that has surely got to be a good thing.

"Sometimes traditions need to adapt and a different colour face paint doesn't detract from the dance at all so I can't see any problem with it."

But another resident, who did not want to be named, added: "I don't agree with scrapping a tradition that goes back hundreds of years on the premise that it might or might not upset somebody.

"Surely you put it into the context of the time and back then there were no racist connotations to it – and that certainly isn't the intent of Morris dancers now.

"It is just indicative of this day and age where things, which the majority of people don't mind, get cancelled just in case one or two people complain.

"We are in danger of losing our identity at the expense of appeasing a few snowflakes and I don't think that is healthy at all."

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