Real reason Morris dancers ‘blacked up’
I THINK that the woman who was ‘offended’ by the Beorma Morris dancers’ black make up and called them racists, should really brush up on her sadly inadequate British social and cultural history ( Post, October 26).
I think that she is confusing Minstrelism with Morris. Morris dancing has uncertain roots but definitely predates Minstrelism by several centuries, and whilst some of the comments about racism and black oppression can certainly be applied to Minstrelism, none apply to Morris.
Morris dancing came about in rural communities and was by and large performed by local agricultural workers, most of whom would be virtually ‘owned’ by the landowners. That was British slavery.
Because they depended on their lord and master for their livelihood, and knew that they could suffer dire consequences from participating in the dance, they attempted to disguise themselves. So, they blacked their faces with the freely available soot or charcoal or dirt.
If by some happy accident soot was red or green or blue, we would not be having this situation now.
Today, ‘blacking up’ only happens in Border Morris which originated in Shropshire and Herefordshire – perhaps the landowners there were some of the harshest. It goes with the wearing of much-decorated black hats and waistcoats made of rag strips, and much beating of sticks.
Visually it is quite a spectacle and my favourite form of Morris, and I have never found anything offensive about it. Probably the majority of people who have witnessed it have not been offended either.
One silly woman with an ill-informed opinion decides that she is offended and hers is the voice that gets reported.
Perhaps the Beorma Morris should paint