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Morris dancers forced to stop performance after threats

The group of Morris dancers were allegedly accused of being racist. Photo: BPM

A group of Morris dancers have been forced to abandon a performance after they were allegedly accused of being racist for painting their faces black.

The group from Alvechurch are said to have been threatened by a minority of onlookers during their performances on Corporation Street and New Street in Birmingham on Saturday.

The dancers were celebrating Plough Monday - the traditional start of the agricultural year.

The dancers were celebrating Plough Monday - the traditional start of the agricultural year. Credit: BPM

A source close to the group said:

The atmosphere had been great with the vast majority of people, but I was absolutely amazed by the vitriolic abuse they started to receive.

One lady was particularly angry and a group of young men started to become very abusive and confrontational, accusing them of being racists.

They started jumping in between the dancers and knocking off their hats. The dancers tried to explain why their faces were painted black, but they would not listen.

– Source close to the Morris dancer group

Morris dancers have performed with black face make-up since the origins of the dancing tradition in the 16th century.

Known as ‘Border Morris’, the tradition sees performers wearing a full-face of black paint in order to disguise themselves.

The dancers tried to explain why their faces were painted black, but they would not listen. Credit: BPM

But it seems not everyone is in favour of the tradition.

Last year, Shrewsbury Folk Festival bosses announced that it will no longer book acts who wear full black face paint.

Equality group Fairness, Respect, Equality Shropshire (Fresh) said the ban showed sensitivity “to a changed social climate”.