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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Hester RACISM in British Folk Movement (84* d) RACISM in British Folk Movement 25 Apr 03


I'm very troubled and concerned by an incident here on Mudcat, and I'm worried that it may reflect a wider problem in the contemporary British Folk Movement.

In a thread about St. George's Day , a guest calling himself "Befuddled" made very offensive comments about immigrants from Africa and Asia "swamping" Britain, "drowning out" its culture and "corrupting" its system of government.

My concern is, to what extent are racists such as "Befuddled"
still tolerated in the modern British Folk Movement? Am I likely to find such slimy creatures crawling out from under a rock in British folk pubs or folk dance groups?

I've just been reading an anthology on the Folk Dance Revival, called _Step Change_, edited by Georgina Boyes, that details the influence of Nazi sympathizer Rolf Gardiner on the movement after Sharp's death. According to Boyes, Gardiner's fascist politics were the driving force behind the "all-male" Morris rhetoric.

To what extent does the stench of Gardiner's foul politics still linger in the folk dance movement? I had thought such attitudes were a thing of the past, but the presence of "Befuddled" on Mudcat makes me leary. What can I expect when attending a Morris performance: neo-Nazi skinheads hiding behind the bells and handkerchiefs?

"Befuddled" suggested that "non-European" immigration is responsible for the decline in traditional folk practices in Britain. That's obvious nonsense. The man has no understanding of his country's own history. The Reformation extinguished many traditional folk practices, and then the Industrial Revolution's disruption of communal life left the rest moribund and in decline, until middle & upper class folklorists began a conscious effort at "revival" at the end of the 19th century.

If anything threatens that continued revival, it is not "non-European" immigrants, but rather the taint of jingoistic and xenophobic nutters like "Befuddled" who see English folk customs, such as Morris dancing on St. George's Day, as symbols of an earlier, ethnically "pure" England.

Sadly, that perception makes me leary of celebrating the traditions of my British heritage with unreserved enthusiasm, for fear of being associated with the likes of "Befuddled".

I'm feeling very disheartened by this episode, and I would really appreciate any feedback from British folkies, especially those committed to social justice, racial equality, and the promotion of folk traditions from all cultures.

Hester in Toronto




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