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Bacup Nuters and Racism

GUEST,Fred McCormick 23 Apr 14 - 07:26 AM
Leadfingers 23 Apr 14 - 07:29 AM
GUEST,Eliza 23 Apr 14 - 09:14 AM
Les in Chorlton 23 Apr 14 - 09:22 AM
GUEST,Eliza 23 Apr 14 - 09:34 AM
Mr Red 23 Apr 14 - 09:37 AM
GUEST,henryp 23 Apr 14 - 09:52 AM
doc.tom 23 Apr 14 - 10:43 AM
Les in Chorlton 23 Apr 14 - 10:57 AM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 23 Apr 14 - 11:46 AM
GUEST,Morris-ey 23 Apr 14 - 12:12 PM
Jim Carroll 23 Apr 14 - 12:13 PM
Dave the Gnome 23 Apr 14 - 12:17 PM
Dave the Gnome 23 Apr 14 - 12:37 PM
Jim Carroll 23 Apr 14 - 12:41 PM
GUEST,henryp 23 Apr 14 - 12:54 PM
Dave the Gnome 23 Apr 14 - 12:56 PM
GUEST,Eliza 23 Apr 14 - 01:07 PM
Les in Chorlton 23 Apr 14 - 02:01 PM
Dave the Gnome 23 Apr 14 - 02:26 PM
Dave the Gnome 23 Apr 14 - 02:32 PM
GUEST,Eliza 23 Apr 14 - 02:39 PM
GUEST 23 Apr 14 - 04:08 PM
GUEST,Eliza 23 Apr 14 - 05:18 PM
GUEST,Guest Betsy 23 Apr 14 - 05:29 PM
Les in Chorlton 24 Apr 14 - 03:39 AM
Jim Carroll 24 Apr 14 - 04:03 AM
Les in Chorlton 24 Apr 14 - 04:08 AM
Dave the Gnome 24 Apr 14 - 04:34 AM
Dave the Gnome 24 Apr 14 - 04:44 AM
Dave the Gnome 24 Apr 14 - 05:16 AM
GUEST,Eliza 24 Apr 14 - 05:21 AM
Les in Chorlton 24 Apr 14 - 05:28 AM
Jack Campin 24 Apr 14 - 05:32 AM
GUEST,Eliza 24 Apr 14 - 05:40 AM
Les in Chorlton 24 Apr 14 - 05:54 AM
Jim Carroll 24 Apr 14 - 05:56 AM
GUEST,matt milton 24 Apr 14 - 05:56 AM
Les in Chorlton 24 Apr 14 - 06:08 AM
GUEST,matt milton 24 Apr 14 - 06:36 AM
Dave the Gnome 24 Apr 14 - 06:43 AM
TheSnail 24 Apr 14 - 06:49 AM
Dave the Gnome 24 Apr 14 - 06:52 AM
GUEST,Morris-ey 24 Apr 14 - 06:54 AM
Jim Carroll 24 Apr 14 - 07:12 AM
Dave the Gnome 24 Apr 14 - 07:32 AM
Jim Carroll 24 Apr 14 - 07:43 AM
Dave the Gnome 24 Apr 14 - 08:10 AM
GUEST,Dazbo at work 24 Apr 14 - 08:31 AM
Jim Carroll 24 Apr 14 - 08:50 AM
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Subject: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 07:26 AM

There was an interesting discussion on BBC 4's Today programme yesterday about the Britannia Coconut Dancers and racism.
It can be heard here, about 40 minutes in. Needless to say I strongly dispute any contention that the Bacup dances are in any way racist.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Leadfingers
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 07:29 AM

As has been shown in posts on this site , there area always people who want to read all sorts of rubbish into any thing they come across , with NO regard to the facts


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 09:14 AM

They're excellent and should be supported to continue their dancing. I seem to remember that 'objections' to one of their events were in fact on behalf of the Local Authority who were merely concerned about spectators standing in the road and risking an accident. My husband's black and has seen them on TV. He thinks they're great and doesn't see anything racist in their costumes or dance. Neither has he ever felt uncomfortable about 'blacked-up' Morris dancers, and has even danced with some of them at Sheringham and Wittlesea, after being kindly invited to join in! If black people don't care a pin why should anyone else?


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 09:22 AM

The origins of many traditional dances are lost in the mists of time and no one can say with any certainty how they came about,

The dances they perform are actually Folk Dances and the custom of blackened faces may reflect a pagan or medieval background which was done to disguise the dancers from being recognised by evil spirits afterwards, it may also reflect mining connections.

The picture is by no means clear and tales have been related by word of mouth, however, the dances are supposed to have originated with moorish pirates (hence the costume). Some of these sailors are said to have settled in Cornwall and become employed in local mining. As mines and quarries opened in Lancashire in the 18th & 19th century a few Cornishmen came North bringing with them mining expertise. It is with these people that the dances were reputedly brought to this area. In particular two Cornishmen who came to work in Whitworth (this was related by a former team member many years ago).


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 09:34 AM

'Guisers' in Scotland blacken their faces too, and possibly to dis-'guise' their identity. Unlike the Black & White Minstrels who were actually imitating black people, the Morris/folk dancers who black-up are not trying to look African at all. It's perfectly obvious that no racism exists in this tradition. I doubt if any black person has ever complained, only well-meaning but misguided white folk who should mind their own business. I'm certain that any offended black people would be capable of complaining on their own behalf if necessary!


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Mr Red
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 09:37 AM

What annoys me is teachers - probably history teachers - who cannot accept that customs are customs, statements of being er um hmmm - English as it happens. What better way to accept the range of people that live in the UK than to include them.

These history teachers love to spout about Kings and politicians and dismiss the common working man with a "it was a time of poverty" rather than "this is what they did".

There are Egyptian (border!) morris dancers and members of Flash Company who just enjoy the crack without raising objections to the face painting.
Though it has to be said the morris fashion (morris fashion?) for garish colours is a welcome development now that face paint is cheap and burnt cork is pretty rough on the face. The face paint is much better at distancing the person from their antics. And morris dancers never beg these days - or do they?


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 09:52 AM

Devon and Cornwall Police deployed 11 officers in Padstow to monitor and shoot video footage of the Darkie Day celebrations on Boxing Day 2004 and New Year's Day 2005.

The Crown Prosecution Service concluded that no offence had been committed.

This year, the police declined to accompany the Nutters on their annual journey. So it was left to Doc Rowe to record the proceedings. The crowd, which included Derek Schofield, showed the affection in which the Nutters are held.

And there was a rival group of nutters too - manning the UKIP stand.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: doc.tom
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 10:43 AM

'I doubt if any black person has ever complained'
- just Diane Abbott if memory serves!


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 10:57 AM

One of the problems that lingers around folk and traditional customs, apart from the difficulty and agreeing what these words mean, is that people say all kinds of things with out offering any evidence.

Many Morris sides still perpetuate the ideas that Morris is somehow related to a fertility and / or a pagan past. I have never been offered evidence that this is so.

The BCND seem to have sprung to life in the 19C at a time when carnivals, fetes and music hall performances often featured Blackface Minstresly an influence from the US. Border Morris shows those links.

Are the stout defenders of the BCND prepared to explore possible links between BCND and Blackface Minstresly?


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 11:46 AM

I'm no expert on Bacup, but I'm inclined to think that there is a strong music hall influence in the custom. So maybe reports of them being rooted in blackface minstrelsy aren't that wide of the mark.

Having said that, I can see no similarity whatsoever to the demeanour, or the costumes, of the Bacup dancers and the awful fawning, eye rolling, Jim Crow spectacle that was the Black & White Minstrel Show.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,Morris-ey
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 12:12 PM

the black and white minstrels were not racist, unless you consider blackface minstrelry to be racist. The clue is in the name.

If blackface is racist then surely all blackface is racist. Cue special pleading.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 12:13 PM

The 'Moorish pirate' claim was nipped in the bud by dance a researcher who claimed that the 'blacking-up' was influenced by Sharp's and his Victorian colleagues' concept of how black people should be represented, an image taken from the Minstrel shows.
The pirate thing seems to be a rationalisation
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 12:17 PM

I wouldn't say I was an expert, Fred, but I do know quite a lot about the 'nutters. As far as I know there is no Music Hall link at all.

I would never say there is no link between the 'nutters and Black-face Minstrelry but I am pretty sure that there are black face traditions that pre-date black and white minstrels. I am also aware of a white-face pace egg tradition - I think it is on St Kitts but I could be wrong.

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 12:37 PM

It was a friend of mine that mentioned the white face mumming or pace egg and while I could not find it in a search I did find a piece of his work about Caribean traditions that really is quite fascinating. Well, to me anyway.

Enjoy.

DtG


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 12:41 PM

The earliest reference to the custom is the mid 19th century, and the present form of it dates back to the 1920s
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 12:54 PM

In 2006, Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney, asked the government to stop the annual Darkie Day festival in Padstow.

In 1998, Bernie Grant, the late MP for Tottenham, condemned the tradition as "offensive to black people all over the place".

I never saw either of them in Padstow.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 12:56 PM

Did they not have black face performers earlier than that? I am thinking of the Greeks actors particularly but something at the back of my mind is niggling me about earlier English traditions as well. Elizabethan possibly? Probably not as I cannot find reference on Google :-( But if the earliest reference is mid 19th C. is it not logical that the tradition itself pre-dates that? And there is no indication as to why they started to do it? Sometimes the right answer, as it is with me in this case, is we just don't really know!

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 01:07 PM

If one is going to find 'racism' in depicting a person from another race, then what about Wishee Washee etc in Aladdin? In fact that pantomime would be censored from start to finish as it's a bizarre mix of Chinese and 'Arabian' costumes, names, speech and make-up. Or indeed, The Mikado? If one takes this ridiculous stance to its conclusion, then depicting anyone at all could be banned. I do wish black, Asian etc people were credited with enough nous to distinguish for themselves between true, malicious racism and harmless, traditional fun. (Even recent 'traditions' such as the Bacup crew or the pantomime). It's insulting to them to assume they can't complain if they want to, and generally they don't! I feel I'd like to print and distribute giant posters of the photos of my husband dancing with Leeds Morris, Red Leicester Morris and sitting beside a very blacked-up Old Glory dancer.
Suggestions please for the caption!


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 02:01 PM

I have to say I am surprised at the general quality of this discussion. I guess that's pretty patronising isn't it? But thanks all the same.

Most of us enjoy folk music and related customs and we are curious about their origins. We wont get there unless people dig deep and show us the evidence for what they have found out. This is called scholarly study and in terms of history it's the only way.

Finding stuff in totally unrelated cultures is fascinating but it doesn't really help.

As for white people blacking up most people white or black either don't know or don't care. But some do.

Morris etc. is a public performance. Does it matter if some people are offended? How about 1 or 2 or 20? As we have no way of knowing we have a problem.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 02:26 PM

I used to think that it did matter, Les, but as the years went by I realised that some people will just take offense at anything. They are often working to an agenda that is unknown to us and the alleged offense is sometimes politically motivated. But having said that I do agree that if someone genuinely takes offense then something must be done about it. It is most often a misunderstanding of intentions. As an example a friend of mine who had a severely disabled son took offense at a what I found an innocent remark about Siamese twins in Derek Brimstone's patter at a concert we were at. Fortunately, as I knew both, I introduced Derek to her after the concert and the result was that they both learned something new and both went away happy. The answer to most things is educate, communicate and compromise. Well, I think so anyway.

I do think that the link I gave is helpful though. I know it is from unrelated cultures but the tradition seems to be the same. I was hoping to show that people disguise themselves regardless of the colour of their skin, as do the mummers on St Kitts. Perhaps it has nothing to do with either tradition or racism? Maybe people, especially us repressed blokes, just enjoy painting their faces? :-)

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 02:32 PM

Oh, and sorry, another anecdote. I know anecdotal evidence is unlikely to prove anything but I like the tale. I was running a course during the lead up to Easter. A time when I a humble UNIX tutor through the day and Bold Hector, the champion of the King of Egypt by night. One morning I found that the shower had not removed all the face blacking but did not notice until too late. When the students started to take the piss I explained why we blacked up. Quick as a flash a black student in the class said, "Makes sense. Most white men really want to be black." Still cracks me up now :-)

D.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 02:39 PM

I think it's a relic of primitive culture where one masked one's face and 'became' something else, maybe a spirit or representation of a god.
Having watched the Witchmen and other Border Morris blacked-up sides, (and Red Leicester), it's strange and rather wonderful how the 'magic' is generated when their faces are disguised. When my husband first watched the Witchmen, he was astonished and remarked how similar it all was to many W African costumes and dances. He couldn't believe we Europeans would indulge in such a 'primitive' exhibition. Masking is very common I believe throughout many cultures. Funnily enough, I've watched dancing in Senegal where the (very black) Wolofs and Serrers 'white-up' and become various spirits. And I most certainly did NOT object on racist grounds that they were insulting white people!


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 04:08 PM

"And I most certainly did NOT object on racist grounds that they were insulting white people! "
Nor would I but I hope that Diane Abbott would!


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 05:18 PM

Some fool would probably try to object on my behalf. Have they nothing better to do?


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,Guest Betsy
Date: 23 Apr 14 - 05:29 PM

What about the Australian Aborigines during the recent Royal Visit dancing with their faces whitened.
Didn't offend anyone that I know - and why should it.?
Good luck to Bacup they're an honest bunch of dancers and fun lovers and I'm sure wouldn't dream of insulting anyone.

Stop fucking about with Tradition and looking for Ghoulies - they don't exist in this case.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 03:39 AM

Thanks Dave and Eliza for much considered opinion.

It's clearly true that doing things to our bodies and particularly our faces is a very old feature of human behavour and in the broadest sense a feature of a theatrical tradition. The colouring of the face is particularly effective. I think their is evidence of Neanderthal people colouring and using jewelry - and they are not even our ancestors.

I assume, based or almost no knowledge at all, that none of this is racist. Although across the planet people clearly use hair styles, dress codes, tatoos and so on to draw lines between different groups. But I leave that alone - I don't think it's relevant to this discussion.

In another context I think racism is a common feature of many societies across the planet. Many countries have a minority that is discriminated against by a majority. What makes Western European and North American racism different was the industrial scale of sending between 6 and 10 million Black Africans to the US to tend cotton which came to Lancashire to make cloth to sell all over the place including ...... Africa. You all know the story of the Slave Triangle.

Black people in the US were and in many cases still are treated unspeakable but still went on to be some of the most imortant writers, artists and musicians the planet has ever see.

One of the features of 19C US music hall was Blackface Minstrelsy. It came to the UK and was very popular.

Those of us who have dug around in this a bit suggest that Blackface Minstrelsy is the major origin of the black faces of bacup and not some old English tradition.

Again this is my challenge:

Are the stout defenders of the BCND prepared to explore possible links between BCND and Blackface Minstrelsy?


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 04:03 AM

"Are the stout defenders of the BCND prepared to explore possible links between BCND and Blackface Minstrelsy?"
Wouldn't have thought there was a great deal of doubt about this Les, the dates seem to indicate that it was originally, but the 1920s revival was influenced by the early collector.
I don't think it helps to ignore the fact that there is a 'racist' problem attached to the tradition, just as there was with the 'blackfaced' artists like "The Chocolate-Coloured Coon" et al - it gives offence to some - some people are sensitive to how they are depicted nowadays, not without cause.
This is in no way claiming that the 'Nutters' are doing anything other than what they claim to be doing.
These public displays need to be aware of these sensitivities, it isn't too long ago that the good people of Lewes were burning a caravan full of 'Pikeys' at their annual bonfire festival.
The one time I visited Bacup I thoroughly enjoyed it - the dancing, the music and the festival, and found no particular harm in it, though I did find it rather 'quaint' - but that's me.
It's a bit facile to compare Bacup with what happened in Australia - if the native Australians did mean any offence, Queenie had the Dook to put them in their place, as he's shown more than adequately in the past - and anyway, it is their country anyway, so they are fully entitled to dress up in millenia-old traditional make-up to entertain the visitors, should they wish to.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 04:08 AM

Thanks Jim I agree with what you say.

Perhaps the folkie world could recognise another sin - not racism bit denighing the "Tradition"?


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 04:34 AM

Are the stout defenders of the BCND prepared to explore possible links between BCND and Blackface Minstrelsy?

More than prepared to explore them, Les, I have already done so. My considered opinion, and bear in mind that this is all it is, is that the 'nutters did black up for some reason unbeknown to any of us. Jim's view that the dates make it certain it was related to minstrelsy is tentative at the least. While American minstrelsy seems to have been popular as early as 1848, the Tunstead Mill Nutters were formed in 1857. I very much doubt that popular American culture would hold sway with a small Lancashire Mill community at that time. And do bear in mind that Lancashire mill workers received particular praise from non other than Abraham Lincoln himself for putting themselves in peril by supporting the stand against slavery. OK - Bit of a tangent but could be relevant.

There is also ample evidence of early European black face traditions, often representing longer nights or winter, that could also have had an influence in the UK prior to minstrelsy. Anyway. In the words of the 'nutters themselves, "The origins of many traditional dances are lost in the mists of time and no one can say with any certainty how they came about, but if you go to the small Pennine Town of Bacup situated between Rochdale and Burnley on Easter Saturday you will be confronted by a band of men the survival of which is as unexpected as is fascinating and whose strange appearance could be described as exotic!" Whatever the origins, they have very little relevance now and as long as it is obvious that no racial slur is intended I believe that the tradition, properly explained, will not cause offense to anyone.

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 04:44 AM

Oh, and Jim, they are fully entitled to dress up in millenia-old traditional make-up to entertain the visitors, should they wish to.

I fully agree. Likewise I believe that the 'nutters are equally entitled to dress up in centuries old traditional make-up to entertain visitors, should they wish to. The difference is only in the time periods involved. Do we really know that the Australian tradition is millennia old BTW? Was it cave paintings or some such? If so, then, there are plenty other cave paintings from around the world that show painted people. Maybe it is in our genetic make up? (Pun intended)

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 05:16 AM

Just had another thought. probably had it before but the old memory ain't what it used to be :-S Even if, and I think it is a big if, someone from Bacup had witnessed US minstrelsy or a US minstrel troupe or a UK based copy had performed in black face in Bacup prior to 1857, I doubt very much if the locals would have seen it as poking fun at black people. I doubt that they had seen many black people let alone had decided that they were in some way inferior. As I said - Just a thought.

D.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 05:21 AM

Not so sure about that one, Dave. The Victorians were great evangelists, and viewed the Black Ungodly with an enormous urge to civilise and convert them. They went everywhere around the world with this fervour and seemed to see all other races as inferior and in need of our superior intervention. They were IMO racist to a huge degree!


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 05:28 AM

Thanks Dave, BTW I loved your story about the young black student:"Makes sense. Most white men really want to be black." Still cracks me up now :-).

Now to quote yourself Dave:
"My considered opinion, and bear in mind that this is all it is, is that the 'nutters did black up for some reason unbeknown to any of us."

I can't really argue with that - and don't wish to.

But it does seem clear that popular entertainment in urban areas, and parts of Lancashire were such, were affected by trends in music halls and such like.Lancashire also has a long a detailed history of carnivals, fetes and so on which have revealed a lot of history of Northwest Morris.

The Border Morris was clearly affected by Minstrelsy:

A quote from the another thread about Blackface here on Mudcat, from Dave Hunt:

'A version of the 'A' part of the tune is also used for the tune known as 'Clee Hill' as collected from Dennis Crowther who is from that area, which is not far from Ludlow in South Shropshire. The tune was used by the morris/molly dancers from Clee Hill area and in 'pre-PC' days was known as 'The niggerin' tune' as the dancers went out with blacked-up faces and called it 'Goin' out a-niggerin' The use of the term molly instead of morris,was common in Shropshire and I have met people who remembers 'Going out molly-dancing' in East Shropshire in the 1930s-40s '

And I can add from my own experience. A friend of mine grew up in Hume in Manchester in the 1950s and tells me she "went out n*ggerin" - effectivel going from door to door in somekind of dress up and collecting money.

Can I suggest that those who deny the link with Minstrelsy are committing the unforgivable folk crime: Ignoring the roots of a tradition?


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Jack Campin
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 05:32 AM

In many cultures dancers "white up" to represent spirits or the dead. Maybe a similar meaning is behind this?

The spelling in the thread title suggested "Bacup Neuters" to me. Beardless dancers with pairs of leathery ovoid clackers.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 05:40 AM

To be honest, having watched the Bacup Nutters on YouTube loads of times, I reckon it was created just for a bit of fun. The dance is really very funny, and to my eyes not in the least 'traditional'. The costumes and movements actually remind me of those tin automaton wind-up monkeys dressed as black men and wearing a fez, with a coconut shell in each hand. I'm now wondering exactly how many complaints from actual black people they've received? (ie not 'on behalf of' but directly.)


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 05:54 AM

Thanks Eliza that's most inciteful:

"The costumes and movements actually remind me of those tin automaton wind-up monkeys dressed as black men and wearing a fez, with a coconut shell in each hand."

Such music hall acts and related activities mocked black people - and that lies at the root of the concern that some of us have.

And as for:

"The dance is really very funny, and to my eyes not in the least 'traditional'"

If the 'serious' BCND defenders read this you may have to join a witness protection scheme.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 05:56 AM

"are equally entitled to dress up in centuries old traditional make-up to entertain visitors"
It would appear that this particular tradition is not "centuries old" and possibly had its roots in those "good ol' slavery days" - it certainly seems to be contemporary with the mid-19th century when North and South were slogging it out on the other side of the pond.
Eliza's point is spot on too - I was still being taught about 'the white man's burden' and singing hymns telling us that to be foreign was to be "in error's chain" when I started school.
As I said - sensitivity and awareness does it.
The problem with all this, of course, is that lack of sensitivity can lead to over-sensitivity.
I'm still sad about the number of good songs we lost when over-zealous feminists decided to clean out the folk song Augian stable, when a deftly applied bit of flyting might have done the trick
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 05:56 AM

It's worth pointing out that no legal body has suggested that the Bacup Nutters should not be allowed to continue their practice: nobody with any power has suggested they've contravened the race relations act.

However, I do think it's a BIT of a shame that they don't have, say, anything on their website stating unequivocally that they have no affinity with or for the derogatory practices of blackface minstrelcy.

That would go a long way to keeping a lid on this controversy. They have some info on their origins, but the references to Moorish pirates don't exactly do them any favours from a race-impersonation point of view. It wouldn't take much for them just to make a few things plain, to at least acknowledge that there is something that needs stating here.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 06:08 AM

Thanks Matt - I am all for getting the lid off and getting at the true history.

As for 'Border'
They dance dances they have made up, to tunes that were almost certainly never used for morris and on instruments sometimes invented in the 20C. They wear costumes sometimes unrelated to the custom they claim to be reviving. But they hang on to the bit of tradition that has one foot in 19C music hall racism.

The thing is BCND are a living tradition - inlike aboy 90 odd percent of Morris sides - can't they live a bit and paint their faces a number of coolours? Wouldn't that be less anti-tarditional than refusing to aknowledge their relationship to Minstrelsy?


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 06:36 AM

yeah, I wondered the same thing - it'd put a whole different complexion (no pun intended) on the thing if they painted their faces blue...

By 'keeping the lid on', I just meant from their perspective really. I think it would go a long way to taking the edge off accusations of racism if their website said in no uncertain terms that the practice today has nothing to do with the impersonation of race, and that, today, any connections with blackface minstrelcy are unfortunate, regrettable and tangential.

I know one person (who happens to be black) who would say that the Nutters' face-paint is racist irrespective of their own motives or origins. He would say that they are referencing blackface minstrelcy whether or not they intend to: their indifference to a historical change of circumstances, to the changed symbolism of their actions, is racist.

Or, to put it another way, it's all very well saying that the swastika is a symbol of the goddess Lakshmi, featured in centuries-old Hindu, Jain and Buddhist tradition, but you shouldn't be surprised if everyone assumes you're a neo-nazi if you have one tattooed on your neck.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 06:43 AM

It would appear that this particular tradition is not "centuries old"

Sorry, Jim, but I must disagree with you there. 1857-2014 = 157 years. Just over 1.5 centuries. Surely our definition of century is not different is it?

Les - You are quite right of course. Denying origins is as bad as making them up. The trouble here is that, at the risk of repeating myself, no-one really knows the origins. Anyone that claims categorically that it stems from Moorish pirates, fertility rituals or imitating minstrelsy is probably wrong. Not necessarily in what they are saying, but in saying it is unequivocal. I think it is pretty much like the theory of evolution. But let's not go there!

Out of interest, do you know Eddie Cass? Folklorist and expert in all things to do with Lancashire, and other, traditions? Without giving away any secrets he is not far from you at all and is very approachable. If you don't know him and need an introduction just let me know.

Matt - Exceptionally good point. Education, communication and understanding. The way forward :-)

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: TheSnail
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 06:49 AM

Jim Carroll
it isn't too long ago that the good people of Lewes were burning a caravan full of 'Pikeys' at their annual bonfire festival.

A rather neat metaphor for anti-Islamic prejudice starting with a total disregard of the facts. Why is condemning "the good people of Lewes" in their entirety for the misjudged actions of a few people in a village five miles away* any different from condemning Islam in its entirety for the actions of the extremists?

*They had their reasons which you could find out if you were genuinely interested.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 06:52 AM

I was refering to your point about putting something on the web site BTW, Matt, not your last post. Interesting that you have put if they painted their faces blue... on your last one though. I am pretty sure that someone would take offense at that. Maybe a close relative had just gone blue before dying of a lung or heart complaint?

Well, OK, that is partly jocular but I am pretty sure it would not be long before it is mentioned so I thought I would get it in first!

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,Morris-ey
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 06:54 AM

Matt - I don't think the Nutters saying "we're not racist" would an iota of difference because those who choose to believe they are would not believe it and most other people proably don't care.

Les, racism as a concept did not exist in the 19th century so judging from a modern perspective is, imho, nugatory.

Lastly, I doubt many blackface morris know or care about minstrelsy and anyway why should they not appear as they wish.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 07:12 AM

"Why is condemning "the good people of Lewes""
I wasn't condemning them Brian - I was commenting on how innocent enjoyment can be hi-jacked for malicious purposes
Whatever their "reasons" might be, there can be no conceivable excuse for ritually burning a family of Travellers - it's something that happens all-too-often in real life.
Despite the fact I am an atheist, I feel exactly the same about fire festivals where effigies of the Pope are burned too - that doesn't happen in Lewes, does it?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 07:32 AM

What about effigies of Guy Fawkes?


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 07:43 AM

"What about effigies of Guy Fawkes?"
Now there is a centuries old tradition which originated around an act of terrorism - another facile analogy.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 08:10 AM

a centuries old tradition which originated around an act of terrorism

Was he a terrorist or a freedom fighter? I guess we are not straying too far from the point here. When does a tradition become acceptable? Why is acceptable to burn an effigy of a Catholic every November but not to do some other things? We used to black up for the Abram Pace Egg play every year, which as per discussion, may or may not be offensive. But is it also offensive that St George kills the King of Egypt's son?

Not arguing. Just developing :-)

D.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: GUEST,Dazbo at work
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 08:31 AM

Les, the quote "and called it 'Goin' out a-niggerin'". Doesn't necessarily mean it came from the minstrel tradition. Hoover didn't invent the vacuum cleaner but nearly everyone in this country calls them hoovers. It could be that this term was originally used as an insult which was then appropriated by the objects of the insult.

I tend to support the theory of blacking up originating as a disguise rather than as anything else (although it's not uncommon for something to have more than one element in its origin). Having painted up for morris and seen plenty of other teams white people with black face paint are a lot harder to recognise than if they wear other colours such as blue, green, red or white.


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Subject: RE: Bacup Nuters and Racism
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Apr 14 - 08:50 AM

"When does a tradition become acceptable?"
I think this is an extremely relevant point
I thing when it out-lives its original purpose and when that purpose is no longer offensive.
We used to crowd into King George's Park every year to see the bonfire along with Catholics, Prods, Muslims, Jews.... none of them taking offence, or even being aware of why the ceremony started - a wonderful get-together for the people of Wandsworth.
Not sure whet would have happened if the feller in the fire had been the Pope - or a Traveller (the park was 200 yards away from London's oldest Traveller site.)
Burning the Pope would certainly help oil the wheels for a permanent settlement in Northern Ireland at this time, wouldn't it.
We have the effects of another good ol' traditional ceremony to cope with here in Ireland, come the second week in July - look forward to it no end!
I'm sure there are those who would be happy to turn up for some of the old-time traditional customs of bull-baiting or dog fighting - or paying their penny to taunt the 'lunatics' at Moorfields, were they allowed to.
Good-days, eh?
Jim Carroll


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