The founding National Association of Morris and Sword Dance Clubs

Notice to Membership re use of black face make-up

Notice to Membership re use of black face make-up

Note to Morris Ring sides on the use of black face paint in Morris as issued in March 2020.

Many of you will be aware of past and recent media coverage regarding this topic and the continued questions that are raised by the public and the media about its use.

Whatever your view on its history or place in traditional dance, Morris sides who use black face paint must be prepared to address concerns raised with them. 

The Morris Ring is not a regulator and does not and never has instructed sides on what they should do. 

However based on sides’ experiences who have met with difficulties, sides using black face paint should consider carefully the following points and have a clear position on them:- 

  1.        Why does your side use black face paint?
  2.        If for disguise, why use that rather than other colours/masks etc?
  3.        Have you researched the historical use of black face paint?
  4.        Are you prepared as a side to accept limitations on where you can dance? (for example some events may not invite such sides, some locations may not permit you to dance)
  5.        How do you explain its use to your audience?
  6.        How would you deal with confrontation/challenge when performing to keep your members safe?
  7.        How would you deal with a legal challenge?

This list is not exhaustive but sets out issues that urgently need to be debated and agreed internally by sides using black face paint, if they have not already done so.

Such sides should also be aware that the JMO Public Liability insurance policy does not extend to defending legal action for Harassment under the Equality Act.  Also that the Morris Ring would not be able to offer financial support to a member side in such circumstances.

Jon Melville
Bagman of the Morris Ring
bagman [at] themorrisring [dot] org