The founding National Association of Morris and Sword Dance Clubs

What do you mean by “full face black or other skin tone makeup?”

What do you mean by “full face black or other skin tone makeup?”

Any solid full face coloured make up which could be taken by an observer as likely to imitate or parody a skin colour different from your own.  ‘Make up’ is used here as a general term to mean any kind of stage make up, face paint, soot, charcoal, or similar.

Although we acknowledge that our member teams are not intentionally racist, this practice has long been associated with making fun of other races, through the portrayal of memes and stereotypes.  Since these historical portrayals most often used “blacking” of various sorts, full face black make up is now irrevocably associated with giving offence. It does not matter that it is not meant in that way.  It is the effect on others – not the intent – which could give rise to a legal challenge for racial harassment under the Equality Act.

The key words are “solid” and “full face”. If you want black to be part of your makeup or disguise, that is fine.  If you want to use only black, including smudgy or streaky designs, that is fine too – just keep it to less than half of the visible skin on your face.  Obvious patterns and designs are also a good way of using black without the potential to cause problems.  If you want to use a mask or face covering, please make sure that it doesn’t imitate full face black or other skin tone.

We want teams to honour the spirit of the request, not to worry about the minutiae of what is and is not allowed.

In short, we are asking teams to work with us on this matter, to help protect themselves and their fellow member teams from unintended problems. Please contact your Area Rep or a Ring Officer to discuss.


Jon Melville
Bagman of the Morris Ring
bagman [at] themorrisring [dot] org ()
02476 345543