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The group's secretary Jonathan Hyams,
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Datum: 12 January, 2019 07:25

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LONDON, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- Organizers of one of Britain's biggest folk festivals announced Thursday that this year's event will be the last to feature an age-old tradition of dancers blacking their faces.

The four-day Shrewsbury Folk Festival, which starts Friday in Shrewsbury, heart of the English county bordering neighboring Wales, will for the last time allow dancers to wear full-face black make-up.

It follows the threat of legal action from a Shrewsbury-based equality group who complained about the practice of white dancers blacking their faces.

The dancers are part of an old English tradition of Morris Dance that traces its roots back almost 600 years, and is still followed in many counties across the country.

Border Morris is practiced by dancers from counties adjoining the Welsh border, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, and it is among this community of folk dancers that the tradition of black faces has been customary.

But the organizers of the Shrewsbury Folk Festival says from next year there will be no Morris dancing allowed with dancers blacking their full faces.

A spokeswoman for the festival said Thursday: "After last year's festival, the festival was accused of racial harassment and threatened with legal action by an organization called Fresh (Fairness and Racial Equality in Shropshire) following performances by Morris sides (dancers) wearing full face black make up in the town center."

The festival finds itself caught between two sides of this opposing argument and believes this is a national issue that should not be focused solely on Shropshire Folk Festival.

"The use of full face black make up is an age old tradition, particularly within Border Morris. The Morris movement has always evolved over time and some sides have made their own decisions to move away from using full face black make up towards other forms of color and disguise," she added.

"We are aware that is an emotive issue and it is not a decision we have made without a great deal of thought but we have taken our lead from the Morris teams who have already changed their disguises," the spokeswoman stated.

This will only impact on a very small number of dance sides and festival visitors will still be able to enjoy a diverse range of traditional dance from Britain and beyond including Border Morris.

Fresh told local media the ban showed sensitivity "to a changed social climate."

The group's secretary Jonathan Hyams, told the Shropshire Star newspaper: "We entirely understand the argument from Morris dancing communities that this is something that goes back to tradition. However, there are other ways of celebrating this other than blacking up, which has very strong connotations of racism and while it was a tradition, it could be seen as offensive by some."

Blacked-out faces have long been linked with slavery and racism, and until the late 20th century in stage and television programs often featuring minstrel singers and dancers, usually white people with their faces painted black.

In Shropshire, the tradition

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