Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Morris Minors

I take one day off and David Cameron starts hanging around with morris dancers. Frankly, I was hoping that morris dancing was one area that could remain safe from the manipulation of politics - at least, until the arts council gives it some cash - but the inevitable argument happened. 

Blackface, as folk historians will relate at length, has a different narrative in the UK. While it is associated with the minstrel show in the USA (a rather racist strand of musical that had both black and white performers parodying African-American culture), the black-face of the morris dancer (in Molly and Border traditions) is presumed to be a disguise. 

I read somewhere, in an ambitious history, that this goes back to the Luddites, who would dress up in women's clothing and black up so that no-one recognised them when they smashed up machinery.

The Molly dancers had a habit of turning up at the local lord's house and threatening to plough up his garden if he didn't pay for a song and a dance. They were so disreputable that the establishment pretended that Molly dancing didn't exist for a long time.

I am fascinated by how this became a story - to be honest, I enjoy David Cameron baiting, but moaning at him for hanging out with morris dancers is low on his list of objectionable behaviours. Compared to, say, preparing the National Health for asset stripping, the whole 'is this a bit racist?' discussion is pretty trivial, and a chance for real racists to bemoan political correctness and leftists to looked pleased and pretend that Cameron is a racist rather than a politician who seems to be so out of touch with the public that he thought coming to Scotland in the last week of the Referendum was going to convince people that he cared about them.

I'm disappointed in the morris dancers. They were in camouflage - if that is the point of blackface - and had sticks. I'm sure that they could have encouraged Dave to explain a few of his less compassionate policies, or where he stands on environmentalism (a matter he seems a bit confused about). Instead, they got stuck in a row that allows everyone everything they want: little Englanders to complain that no-one cares about English culture, Guardian journalists to stir up a fuss and then lecture their readers on history...

I seem to remember the folk music movement being radical, once upon a time. 

No comments :

Post a Comment