What police budget cuts could lead to – illegal Morris dancing
David Cameron has been warned many times of the risks involved in cutting police budgets, but one possible consequence that I don’t think any minister has taken into consideration is there might be outbreak of illegal Morris Dancing.
Since time immemorial, the Britannia Coconut Dancers of Bacup, in Lancashire, have set out on Easter Saturday for a ritual dance around the town, with their faces blacked-up, and dressed in turbans, red and white kilts and clogs. Why they do this, nobody can remember. The blackened faces may be a survival of some pagan ritual, whose purpose was to protect the dancers’ identities, or it may arise from Bacup’s location in the old Lancashire coalfield. Some people think that the dances were introduced by Moorish pirates who settled in Cornwall, picked up mining skills, and took them north to Lancashire. That would explain the weird costumes.
The dancers have always been accompanied by a light police presence, to stop the traffic and prevent accidents, but this year Lancashire police are having to cut their budget by £60 million, and have said they cannot supply the manpower. There is now an unresolved dispute between the dancers and Lancashire County Council over how the event is to be safely stewarded.
Joe Healey, who organises the ‘Nutters’, is hoping it can be resolved, but fears there could be a confrontation.
He says: “All the lads are saying ‘We’re talking this right to the wire: at 9 am on Easter Saturday we’re going to turn up in costume, blacked up and ready, come what may.’ I say ‘Let’s see how developments come through before we start being rash.’ But it’s tradition. It’s been passed down from father to son. There’s a lot of passion about it.
“The scenario that worries me is that the lads arrive, and it’s straight down to the police station – that would be quite a red-faced situation for the authority, the town council and everyone in general.”
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