A Statement from the Open Morris Committee:
We are living through extraordinary times in so many ways. Covid-19 is changing the world unpredictably. Who could have predicted that the 2020 dancing season would be cancelled?Another significant worldwide event that has an impact on the Morris world is the Black Lives Matter movement. All public institutions are under scrutiny regarding unintended racism and we cannot stand outside society. This has led the Officers of the Joint Morris Organisations (JMO), comprising Officers of The Morris Federation, The Morris Ring, and Open Morris, to issue the following statement:
Our traditions do not operate in a vacuum. While no morris dancer wants to cause offence, we must recognise that full face black or other skin tone makeup is a practice that has the potential to cause deep hurt.
Morris is a living tradition and it is right that it has always adapted and evolved to reflect society. Over the past few years, many morris teams have already proactively taken the decision to stop using full face black makeup to avoid causing offence or hurt. We now believe we must take further steps to ensure the continued relevance and inclusivity of the tradition.
The Joint Morris Organisations (The Morris Federation, The Morris Ring, and Open Morris) have therefore agreed that each of them will take action to eliminate this practice from their membership. Teams that continue to use full face black or other skin tone make up will find they are no longer part of the mainstream morris community, be covered by JMO public liability insurance, or invited to take part in events organised or sponsored by the JMO.
Morris is a unique cultural tradition of which we should be rightly proud. We want people from all races and backgrounds to share in this pride and not be made to feel unwelcome or uncomfortable by any element of a performance.
Joint Morris Organisations, comprising The Morris Federation, The Morris Ring and Open Morris
3rd July 2020
The Open Morris Committee believes that these steps are necessary to safeguard the future of the vibrant inclusive Morris culture that we all love so dearly.
The Open Morris Committee will present a formal motion to bring these measures into effect at our next AGM on Sunday November 29th. In the meantime, we would like to invite teams to engage with us about the issues and we would like to offer practical help and support to those teams and our friends within them who are affected by this decision.
We believe that this issue will soon be highlighted in the media, and we urge Open Morris members to be aware of the wider issues and use extreme caution when engaging with the press or using social media. There have recently been attempts to use our traditions to further a political agenda, a development we certainly do not support.
We look forward to opening a dialogue with those affected.