Please Note that an Ordinary Motion Requires MORE VOTES FOR THAN AGAINST to be CARRIED
Ordinary Motion 2
Proposed by The Acid Morris and seconded by Beorma Morris
Whereas we agree that the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement means that the Morris community, being practitioners of a living tradition, must adapt and evolve to reflect progressive changes in wider society;
Whereas we note that in the OM Equality Policy, OM ‘commits to creating an environment free of bullying, harassment, victimisation and unlawful discrimination’, we believe that this means that people from all races, backgrounds and identities must actively be made to feel welcome to observe or participate in Morris dancing in order to ‘ensure that Morris Dancing and allied activities may be enjoyed by anyone who wishes to participate or spectate’;
Whereas we note the principle in the OM Equality Policy to ‘encourage equality and diversity in our members’, and are conscious that greater representation of underrepresented groups is a key factor in encouraging and increasing interest and participation in any activity;
Whereas we must regretfully note our awareness of racist comments and attitudes in the Morris community, and believe that it behoves this AGM to remind OM that members are ‘responsible for ensuring they adhere to the principles’ of the Equality Policy and ‘are responsible for assisting OM in preventing’ ‘bullying, harassment, victimisation and unlawful discrimination’;
We propose the following Ordinary Motion:
Ordinary Motion 2:
The AGM resolves that sides who do not take proactive steps to diversify the membership and the venues in which their side performs will be in breach of the Equality Policy of the OM Constitution and will not be accepted as members at the 2021 renewal and thereafter.
Committee Response to Ordinary Motion 2
The OM Committee advise against adopting this motion.
Whilst we would encourage active diversification and proactive outreach from teams, we recognise that placing such an burden on teams, many of whom struggle to recruit, or operate in areas where a diverse population is unavailable to them as target audience, is unrealistic, and the enforcement of this motion could lead to teams folding or leaving OM. We also recognise that many teams within OM are doing well and making strides in this area and we feel that the motion undermines progress which has been made up to this point. We fully recognise such active diversification as necessary to the future of Morris, and as good practice, but we believe that the Morris world as a whole, which is already under considerable threat from the pandemic, is not currently well equipped to deal with the requirements of such a motion.
There is no structure or insight given in the motion as to how such a requirement might be implemented. Open Morris has neither the resources nor the mandate to police the recruitment or performance locations of all member teams, and the OM Committee feel that this makes the motion unviable.
The motion is also at odds with Constitution 2) f) which states ‘…OM will not accept or support any proposal that will interfere with the internal policies or practices of any Member Side.’ In placing a requirement for action upon teams within the organisation, this motion would contravene that part of the Constitution.
Supporting Document Regarding Diversity Received 25 November 2020
A Few Suggestions for Ethnic Diversity In Morris
Please note, these are only suggestions and they relate to ethnic diversity, although some may also be applicable to diversity in other areas. This is not because diversity elsewhere is unimportant but because this is my area of expertise and it was what I was asked for.
• There are around 1500 mosques in Britain, 454 synagogues, 300 mandirs (Hindu temples), and about the same number of gurdwaras (Sikh temples) as well as a bewildering array of other religious and cultural organisations, spread all over the country. You could make contact with some of these, local to you, introduce yourselves and offer your services.
• There is a list of religious festivals here https://www.interfaith.org.uk/resources/religious-festivals and here https://www.reonline.org.uk/festival-calendar/.
• You could always link seasonal dance outs to more than one festival, e.g. Bonfire Night/Samhain/Halloween with Diwali. Bear in mind that because the Islamic calendar is lunar rather than solar the date of the two Eids (Adha and Fitr) change year by year. In the lifetime of an individual they will process through the whole year.
• Many religious festivals are celebrated by specific celebrations, e.g. Eid melas, for which organisers are often looking for “entertainment”. These can be a good opportunity for you to offer your services, spread the word of Morris, and maybe even recruit.
• As well as specifically religious groups across the country there are thousands of national and cultural groups and institutions, some large, some tiny. Some cultural groups, e.g. Chinese/Taiwanese/Hong Kongers who do not identify through religious institutions, can be contacted through these national, regional or cultural organisations who often have events to celebrate, e.g. independence days, national holidays or other festivals. Make contact! Offer to dance!
• A little goes a long way and this is true of language. Just a few words on advertising, recruitment posters or flyers in another script: “Join us”, “Welcome”, etc, can have a big effect. The inclusion of just a few words in another script may also have the effect of putting off any infiltration by right wing political groups about which people were worried. All translations and scripts are readily available via Google, and there are undoubtedly resources on the various Morris Facebook groups that can be tapped for specific advice.
• Similarly when the announcer, fool or whiffler introduces you to the audience why not throw a “Shalom”, “As salaam alaikum” or “Ni hao” in there; and maybe work up another few phrases. It is all available via Google. Most things are.
• By the same token, the front person can also ensure that they routinely tell the audience that the side always welcomes new musicians of any shape, size, colour, creed, etc (you may want to add more to the list), and that the only criterion for dancers is a love of dancing. You can be even more welcoming by adding how to get in contact, and when and where the regular practice is. Side members engaging in conversation with audience members can also mention these things in response to any glimmer of possible interest.
• If you already have some multicultural links of any kind, it would be worth mentioning those too while you’re either announcing or chatting to the audience, e.g. you’ve taught Morris at this or that local school (and maybe there were some really good dancers), or you’ve performed at a local Mela, etc.
• If you’re dancing for a particular festival, e.g. May Day, solstice, wassail, etc, you can also point out parallels from other traditions; everyone whose climate has seasons marks the changes in some way (and those who don’t have festivals anyway). It just shows that you’re interested in making cross-cultural connections, and again it can all be googled, or you can ask on Facebook.
• If you write your own dances, or if you want to start, you could consider incorporating a move from another dance tradition, and then tell the audience that you’ve done so. You could also point out to the audience that Morris is not only a distinctive tradition but also an evolving one, and that historically it borrowed from other countries and cultures.
• Amongst Moslems, and to a lesser extent Sikhs and Hindus, if there is a perception of Morris dancing then it is associated with heavy drinking. I have spoken to Moslem friends who have expressed great interest in joining a side but dismiss it because of the emphasis on alcohol. You may want to think about this and while there is no easy solution, exhortations like “Do You Love Beer? You Will Love Morris” are at best offputting. If your side only dance in and outside pubs you will only ever recruit the sort of people who one finds in and outside pubs.
• There are plenty of online sites which detail the needs and practices of different religious and cultural groups, e.g. some of the NHS pages, and there is more advice here https://www.interfaith.org.uk/resources/building-good-relations-with-people-ofdifferent-faiths-and-beliefs. It is also important to remember that members of particular religious and cultural groups are not all “of a piece”, there are wide differences within every general grouping, e.g. some Moslems do eschew dancing, as indeed do some Christians, but many, e.g. Sufis, use it as part of worship.
• The hardest part of this process is tackling racism among the members of one’s own side, and challenging overtly racist behaviour and statements. No one is perfect and people do “misspeak”, but sides may want to think long and hard about allowing membership to those who deliberately continue to make racist comments. The above are just a few suggestions. I am sure that others have equally good if not better ideas. Remember too that for some sides, i.e. those few who only recruit from the residents of one village, advice on recruitment is moot. Ultimately, a little goes a long way and with just a bit of thought we can be more welcoming and open to a much wider ethnic mix. Morris is English culture: that is, it is the culture of a multiracial, multiethnic country, and if we do not seek the support of ALL groups in England then Morris will wither and die. If you have any questions or need help then there are sides with some expertise in this area who are ready and willing to help. Beorma Morris for one. Good luck and … KEEP DANCING.
Naomi Standen (Acid Morris) Tony Roberts Beorma Morris Birmingham