Minstrels ordered to stop 'blacking up'

A TRADITION of white performers "blacking up" to perform a Black and White Minstrels stage show has been brought to an end after council leaders stepped in.

Angus Council feared that the show could spur legal action for "portraying racial stereotyping". The group has also changed its name to the Angus Minstrels.

The Angus Black and White Minstrels have been performing at the council-owned and operated Webster Theatre in Arbroath for 45 years.

This year's annual show, which started last Tuesday and runs until this Saturday, is the first time that there will be no painted black faces on stage. Garry Mitchell, of the Angus Minstrels, said a meeting was requested by the head of cultural services for Angus Council.

Mr Mitchell said: "I knew the various points which were likely to be raised - the main ones being the blackening of the faces and the name, 'Angus Black and White Minstrels'.

"At the meeting, it was stated that a complaint about blackening up and the 'Black and White' name had been received by Angus Council.

"The council's position was that they had a duty to ensure that various issues on racial equality were adhered to."

Sandy McFarlane, who was the last production manager of the original Black and White Minstrel Show, which was shown on the BBC from 1958 to 1978, was "saddened" to hear of the decision. He said the Angus group represented a harmless form of entertainment which had been "hounded out of existence" by political correctness.

Mr McFarlane, who is now retired and lives in Perth, said: "I think it's a great shame as it is a part of a cultural tradition that goes back many, many years.

"I have always thought the suggestion that we, or the Arbroath group, offended black people to be a load of rubbish - it always seemed to be white people who were most vocal in complaining about us."

However, Edwina Barraclough, the co-producer of the show, said she was surprised that they had "got away with blackening up" for so long. She said: "On TV and in other areas, performers had to stop putting on black faces many years ago.

"If the act of blacking up is deemed offensive to black people then it is right that it should be stopped."

A spokeswoman for the council confirmed the group would no longer be blacking up.

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