Historical Scottish festival bans blackface at fancy-dress parade

Blackface make-up is to be outlawed at a historical Scottish festival’s fancy-dress parade.

The Beltane Festival in Peebles, in the Scottish Borders, has barred participants from wearing costumes with racist undertones, starting next year.

The week-long festival dates back 123 years, and has been cancelled this year due to coronavirus.

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No formal complaints have been made about blackface make-up taking place over the past couple of years, however allegations have been made on social media - sparking the ban.

Participants get into the swing of things dressed as the Spice Girls at the Beltane Festival in Peebles, which has banned blackface and 'racist' costumes in its fancy-dress parade

Organisers brought in the rule, which will be implemented next year, after being “appalled and saddened at the senseless acts of inhumanity” taking place around the world in recent days.

In a statement, the organisers said: “We have recently been asked to review cultural misappropriation of costumes and the use of make-up that adjusts ethnicity.

“We have also been asked to review the blackening of faces and skin that has been reported as part of the Friday fancy-dress competition and parade.

“We can confirm that the committee has not, and will never, condone or tolerate anyone taking part in our fancy-dress competition and parade who has blackened their face.

“Each year the traditional Friday-night fancy-dress parade is followed the next morning by a procession of over 500 children in costume ranging from fairies, sailors and soldiers to mice, archers and representatives of foreign lands to start the town’s red letter day proceedings.

“The costumes and use of make-up to adjust ethnicity will be addressed.

“Meanwhile, guidance pertaining to the fancy-dress competition and parade, together with other entertainment on the Friday evening, will be strengthened with clear guidance on the use of make-up to ensure racist tones do not exist.”

The statement added that specialist legal advice on equality matters is also being sought in an effort to ensure no offence is caused at future festivals.

It also pointed out that the committee has not been sent any formal complaints but has been made aware of aspersions being cast via social media.

It added: “Not one complaint has been received in regards to racism after last year’s or the previous year’s festival.

“In addition, not one complaint was raised at the recent annual general meeting about racism.

“We were therefore disappointed that people felt the need to discuss this matter online rather than approach the committee in the first instance.

“We will, however, take this on board moving forward.

“As a community, it is in our best interest to work together and resolve disputes rather than create division and disperse false information.

“The committee is willing to work with anyone for the good of the festival and ensure we continue to put on a great show for the generations to come.”

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