Parliament bans ale with ‘black-faced’ dancers on label6th May, 2014 by Lauren Eads
An ale featuring ‘black-faced’ Morris dancers on its label has been banned from the House of Commons amid fear it might cause offence.
Having been asked to put forward a guest ale from his constituency to be served in the Strangers Bar in the Palace of Westminister, MP Jake Berry called on the Rossendale brewery in Lancashire to craft a beer in tribute to the Britannia Coconut Dancers, according to a report by The Burnley and Pendle Citizen.
The group have been performing since 1857 with blacked faces to celebrate the area’s mining heritage – imagery which appeared on the pale ale’s label.
However their black faces sparked alarm with Parliamentary chiefs who banned the beer for fear that the imagery “may have caused offence.”
The Coconutters defended the label saying their traditional black make-up, turbans, kilts and clogs were a celebration of Lancashire’s mining heritage.
Joe Healey, the Coconutters secretary, told the paper: “I don’t understand the furore. Some people make caustic comments without understanding the tradition. After recent comments made about us, I felt compelled to go back through our history, and there is no racial element whatsoever.
“There is no mention of race or ethnicity. Researchers from Sheffield University have done the same, and come to the same conclusion.”
Following the controversy, the image of the Coconutters was removed and replaced it with the Bacup crest, which will accompany the ale in the Strangers Bar.
MP Jake Berry said: “We thought of several names, but as the boundary dance was saved earlier this year, I thought it would be a fitting tribute to name the beer after the Britannia Coconutters, to celebrate their huge contribution to traditional dancing and their charity work across Rossendale.
“The House of Commons authorities did not feel that this would comply with the strict rules they have regarding the naming of guest beers and requested us to choose one of our alternative suggestions.
“I’m disappointed in the House of Commons Authorities decision. People who live in London obviously have no understanding about our Lancashire traditions.”
A spokesman for the House of Commons said: “The ale offered was not acceptable as the imagery proposed to be used in connection with sales may have caused offence.”