In a follow up to our report at the beginning of February, we are delighted to announce that common sense has prevailed.
For the last 156 years the Britannia Coconut Dancers have blackened their faces and donned skirts for their annual dance through the Lancashire town of Bacup to ward off evil spirits in a tradition recalling the area’s mining history.
But the group, which has raised money for local charities and appeared in a string of television shows, ran into problems when Rossendale Council in Lancashire ordered it to pay £1,600 towards new safety measures.
Failure to pay would result in the cancellation of their Easter Saturday parade event, they were told.
Council officials asked the troupe to pay £600 to send three volunteers on a training course to use hand signals to control traffic, as well as £1,000 for road closures.
Previously police had put rolling road blocks in place.
After taking legal advice, the group refused to pay and vowed to proceed with the event with or without the co-operation of the local authorities.
Following a month-long stand-off, the authorities have now backed down.
Council officials agreed to pay for road closures in the form of local government grants, while Lancashire Police agreed to send officers to patrol the event.
Joe Healey, who has been secretary of the troupe known as the Nutters for 17 years, said: “We were intially told that although the police respected the tradition and community intentions of the event, it could not be policed due to cutbacks in officer numbers and financial restraints.
“After some struggle, we have accepted the conditions and discussed the particulars at length with police. No volunteers from the group will have to attend the training course as police will be looking after pedestrians.
“Thankfully the community and councillors have gone to great effort and we will be able to afford that now. We’re delighted to have reached a positive conclusion with the blessing of all the authorities. I’m just glad common sense has prevailed now.”
The Nutters’ dance traditionally takes place on Easter Saturday over a 12-hour period, taking in various pubs and locations in Bacup.
Around 800 dancers and spectators are expected to turn out for this year’s event on March 30, including a group of 25 tourists from Finland.