Britannia Coconut Dancers Win

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.

Britannia Coconut Dancers

The Bacup Coconutters

The Britannia Coconut Dancers, based in Bacup, claim they are being forced to send volunteers on training courses costing them more than £600 — to learn how to operate a road sign. The group, which donates all of its proceeds to charity, also has to pay £1,000 road closure fees for the first time after police said they would no longer man rolling roadblocks. The Nutters’ boundary-to-boundary dance traditionally takes place on Easter Saturday over a 12 hour period, taking in various pubs and locations in the town. Instead of stewards using hand signals to control traffic, the Nutters have been asked by Lancashire County Council to send at least three members on a health and safety course to learn how to use manually-operated stop and go signs. Secretary Joe Healey said: “We have sought legal advice and consulted with The Morris Ring and we believe our procession is exempt from the legislation. It’s not really fair. Time is running short now and all of our volunteers, the caretakers of our tradition, don’t know if it’s going to ahead.”

Daniel Herbert, head of local network management at Lancashire County Council, said: “Until last year, the police provided support for stewarding the event. However, as the police are no longer able to do this, the Britannia Coconutters will have to apply for the road to be closed and to provide appropriately trained stewards.” Officers from the county council, Rossendale Council and the police met with the dancers last August and explained what they would need to do for the event to go ahead. “The road closure is being funded by local county councillors but have asked in return that the organisers provide and pay for stewards.”

“Discussions are continuing.”

You can read more in the Lancashire Telegraph. It has even been covered by the Daily Mail.