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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006, 19:06 GMT
MP calls for 'Darkie Day' to stop
Darkie Days. Courtesy South West News Service
Darkie Day: Organisers have amended some songs
Britain's first black woman MP has reopened the long running row over Cornwall's controversial "Darkie Day".

Diane Abbott wants ministers to stop the annual festival in Padstow which dates back more than 100 years.

She has tabled a Commons motion calling on the government to discourage it from ever happening again.

Locals have always insisted the event was never intended to be racist, but it is now known as "Mummers Day" rather than "Darkie Day" after complaints.

Organisers have also amended some songs and costumes to try to avoid offence during the festival which runs between Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

Some still black their faces and that is said to be part of folk minstrel tradition.

I don't think we should be picking on Padstow
MP Dan Rogerson

But Ms Abbott claims the changes are not enough.

She said: "A lot of people don't know it goes on, but when they find out about it they are quite shocked.

"A number of MPs have signed my motion because they think it is not appropriate in modern Britain."

But local MP Dan Rogerson hit back.

"It is not something local people have objected to," he said.

"The tradition of blacking up is a very old one. It is not something that comes from Padstow, but around the rest of England and I don't think we should be picking on Padstow."

In 1998 Bernie Grant, the late black Labour MP for Tottenham, condemned the tradition as "offensive to black people all over the place".

During the festivities, revellers raise money for charity by dancing around the town and singing songs traditionally associated with the plantations.

Its origin are unknown, but one theory, now widely discounted, is that it dates from an occasion when locals witnessed black people dancing and singing aboard a slave ship forced to seek shelter in the harbour.

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24 Feb 05 |  Cornwall

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