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Uk Legislation Against Traditional Dances?


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A member of one of our local folk clubs has asked me about including an article one of our newsletters about:

 

"New UK legislation is threatening the practice of traditional dances

involving swords and sticks. The Violent Crime Reduction Bill recognises

and exempts historical re-enactment and sporting activity involving

swords from the provisions of the bill, but there is no such exemption for

traditional dance, some of which have been using props such as swords and

sticks for hundreds of years. These dances are forms of art that are of

great historical and cultural relevance. Banning the use of swords will

inevitably cause them to die out. It is crucial that they are preserved

and allowed to continue. Please show your support and sign the petition

to get dance included so that we can continue preserving the beautiful

art of sword dance.

 

Whether you are a dancer or not, your support is needed! We desperately

need more signatures! (Please note you must be a UK citizen to sign)

Here is the link:

 

Can any of our UK friends involved in traditional dancing give me any information on this issue and also pictures of sword and/or stick dancing for the article?

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In another forum I have said that I frankly don't believe this. It's another of those straight banana stories that float across the public consciousness from time to time. The swords of the longsword and rapper dances have little more in common with a real sword than the word "sword". It will be obvious even to the most brain-challenged plod (and in fact the UK police are not at all stupid), that these are not "swords" in the meaning of the act.

 

Someone shows me a legal ruling that a bendy strip of metal with a handle at both ends is in contravention of the act - then I'll worry. Not before.

 

Chris

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There is already a UK law that makes it illegal to break into someone else's car, hotwire the ignition, and drive around the local estate at breakneck speed whilst drunk and on drugs, aged 14.

 

It is also illegal to assault a complete stranger, kick their head like a football, and stab them to death.

 

So hands up who wants to be the first policeman to explain to his Sergeant why he's going to be unavailable for duty all day because he's in court giving evidence against a Morris dancer for carrying a ritual sword with a bunch of flowers on one end, and a cake on the other?

 

And who doesn't think that the Morris world is full of retired "upright citizens" just waiting for the chance to go to the European Court to defend their "legitimate cultural practice"?

 

Not too worried.

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It will be obvious even to the most brain-challenged plod (and in fact the UK police are not at all stupid) ...

Chris,

 

I wouldn't be so sure. Tell that to all the Irish sportsmen in England who've been harrassed, arrested, and sometimes prosecuted for carrying a hurley (the equivalent of a hockey stick!) to or from a match. :(

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[/indent]Can any of our UK friends involved in traditional dancing give me any information on this issue and also pictures of sword and/or stick dancing for the article?

[/indent]

 

I have no UK friends, but I have seen Morris dancers at celtic festivals: I agree, the "sword" ain't much of a sword...

 

Imagine when they finally outlaw carpenters and mechanics with thier screwdrivers, chisels, and awls.

 

(lets get those nerds too, with the pocket protector full of potentialy lethal projectiles).

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I looked this up on the govement websites a week or so back when the rumour was emailed to me. The VCR bill recevied royal accent in 2006 , it is allready law so no point in lobbying. It modified a 1988 act. Between them it specifically allows swords for theatrical performances.

 

Rapper and Longsword dance are theatrical so I see no problem. Add to that the lack of an edge (which I think even PC Plod would require to define and differentiate a sword from a steel ruler) and I dont think we need worry.

 

A search of the prospective legislation bits had no mention of a new bill.

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I don't think its as simple as that. I believe its been brought in by an Order under the original Act, so it didn't need a new Bill.

 

It's a fairly recent Government initiative aimed at chavs and hoodies who like to tool themselves up with cheap imitation samurai swords to cause mayhem. There's a fairly tight definition, which from memory means a curved blade of more than 50cm with a sharpened edge. There are various exclusions, including traditionally forged samurai swords so that genuine martial artists are not covered.

 

It should be fairly clear that rapper and longswords are not included in this definition. However ceremonial swords as used by some morris sides, mummers' swords, and Scottish sword-dancers' claymores could be. "Sporting use" is excluded but the government has been reluctant to extend this to dance and cultural activities.

 

However there is the Human Rights Act to fall back on, and the Government is probably reluctant to look even more foolish than it does already by prosecuting for having a sword with a cake on one end and a morris-dancer on the other. Or a Mason.

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However there is the Human Rights Act to fall back on, and the Government is probably reluctant to look even more foolish than it does already by prosecuting for having a sword with a cake on one end and a morris-dancer on the other. Or a Mason.

 

Acksh'ly, the Morris dancer and the cake are usually both on the same end.

 

One of the Bampton teams' swords is in the Samurai style.

 

This is a government that is seeking to publish formal guidelines for how much alcohol parents should let their children drink while they are under the legal age for drinking. (In fact, some of the parents are under the legal age for drinking.)

 

Morris dancing is sometimes considered a sport. I have heard of grants coming from the Sports Council, rather than the Arts Council.

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Swords don't kill people, people kill people.

When you outlaw swords, only outlaws will have them.

The government can have my sword when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

 

I can see a big future in bumper sticker sales.

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Swords don't kill people, people kill people.

When you outlaw swords, only outlaws will have them.

The government can have my sword when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

 

I can see a big future in bumper sticker sales.

 

LOL. I see you've seen a similar debate elsewhere! ;0)

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Swords don't kill people, people kill people.

When you outlaw swords, only outlaws will have them.

The government can have my sword when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

 

I can see a big future in bumper sticker sales.

 

LOL. I see you've seen a similar debate elsewhere! ;0)

They should make a film about it

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Morris dancing is sometimes considered a sport. I have heard of grants coming from the Sports Council, rather than the Arts Council.

This is quite correct. It stems a long way back to an accommodation that the EFDSS reached with the Sports Council to treat folk dance as a sport. It has been an absolute pain in the bum for folk music organisations, who have found making approaches to arts councils awkward ever since.

 

Chris (pedant? Who's a pedant!)

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Morris dancing is sometimes considered a sport.

One of the lads in our morris side is currently doing a GCSE (qualification for 16 year olds) in physical education, with his main activity being morris dancing (rather than the usual football, rugby, athletics, etc.). A couple of the officials from the side have done a load of work with the school to make this possible. OK, this doesn't make it a sport, but it's nice to see.

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Some random and intentionally unidentified quotes from the Morris Dance Discussion List on this subject in the last 24 hours:

 

Surprisingly, there is no definition of a 'sword'. It seems reasonable that if it hasn't a sharp edge, it isn't a 'real' sword for the purposes of the Act.
While it certainly seems reasonable to say that this legislation is aimed at weapons and that weapons are likely to be sharpened, what gets enforced is the specific *wording* that was used in the legislation. I suggest that it would be a mistake to assume that the wording used makes clear the suggested distinction.
In any case, the definition of historical re-enactment (/"conduct from a particular time or period in the past")/ pretty clearly covers traditional dances - of any ethnic origin.
I disagree, and anyone seeking to counter your argument need only look at how often people in this very list argue that what they do is living tradition and *not* just some historical relic.
From the Squire-elect of the the Morris Ring via the Bagman of Bathampton Morris:
Hi everyone,

 

Following a suggestion ... that the petition was "probably behind events", I've delved a bit deeper and found that the legislation has already been implemented without the general restriction on swords. According to the Squire-elect of the the Ring:

 

"A Statutory Instrument under the 1988 Criminal Justice Act came into force on 6 April 2008 banning curved swords with a blade more than 50 cms long. The petition is incorrect on the facts and the effects. There is a possibility that Plymouth Morris Men could be affected because they use cutlasses in a non traditional way. Cake bearers, if they use curved swords, could probably claim exemption on the basis of historical re enactment. Likewise the captain of Grenoside. So, in all, the effect on us is miniscule."

I signed the petition because it seemed to me that - whatever the wording of the relevant earlier Act - it will be interpreted in many instances by people who don't have detailed knowledge of these particular laws but do speak English. They'll hear the term 'Sword dancing' and immediately think of Scottish claymores, they'll see there's going to be a performance of a Longsword Dance and become concerned, because it's performed with swords and they're long and being waved around in public places; even if the explanation that Rapper is a double-handed implement made with flexible metal isn't likely to help. Most people aren't familiar with English traditional dances, but they do know what a sword is - and telling them (or even letting them see) that the dance ones are different, not edged or pointed, is knowledge that's likely to arrive too late. A display may well have been forbidden or even interrupted as it takes place.

 

But, if there's specific reference in the Act to Sword dances, longsword or rapper, it ceases to be something that will have to be explained in every case, but will at least be there for Festival or Display organisers and Dance Teams to cite. It's far better - it seems to me - to have particular instances in an Act in writing than to have to keep interpreting from a more general definition.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It's already had an effect on Scottish Highland dancing.

The sword dance competition at Balquhidder and Lochearnhead Highland Games has been cancelled because the judges thought it would be illegal to carry the swords in their car to the games.

 

See "The Scotsman"'s report here

 

The newspaper's third leader concludes

But doesn't it speak volumes that people are too ready to believe in bizarre restrictions arbitrarily imposed by the state purportedly in the name of health and safety?
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