LEDBURY-based Morris dancers have made an historic decision to ditch their traditional black facepaint.

Silurian Morris will replace the black face with green facepaint after a majority vote on the decision.

Traditionally, it is thought black soot was worn by dancers as a disguise so they could beg without getting in trouble with the law.

However, there has been a growing controversy that the practice is 'blackface' with a belief the word Morris derives from the word Moorish.

The side, which has dancers from across Worcestershire, took the decision after watching the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement during lockdown when they were unable to dance.

Silurian foreman Ian Craigan said: "There has been some controversy for a long time.

"We need to be on the right side of things.

"We want to be a side that can turn up and dance and everyone feels comfortable watching and welcome new members from every spectrum.

"It would be foolish to pretend everyone in the side is happy with the decision.

"There are people who feel it is a step too far or a compromise.

"But the main purpose is to dance and share the tradition which is unique to Silurian which is more important than what we wear or how we decorate ourselves.

"We want to be able to do that without having a second issue clouding it

"We're often asked why we wear blackface but in all my time I have been a member of the side we have never been criticised or challenged by anyone on the grounds of it being racist.

"But we are aware of sides who have experienced antagonism.

"A few years back there was story in the papers because an influencer on holiday in Worcester saw the Welsh Border side outside the Guildhall and she put it on social media.

"We're more concerned not to cloud the issue, we're not here to be controversial."

The Silurian side, which was set up in 1969, will debut their green facepaint at the Boxing Day Tour, Monday, December 27, in Ledbury, Bosbury, Malvern and then Hanley Castle.

They decided on green as it is a natural colour and are currently trying to settle on a shade which "doesn't make us look like the Incredible Hulk".

New members are welcome to join the side by attending the training sessions at The Talbot at Knightwick on Mondays from 8pm or visiting silurianmorris.org.uk for more information.