Bacup Britannia Coconut Dancers

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The Coconut Dancers (or Nutters) parade the Lancashire mill-town of Bacup, every Easter Saturday, performing their dances to the sound of the local silver band. There are eight male dancers, plus a whipper-in who helps to control the traffic. Their processional dance alternates between jogging along the road and a stationary part in which they clap together the wooden ‘coconuts’ (bobbin tops from the mill) which each dancer has strapped to his hands, knees, and waist. At certain points in the town, the group stops and performs one or more of their five garland dances. Standing in square ‘quadrille’ formation, each dancer holds a decorated semi-circular hoop above his head. The dancers wear strange colourful costumes and blackened faces. The present team can trace their lineage back to the early 1920s, when their predecessors, based at the Britannia Mill, were taught the dance by the Tunstead Mill Nutters, also from the Bacup area. The first documented reference to the Tunstead Mill Nutters is in 1907, but as this consists of reports of the team celebrating their jubilee, a starting date of 1857 is pretty definite. There are indications that there were other teams around at the time.

Theresa Buckland, FMJ 5:2 (1985), 132–49;Shuel, 1985:45–6.

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