Britannia Coconut Dancers, Bacup, Lancashire, England
Vintage Gelatin Silver Print
24 x 30.5 cms (9.43 x 11.99 ins)
Acquired directly from the artist
Signed on the reverse.
Originally, married men who worked at the Royal Britannia Cotton Mill in Bacup used to perform the Coconut Dances around the town boundaries on Good Friday and Easter Saturday. Again, the origins are obscure; the dancers have blackened faces and wear white caps, black breeches, red and white barrel skirts and black decorated clogs. Some researchers believe they have a Moorish genesis. The coconut dance is a series of jumps and leaps, and at the end of each phase the "coconuts" are struck together with a smooth circular movement of the arm in such a way as to produce a curious rippling sound. Their name derives from the hard wooden discs, the tops of cotton bobbins, which are attached in three places: just above the knees, to their hands and to the waist.
'Sykes introduces the British as durable activists indifferent to bad weather and at home anywhere. His pictures are in the manner of the 1940s and 1950s, where expressiveness was valued and subjects lived, breathed and made their presence felt.' (Ian Jeffrey, The Photography Book, 2nd Edition, Phaidon: London, 2014)
This photograph was included in the book by Homer Sykes Once a Year: Some Traditional British Customs (Gordon Fraser, 1977)
British Photography / The Hyman Collection