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The Britannia Coco-nut Dancers of Bacup

Pictures, VIDEO and History

The Nutters begin their Easter dance at the Travellers' Rest pub in Britannia, on Rochdale Road near the bottom of Gawmless End's cart-track. On this page we have original photographs and a VIDEO of the Nutters in action.
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Every Easter Saturday, no matter what the weather, the Britannia Coconut Dancers, with their blackened faces, hats like turbans decorated with rosette and coloured feathers, black jersey, red and white kilts, white stockings and shining black Lancashire clogs make a gradely sight as, accompanied by members of Stacksteads Silver Band, they keep up the tradition of dancing from boundary to boundary of the town of Bacup situated between Rochdale and Burnley.
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The Nutters now have an official website.

The beautifully-illustrated map of the Nutters' Easter dance route
by local Historian John B. Taylor, can be seen here
(19 KB - Traveller's Rest pub bottom right)

The text of their leaflet details the history of this unique troupe.

Here are some photographs of the Nutters (thanks are due to Mrs. Sheila Riley for both the video and original photographs).

Click on the smaller (thumbnail) images to see a larger version,
then use your browser's "back" button to return to this page.
Click to see larger version (11 kb) Coconut Dancer, 6 kbs
Click to see larger version, 15 kbs
Click to see larger version, 18 kbs
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The video below is 432 KB so may take a while to load.

Click on the picture
10 KB still picture from the video
to see a video of the Nutters
dancing in Bacup at Easter 2000.
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History of the coconutters, from their leaflet

They begin at 9 a.m. from the Travellers' Rest Pub on the A671 Rochdale to Bacup road, culminating with an exhibition in the town centre amongst throngs of people that have gathered creating a festive atmosphere at approximately 1 to 2 p.m., finally ending at about 6-7 p.m. with a dance at the old folks' bungalows at the boundary before entrance to the Glen on the A681.

The first Coconutters troup was formed in 1857 and the Britannia Coconutters are unique as the only surviving troupe practising this kind of dance in this country and maybe in the world, out of four or five troupes that once prevailed in the Rossendale area.

The dances (5 garland dances and 2 nut dances) are supposed to be pirate dances brought to Cornwall by Moorish pirates who settled there and became employed in the mining industry. As mines and quarries opened in Lancashire in the 18th and 19th centuries some of these men moved north, bringing with them their expertise in mining, and of course the dances.

The Garland dances (each dancer carries an arched garland decorated with red, white and blue flowers) are Spring ritual dances of Pagan or Mediaeval origin, celebrating the coming of Spring and renewal of vegetation. The dancers black their faces to prevent them being recognised by the evil spirits afterwards; this may also reflect the mining connections.

The Coconut dances are unique. The dancers tap out rhythms on wooden discs or 'nuts' fastened to their palms, knees and waist (said to represent the protective cover worn on the hands and knees when crawling along narrow passages in the mines). The origin of the dances has not been traced, but it is known they were performed in feudal times. Their usual accompaniment is the English concertina.