A 60-year old light display in the seaside town of Blackpool in Lancashire, England, is getting another look following an uptick in complaints that a section of the display is culturally insensitive—even racist. The town council is reviewing a part of the Blackpool Illuminations display that depicts six men wearing headdresses with a totem pole. The council will determine which parts of the display, which first debuted in the 1960s, are appropriate for 2022.
A council spokeswoman said the panel was “designed many years ago and intended to be a celebration of different cultures.”
Times are Changing
She said council officers had been “in constructive discussion with two people of Native American origin, who raised concerns about the tableau”.
“We have explained the background to the historic elements of the Illuminations display,” she told BBC. “[We] assured them these were designed and created many years ago and intended to be a celebration of different cultures.”
Unflattering and offensive depictions of Native Americans are being met with more and more opposition. The Cleveland Indians recently agreed to change their mascot to the Guardians, following the conclusion of the 2021 season. That move followed the Washington Football Team dropping their own offensive “Redskins” moniker. The Kansas City Chiefs are similarly under fire to drop their name and logo.
In the U.K., rugby union side Exeter Chiefs decided to retain their name and logo, but did retire their “Big Chief” mascot in 2020.
The council spokeswoman said the Blackpool Illuminations are “one of the U.K.'s most enduring family attractions,” but that they never wanted them to contain “anything intended to cause offense.”
Given that Blackpool was hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, the town is extending its Illuminations by two months in an effort to help recoup lost tourism money. After January, the council will determine the future of the display.
Featured Image Credit: SWNS/Blackpool Gazette