EXCLUSIVE: Derbyshire band at centre of ‘blackface’ racism row

Natasha March.
Natasha March.
  • The Village Idiots band insists it’s not racist after a member performed with black shoe polish on his face
  • The “offensive” act took place at a charity event in memory of the late Paul Dungworth - upsetting his mixed-race sister
  • She endured years of racist abuse growing up

A mixed-race woman has told of her horror after a band member performed with black shoe polish on his face – at a charity gig in memory of her late brother.

Natasha March said she endured sleepless nights following the “racist” act by the Village Idiots band at the Paul Dungworth Charity Music Festival in Dronfield Woodhouse.

How dare they use black skin as a cheap joke in the name of charity

Natasha March

The band has issued a statement insisting it despises racism and is hurt at the accusation – and will continue to perform its acts.

Natasha – who said she left Dronfield Woodhouse after suffering years of “systematic racist abuse” while growing up there – was adopted by Paul’s family as a baby.

Paul suffered cystic fibrosis all his life and died aged 31 in 2008 after developing bowel, liver and lung cancer.

The music festival has become an annual and popular event, raising many thousands of pounds for charity.

Natasha, 36, who now lives in Manchester, said one of the band members was dressed as a black, blind jazz singer at the gig.

She told the Derbyshire Times: “My sister and I walked off the premises until their racist show was over and we discussed how inappropriate and disgusting it all was.

“When I went back home to Manchester I was very upset.

“How dare they use black skin – never mind blindness – as a cheap joke in the name of charity.

“I did not sleep for two nights.

“I began to mourn for my brother again and recall my tormented childhood years.

“Paul would not want the band to behave like this.

“Do they realise how offensive it is?”

The Village Idiots said: “It has been brought to our attention that our performance caused upset to one individual.

“The fact that one of our members was, and I quote from the complaint, ‘blacked up’ caused feelings of racism.

“We decided to put on our dance to have some fun and give everyone a laugh and make it a little different.

“We despise racism in any shape or form and found it quite hurtful we were accused of this.

“Our act was organised and required one person to be dressed in this manner – this wasn’t a problem in our minds.

“Unfortunately this was not the view of the person who made the complaint and unfortunately they did not see the funny side.

“Unfortunately you can’t please everybody.

“We will continue to perform our acts and have fun every year,” added the band.

Recalling her past, Natasha said: “Growing up in Dronfield in the 80s and 90s was tough if you were brown skinned.

“I suffered systematic racist abuse within the community and at school.

“My Afro hair was laughed at and chewing gum was thrown in to it.

“I was told to ‘f*** off back to my own country’.

“When I walked past classrooms boys would make monkey actions and sounds.

“They would chant ‘you’re ugly and your nose is large’ on a daily basis.

“I was beaten up on several occasions outside of school and threatened regularly.”

Natasha was left angry by the abuse and subsequently failed subjects at school.

However, she has gone on to carve a successful career in the human rights sector.

She said: “I travel internationally and have met many cultures around the world.

“Against the odds I was determined to never have a small mind like some of my peers.”