Charity rejects donations from fancy dress event after some participants 'black up'

Cuddles says it does not want to be associated with 'racist, discriminatory or abusive' behaviour

A Welsh charity that provides support for sick babies and their families has rejected donations from a fancy dress fundraiser after discovering some participants blacked up for their costumes.

Cuddles, which supports families with seriously ill babies at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Denbighshire, turned down donations from an annual Christmas fancy dress pub crawl in the nearby town of Old Colwyn after being alerted that white participants had dressed up as African beach traders.

The charity said it was grateful to have been chosen as the charitable cause for this year’s event, which took place on 15 December, but did not want to be associated with "racist, discriminatory or abusive" behaviour.

A statement on the charity’s Facebook page from its trustees said: "It was brought to our attention by multiple members of the public that a number of individuals taking part in the fancy dress event had chosen to wear ‘costumes’ that were highly objectionable and deeply offensive."

A comment from a member of the public responding to the statement said participants had been dressed as "looky looky men" – a derogatory term for traders of African descent who sell sunglasses and other goods to tourists on beaches, particularly in Spain – and were "blacked up and held sunglasses".

She said: "When confronted, they were racist again, telling one Asian boy to ‘keep eating dogs’."

Local news reports suggest others were dressed as members of the American hip hop group Run DMC.

People wearing such costumes are visible in pictures shared on Facebook by organisers and on the cover of a souvenir calendar of the event, sold to raise money for Cuddles and bearing the charity’s logo.

The trustees' statement said that although the charity appreciated that the event organisers might not have been involved with the costumes, photographs circulated on social media by the individuals concerned and the accompanying comments had "caused considerable distress" to the people who contacted the charity.

"We too were incredibly dismayed to see the photographs," the statement said.

"As a charity, we totally reject this sort of conduct. We are shocked that anyone would consider this appropriate and we refuse to be associated with behaviour that is racist, discriminatory or abusive in any way.

"It is with great disappointment that we will not be accepting the donation from this year’s event."

Local media reports suggest the event raised about £300.

The statement said trustees had not taken the decision lightly and suggested that, given the nature of the incident, the money should be directed towards an equalities charity instead.

It reminded anyone wanting to raise money independently of the charity to do so in a "sensible, appropriate and respectful way" and to consider how it might reflect on front-line staff.

Other comments in response to the statement were critical of the charity for turning down the money, said the hard work of the organisers had gone to waste and that those who had complained were too easily offended.

Charity Commission advice on refusing donations, drawn up following the Presidents Club scandal in February, says it is up to a charity’s trustees to decide whether to refuse a donation.

"They must make this decision on the basis of the best interests of the charity," the guidance says.

"That will include weighing up any issues around how the funds were raised, which may include reputational concerns, against the financial impact on the charity of turning the donation down."

The event’s organiser, Ian Jones, did not respond to a request for comment from Third Sector on Wednesday morning.

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