Two friends have been branded racist after ‘blacking up’ to take part in a carnival parade – as Venus and Serena Williams.
Pub landlord Kevin Stevens and pal Jason Luke decided to enter the festival procession ”at the last minute” – and dressed as the tennis stars.
They covered themselves in dark fake tan and wore afro-style wigs and white tennis gear and carried rackets as part of Truro City Carnival, in Cornwall.
But Kevin, who runs the Miners Arms, in nearby Redruth, and his mate have been branded racist by organisers and onlookers.
Sara Batchelor, 33, who watched the carnival with her nine-year-old son, said: “That sort of caricature went out in the 70s. I didn’t realise people still did that. It’s out of date and offensive.”
Truro residents took to the carnival’s Facebook page to complain.
Andrew Harris wrote: “Why didn’t somebody point out to the white man blacked up as ‘Venus Williams’ that it was not funny or acceptable.
“This will be the enduring image of this year’s carnival. How ironic in a carnival coinciding with the World Cup, Truro should score such a painful own goal.”
Dean Harvey, from the Council for Racial Equality in Cornwall, said: “The whole concept of blackened face is steeped in racial prejudice and stereotype from minstrels to golliwogs.
“It is not just a bit of fun, it is offensive to people of all ethnicities and it’s time we moved on from this.
“These two guys were not representative of Cornwall, only unfortunately serving to remind us of times gone by that we should acknowledge and move on from.”
Carnival organisers banned pictures of the men from the Facebook page and the chairman of the event’s committee, Claire Arymar, has spoken with Mr Stevens.
Mrs Arymar said: “It was inappropriate and had I seen them at the beginning of the carnival I would never have let them go.
“I don’t think it was their intention to offend people but it was ill-thought out.”
She added that she will personally check each person’s costume next year.
Mr Stevens, 50, said: “I have upset people and I am very sorry, all the guys are devastated and myself especially because I have black friends.
“I don’t want anybody looking at us and thinking we are racists because that’s not the type of people we are.
“We never set out to upset anybody. I didn’t know we were doing anything untoward. From my heart, we will genuinely learn from this.”