A TRADITIONAL morris dance which was saved from going out of existence after 158 years is set to make a comeback this weekend with a new leader at the helm.

Bacup’s Britannia Coconut Dancers’ Easter Saturday procession was under threat after Lancashire Constabulary refused to marshal the event's crowds and rolling road closures.

Lancashire County Council bosses told the Coconutters to either hire a traffic management company, at a cost of around £4,000, or they would appoint one and send the troupe the bill.

However in February, county couns Sean Serridge and Jackie Oakes offered to use cash from a member’s contingency fund which allows councillors to access money for highways, outside of the usual commissioning process.

Coconutters secretary Joe Healey said this year would be a very special event for the group.

He said: “Our dance leader, Dick Shufflebottom, who is 80 and has been in the Coconutters for 58 years and led us for 30, is handing his red feather over to Ronnie Searle in a ceremony on Saturday morning.

“Ronnie will lead the dances now, calling out the number of the garland dance for us to do, but Dick will still be dancing with us.”

Mr Healey said the group had faced many hurdles over the last year, but are very excited for the event.

He said: “We’re all gearing up for Saturday. We’re really happy that we can go ahead this year, because it hung in the balance for a long time.

“We’ve met with the boss of the traffic management company and everything seems to be going well.

“We’ve not had any issues in the past and we hope it will go without a hitch this year too.

“We want people to turn out and enjoy the tradition, as they done since the 1800s. We’re very grateful to the councillors for allocating the funds for this year’s event, but unfortunately it isn’t for posterity.”

The dance will begin in Rochdale Road, Britannia, at 9am on Saturday, and end at The Glen Garage in Waterfoot around 7pm.