EARLIER this month, 21-year-old Maisie Farrer kicked up a storm when she alleged that racist behaviour has been on display at previous editions of Peebles Beltane Festival.

After Maisie’s statement gained traction on social media, the Beltane committee published a response declaring it will not tolerate blackface.

The committee added it will look into changing guidelines on children's fancy dress costumes - which, in the past, have included “Mexicans”, “gypsies”, and “Arabian girls”.

Several weeks on from the committee’s response, Maisie tells the Border Telegraph she is pleased that organisers “sent a positive message”.

"It will be great to see what action is taken to back up their words,” she says.

"I've already spoken to the current Cornet, Andrew Napier, who's involved me in the process for reviewing the children’s costumes, which I'll really enjoy.

"I personally know a lot of those who supported my post have volunteered to be a part of the committee, which is really encouraging.

"The publicity of my post, and others, may have overwhelmed the committee and members of the community.

“However, without it, there wouldn’t be this transformation we’re seeing happen right now.”

Maisie says she is happy to have contributed to a public discussion about racism - a conversation in which Hannah and Sara Alkashmim, sisters from Peebles, have also been active.

However, Maisie ultimately decided to ‘turn off’ comments on her Facebook post, she says, due to personal insults being aimed at her and others.

She also recalls that a lot of people claimed racism does not exist in Peeblesshire.

"Around 50 per cent of the comments were denying the racism within the region and the festival," she says.

“I can't say I was surprised - this has been common knowledge for many after having their childhood in Peebles.

"I knew my post would get backlash. However, I didn't anticipate the power and volume behind the voices that opposed.

"My sister [Alice] has recently received comments of ‘bring back the golliwogs’ while walking through Peebles.”

Alice, a student at St Andrews University, feels “not much has changed” since the discussion about the Beltane festival - despite the welcome response from the committee.

“This highlights how far we, as a community, still must grow,” says the 19-year-old.

Both sisters believe everyone should educate themselves more about the meaning of racism.

Maisie says: "No one wants to be called a racist, but people are racist without even realising - even me.

"This is due to the deeply rooted racism, inherent white privilege and lack of education on the topic that we've all been brought up with.

"Many don't understand that their actions and words are in fact racist and offensive.

“When this is pointed out, and you are given the opportunity to educate yourself and you refuse to do that - then that label was correctly assigned."

Maisie says it is important that Borders residents listen to what black people and people of colour have to say on the topic of racism.

"It’s not up to us, as the white community, to dictate or decide what’s racist,” says Maisie.

"A lot of comments towards me were asking: Who am I to tell them? Why do I, as a white woman, get to decide what’s racist and what’s not?

“But it’s not me who has decided - I have just decided to listen and amplify.

"I, and many others, are only trying to learn and be better - which is all the Alkashmim sisters, and others, are asking from Peebles."

Reflecting again on her Facebook post, which generated more than 400 comments, Maisie says social media is a “vital” way to campaign for change.

"In retrospect, I could have contacted the [Beltane] committee personally before making the status.

"However, by posting online, it allowed the whole community to have their voices heard, those both for and against,” she says.