Rebel Clowning - words and pics
Aug 15 2019
For one week in July 2019, Extinction Rebellion (XR) plopped a big pink boat in the middle of Bristol Bridge, stopping traffic and creating a space for peaceful protest.
Rebels were gathering all over the UK, whupping up chaos to raise awareness for the climate and ecological emergency we're living in. Here in Bristol, Castle Park was turned into a temporary campsite for out-of-town protesters and Bristol Bridge saw a bustling programme of talks, workshops, music and open meetings.
I was in the middle of a rare month off and itching to get involved in this national phenomena, to give my time and skills to the revolution! I'd been watching XR's development from the sidelines, marvelling at their ability to galvanise and organise huge crowds of people towards creative, playful, peaceful protest. Plus I've always kinda liked this planet.
It didn't take long to find my place. The wonderful Robyn Hambrook had put out a call-out for rebel clowns to meet each day for an hour's workshop, followed by an hour of public clowning in and around the protest. Here's an excerpt of Robyn's call-out:
"We are the Clowns of the Rebellion! The commentators, the rebels, the soothsayers. We exist in the liminal spaces, on the fringe and in between. We use our subversive power to playfully disrupt and resist the status quo while holding a mirror up to society’s absurd mechanisms. And we forever leave an echo, an imprint of our truth, in the places and spaces where we have played."
An entirely different crowd of clowns appeared each day (bar three of us, the hard core clowns, who played every day). Robyn led us through a getting-to-know-you warm up session where we tuned in, ran about and created ecological disaster themed games to play with the public.
Then it was time for the dressing up. Robyn had made bright pink flippers and swimming caps and I brought a bundle of ridiculous, mostly pink, costumes and red noses. We helped each other look as stupid as possible and off we stomped into the world.
It felt to me like Clowning is the perfect vehicle for peaceful protest. Clowns are able to go to places that earnestness cannot reach. With total commitment and utter irreverence, Clowns lift the lid off reality, playing wholeheartedly with whatever they find.
We swam through the streets of Bristol, chanting “Sea levels are rising, just keep swimming!” We made a raft and invited people aboard. We sang sea shanties. We grieved nosily for a dead bird we'd found squashed in the road, and the end of humanity, of course. We cheered-on cyclists and asked kids to tell us what to do (we did everything they told us to do). We danced with reckless abandon to any and all music that we happened across. We even joined in the people's assembly.
Clowns are indiscriminate about who or what they play with, none of the usual social rules apply. Guided by curiosity, innocence and an endless desire to play, clowns unwittingly expose the truth as they see it. Living at the edge of their emotions, clowns celebrate and grieve and give permission for others to feel and express their own emotions. For me, this is why clowns are the perfect mouthpiece for social change, because if any change is going to happen, we all need to first connect deeply with our feelings, thoughts and truths.
Robyn made a facebook group so that the rebel clowns can keep in touch and plan the next action. If you want in, feel free to join, click here.
To find out more about Extinction Rebellion click here.
To read more about my summer adventures and what I learned from taking a month off work, click here.
Here's a selection of photos from notorious street photographer, Jeremy Fennell, and our own clown mamma, Robyn Hambrook, capturing the three days.