Kris On Being A Red Rebel

Some Background

The Red Rebel Brigade symbolises the common blood we share with all species, that unifies us and makes us one. As such, we move as one, act as one and more importantly feel as one. We  are unity and we empathise with our surroundings, we are forgiving.

The performances are kept simple, mainly very slow moving, focussed, meditative movements carried out in complete silence,  producing  a very powerful effect. Spectators gain a very strong impression of the depth of feeling and non-violence of the climate movement.

The Red Rebel apparitions are modelled on creations of Doug Francisco. He founded a troupe in the 1990s called The Invisible Circus. Their signature characters were slow moving, silent and made powerful imagery.  

Doug became involved with Extinction Rebellion and decided to use his idea but in a very different colour, using red costumes with white faces, red cheeks and lips.  

From Doug Francisco –

The Red Rebel Brigade was created for the Extinction Rebellion protest in London, and an evolution of white characters we created for the Anti-Iraq war demonstrations in 2003. These in turn, were based on characters from a slow motion show called ‘Blanco’ we began as a street performance troupe in the 90’s. This show had a very powerful mesmerising effect, with slow motion movements synchronised and performed in static tableaux, utilising existing architecture and public spaces.

The choice of red as the colour was partly simple aesthetics, and partly symbolic, creating a very strong contrasting visual and resonating with emotive responses to the colour, red symbolising blood, danger, passion, stop signs etc. The response from the public and press was far more than we imagined, as we became a mobile photo shoot, as well as a calming presence in more front line situations.

We would parade between different locations, improvising with our environment to create tableaux moments as well as creating beautiful disruptions taking over streets. The troupe formed with whoever was available, both from our Bristol networks as well as people we met at the rebellion. Keeping it simple and slow created a mournful and engaging spectacle that resonated with the moment in such a way as to become symbolic of the rebellion in some way, and was featured in news media globally.

 I am incredibly proud of what we achieved together, and the passion and dedication of all who participated,to create something beautiful and powerful as a means of communicating this most important and urgent of messages to the world.

Being a Red

I can’t really remember when I first became aware of The Red Rebel Brigade. For me, the image  of the Red Rebels was a symbol of the rebellion from the start. I first saw them in person in October 2019 when I was at the XR Red Hand demonstration in London.They changed the atmosphere as soon as they appeared, as if by magic, everything was quiet. People on the demo and passers by stopped and watched, many were taking photos. They came and went along the march, always making a fresh impact. I really wanted to be part of this extraordinary piece of street theatre/performance.

I got the chance to learn more about the reds a few months later when two amazing women from Teesside ran a workshop in Newcastle. We learned how to put on the costumes and makeup, the basics of how to move and some of the hand signals.

The Pont Valley action was my first opportunity to walk. It was a challenging action, very cold and windy, with not much space on the road outside the opencast site. Reds and other rebels came from all over the country and stayed for the three days of the action. It was a powerful and empowering experience.

It takes time to put on the costumes and makeup but there is much more to it than that. I learned how important it was to prepare properly in order to get into the role and to stay in it all the time we are out. Time to debrief and share was also needed as it is a very emotional experience. You will often see Reds crying, that’s not performance, its real and sometimes quite overwhelming grief.

Pont Valley
With the trees at Minsteracres

It is always a privilege to walk with the Reds and it’s hard to pick any experience as better or worse than another. Glasgow COP stayed with me because it felt so huge and important and sort of desperate! The presence of so many people from all over the world was a powerful reminder of what has already been lost. Hearing first hand about what is happening in the Global South had a profound effect on me. 

Glasgow COP

I walked with some wonderful Reds. I had never met any of them before, this is not unusual. We come together, we walk and we share something remarkable.

Bearing witness Glasgow COP

Public Response

This seems to be a mixture of wonder and bemusement which I suppose are two sides of the same coin. I think hostility is rare. There are always lots of people taking photos and we always have supporters who talk about who we are and what we represent.

At a recent art exhibition in Washington, a video of an action in London and a mannequin wearing the costume created interest. I was there at the opening and I was asked a number of times to explain what The Red Rebel Brigade was about. Most people were intrigued and largely supportive, seeing the point of creating a different sort of atmosphere. It was clear that some also found it very challenging and unsettling.