Climate change activist turn heads with unusual performance
Hannah Neary, local democracy reporter
A group of environmental activists turned heads with an unusual performance in Porthcawl last weekend.
With arms out-stretched, dressed head-to-toe in loose, crimson fabric, a group with ghostly white faces walked quietly through the town and waded into the sea at Coney Beach.
The performance garnered mixed reviews, with one onlooker shouting “get a job”, while others joined in with what looked like a slow-motion conga line along the sea front on Saturday June 05.
Bearing a resemblance to the red-cloaked women in the Handmaid’s Tale, the startling group, known as the Red Rebel Brigade, is a group of “artivists” raising awareness about climate change.
“The Red Rebel Brigade is an international performance artivist troupe dedicated to illuminating the global environmental crisis,” said Curly, one of the Cardiff Red Rebels who performed in Porthcawl last week.
“They support groups and organisations who are fighting to save humanity and all species from mass extinction,” she added.
The Brigade was set-up by Doug Francisco and Justine Squire from Bristol’s Invisible Circus, a group of artists and performers, in April 2019 and supported the Extinction Rebellion Spring uprising in London.
There are now members world-wide, including the Cardiff group, which was formed in October 2019. Their performance in Porthcawl was one of many that took place across the UK ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall, which focuses on global coronavirus vaccinations and climate change.
The Rebels have visited various places along the coast as part of their Make the Wave campaign, aimed at tackling environmental issues.
“It sends a really clear signal to Boris Johnson and the other delegates of the G7 nations that ordinary people in coastal communities demand more action to tackle the climate emergency, the ecological emergency, the sea-levels rising,” said Curly.
“There’s three million people who are predicted to be affected by annual flooding in the UK by 2050. Cardiff itself is the sixth most at risk city in the world from ocean-based flooding.
“We’re urging world leaders to act now. Out politicians and our governments are failing us all at the minute and we need them to act now on the real causes of the crisis.
“We need them to act on global inequality, un-checked corporate profiteering and neo-colonialism. We’re really drowning in promises and we need urgent, meaningful action to prevent climate and ecological chaos.
“Our performance in Porthcawl was to encourage curiosity and interest in people that don’t know who the Rebels are already and send a really strong message making the wave across the UK.”
She said the red outfits worn by the Rebels are part of the aesthetic of the group bit also “symbolise the common blood we share with all species that unite us and make us one”.
“We move as one, we act as one and we feel as one. We empathise with our surroundings, we’re forgiving, sympathetic, compassionate and understanding.
“Through peaceful performance we divert, distract, delight and inspire the people who watch us. It starts important discussions and it can challenge prejudice.”
Contrary to some assumptions, the Rebels are “everyday, regular people”, said Curly.
“Sometimes as artivists you do have people saying ‘have a wash’, ‘get a job’ but I have a full-time job. It’s open for anybody to join if they’d like to.
“We are all over 18… if anybody is interested in becoming a Red Rebel and being part of the performances they can get in touch with us. There are troupes globally so you can get involved wherever you are.”