Inspired by the political podcasts, The Activist Clown Co-lab series is part workshop, part interview and part discussion. Each 2.5 hour masterclass on zoom is a playful, embodied investigation into how to use clowning for political activism with expert clowns and activists on the ground. Through discussion, play, experimentation and reflection I wanted to explore a whole bunch of questions including:
- Can clowns be political?
- How can clowns challenge authority?
- What can we borrow from activists, art movements and theatre forms to increase our efficacy?
- What can we learn from clown history and from the clowns who’ve dedicated their lives to playing on the front lines?
- Is the clown equipped to deal with power and make real change?
The first Co-lab Series took place in February 2021 with four fantastic co-facilitators; Nathaniel Justiniano -Naked Empire Bouffon Company, USA, Hilary Ramsden - Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army, Greece, Sabine Choucair - Clown Me In, Beirut and Jay Jordan -The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination, France.
We were joined each week 20 participants from across the globe including; the UK, Canada, South Africa, the Netherlands, Germany and USA. A mix of clowns, activists, some already working on the front lines of social justice movements, others passionate activists seeking networks, tools and inspiration as well as relevant questions: “can the silliness of clowning address really serious, gravitas issues?”
“It was so inspiring to work with the guest facilitators for two hours and to feel that they really practice what they preach.” Participant from Activist Clown Toolkit
The work and discoveries were rich and the feedback incredible. Themes emerged and a collection of the Tools of the Activist Clown are beginning to take shape.
Robyn is a Bristol-based director, teacher and performer. With over 20 years experience she is a passionate practitioner of clowning, physical theatre, circus and street arts. She has a MA in Circus Directing, a Diploma of Physical Theatre Practice and trained with a long line of inspiring teachers including Holly Stoppit, Peta Lily, Giovanni Fusetti, Bim Mason, Jon Davison, Zuma Puma, Lucy Hopkins and John Wright.
Over the past five years she has been exploring the meeting point of clowning and a deep desire to address the injustices in the world. This specialism has developed through her Masters Research ‘Small Circus Acts of Resistance’, on the streets and in protests with the Bristol Rebel Clowns and in research residencies with The Trickster Laboratory.
Robyn’s Activist Clown research has led to collaborations with Jay Jordan (Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination, France), Clown Me In (Beirut), LM Bogad (US), Hilary Ramsden (Greece) and international Tricksters; ‘The Yes Men’ (US).
During the pandemic in 2020, Robyn set up The Online Clown Academy with Holly Stoppit and developed a series of Zoom Clown Courses. Robyn’s research, started during her Masters, has been exploring the meeting point of clowning and activism, online, in the real world and with international collaborators. With this drive to explore political edges of her work she has also dived back into the world of the Bouffon; training with Jaime Mears, Bim Mason, Nathaniel Justiniano, Eric Davis, Tim Licata, Al Seed and the grand master Bouffon-himself; Philippe Gaulier.
Keen to explore the intersection of clowning and politics, Robyn is driven to create collaborative, research spaces, testing and pushing the limits of the artform to create new knowledge and methodologies for her industry and strengthen partnerships for future work. Some of her most recent collaborations and teaching projects have included the Nomadic Rebel Clown Academy (5-day Activist Clown Training), The Laboratory of the Un-beautiful (Feminist Grotesque Bouffon Training for Womxn Theatre Makers) and the Clown Congress (annual gathering of clowns, activists & academics collectively exploring what it means to be a clown in this current era)