For Jay the aim was to take carnivalesque elements from Reclaim the Streets and tactical frivolity groups of the 90s and the idea of not looking like protesters into direct action. They weren’t simply going to entertain, instead take the logic of the clown into direct action.
CIRCA’s costume of army fatigues were tactical as well. “My jacket had 16 pockets” said Jay, “And when police stop and search you they have to take everything out, more pockets takes longer and holds them up”. For Jay arrested, as his clown persona Colonel Klepto at a protest against an Arms Fair selling arms during the Iraq war (2004) this provided an opportunity to mock authority as an increasingly absurd selection of objects emerged from his pockets; pigs of different sizes (a nod to the derogatory slang for police), various dildos and most unsettling of all, a string of bones. “It’s death”, replied Jay in response to the cop’s uneasy question of what he was looking at. “I take death with me everywhere.”
The key tactic of the clown army was to replace confrontation with confusion. “Police know how to deal with confrontation” says Jay “but find it harder to deal with confusion”. And confuse them they did as groups of riot cops had to deal with the arrival of clowns who had come to help them secure the area. “So by putting ourselves with authority but then saying oh, why can’t we do this, oh but we’re here to help you, don’t you want our help? It completely wrong-footed authority,” says Hilary. “The police just didn’t know what to do with clowns. We heard voices on the police radio saying, “The Clowns are organising, the clowns are organising, over and out.”