Red Flow

A couple of weeks ago I had a dream which I only recollect in part. On waking the overwhelming feeling I was left with was a moving experience of emotional connection. In the dream I remember seeing a group of women all dressed in red, Handmaid’s Tale-style. I was with another woman from one of the choirs I sing with, and we were supposed to be heading elsewhere. But we forced ourselves into the red group, encircled tightly, embracing and connecting. Shortly after that, in real life, I went to Trafalgar Square to check out the Extinction Rebellion protest. I see a group of people in red flowing garments. Some hold their hands out. I make a beeline for them as if magnetically drawn and approach one woman. We look into each others eyes and hold hands:

The group are known as the XR Red Rebels and also referred to as the Red Rebels Brigade, and sometimes REDS for short. They are part of The Invisible Circus, originally founded by Doug Francisco from Bristol, who has been involved in creating site specific performances for over 20 years. The red colour of their costume symbolises the common blood we share with all species, that unifies us and makes us one.

A few days later I am on a bus en route to London’s Barbican Centre and as the bus approaches St. Pancras I see the Reds gliding across the station forecourt. I quickly change plans, ring the buzzer and get off the bus. The Reds have now left the forecourt and are descending the stairs into St. Pancras International Station. I am baffled and impressed by the speed at which they move, after being statuesque and stationary. I follow them:

As such we move as one, act as one and more importantly feel as one:

I love the combination of the flowing garments and the architecture:

I hear someone call my name – it’s an old friend from University days. His partner is one of the rebels. We continue following and have now exited onto the street outside the Google Headquarters where people have gathered to protest the company’s enabling of climate changer deniers:

After a few minutes outside Google Headquarters we then continue onto Kings Cross Underground. Here I like the juxtaposition of commuters and tourists with the Red Rebels – I find it quite surreal:

I find out a bit more about the group and that they are influenced by Japanese Butoh dance theatre, which I’d like to know more about. I also discover that they walked around London the previous day for 4-5 hours without a toilet break which was a major reality check for me. I had hitherto been contemplating the significance of my dream and whether it was a sign to try and get involved as a performer .

I eventually made it to The Barbican Centre’s exhibition Into the Night Cabaret and Clubs in Modern Art, which had been my original destination. One of the installations featured old film footage – shot between 1897 and 1900 – of the dancer Loie Fuller performing her trademark Serpentine Dance in billowing, flowing gowns. The colours of the tinted footage fluctuate and I caught a few stills where her costume appears red in colour:

Back at home I started to intuitively gather other images that resonated with the concept of red flow, dance, movement, performance and presence.

This is another monitor shot but one that I took decades ago. To me there’s a suggestion of passion and ecstasy, reminiscent of some religious artworks representing the Ecstasy of St. Teresa. It is actually a still from an old Hindi film that was screened on a TV programme called Movie Mahal:

The next two photographs are from a series inspired by hibiscus flowers. They also featured in a collaborative performance with singer and artist Namvula Rennie as part of Ellen Southern’s Trans-Formations. The swirling forms allude to the dance the Afro Cuban deity Oya, who is an Orisha of wind, storms, death and rebirth:

Next a couple of images from London’s Afro Cuban Music Night, where I get an association of red, energy, spirit and flow. In the first image, my friend Sylvia is dancing to the bata drums and is literally exalted:

In this next image I like the fiery red flash of the rumba dancer’s scarf:

Next an abstract photo I took a few years ago of an illusion created by peeling layers of paint on a London post box. I see a a person in a kimono-type garment, possibly winged, looking ceremonial. To me the Red Rebels have a ceremonial, processional quality :

And finally a scene I witnessed on a wintry beach in Wales one December. A woman and child, presumably mother and daughter, are both dressed in red hooded capes. The cloaked woman is handing the child a small stack of pebbles, reminiscent of a Buddhist ritual. It felt mysterious, peaceful and spiritual. Beyond the long red robes I am also reminded of the Reds’ words –  we illuminate the magic realm beneath the surface of all things:

5 thoughts on “Red Flow”

  1. I loved these evocative photos especially the interaction with “ordinary” commuters in the train station.
    The Game of Thrones priestess was called the woman in red. She always wore this striking long red garment. Did you see this HBO series by JR Martin? It is also a series in books?

  2. Thanks Dalya! I haven’t seen or read Game of Thrones – fantasy is a genre I haven’t explored much yet. Maybe it’s time to add it to the list!

  3. Love that you’ve expanded into other red images…the Red Brigade truly have given XR another dimension, a symbolic dimension. For me of grief and grace.

    • I’m glad the other red images worked for you – that part was an experiment. Interested in the communication of grief; I had been thinking more about connection and hope but you are right – grief is very much there.


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