Costumes and Props
Occasionally I get asked to make 3D objects that are used in protests and stunts.
Here are some of the props I’ve made:
Windmill Tripod at tandem Festival 2014
We made this giant toy windmill and took it to Tandem Festival. Here is a short 3min video of us building it, climbing all over it, and taking photos from the top of it, plus a few photos of some of the many great events and people at the festival. Tandem Festival ran from 19 – 21 June 2014 at HillEnd Farm, near Oxford. The festival was run by volunteers and combined (mostly) acoustic music, sustainability, art, crafts, bikes and bike-trailers, veggie food and a lot of fun! See: tandemfestival.com This windmill was made out of three scaff poles, some old scrap sheets and a bike wheel, plus a variety of clever attachments – we need more attachment in the world!
Viking shields – props to denounce BP at British Museum
Here is a small poster showing a batch of 12 shields I helped to make, that were hung off the port and starboard sides of the Viking long-boat that invaded the British Museum in London on June 15th 2014. The shields illustrate some of the darkest sins of BP (British Petroleum), from their treatment of workers, union-busting, oil-spills, tar-sands, contributing to climate chaos, etc. Did you know that BP has managed to dodge taxes in the UK to the value of over £700 million!
The event was incredible and a film of it will be released very soon. Security was tight and one viking got arrested simply for having a small cardboard shield in his bag. But this did not stop the determined folks from BP-or-not-BP! They got in with all their props, enacted a moving theatrical show, and then rowed their boat around the vast hall a few times chanting viking curses at BP. I wish I was there, but I had to make a windmill instead (see more recent post above). Please visit the BP-or-not-BP website for more details.
Four toy guns
Four fake machine-guns I made for a leading London charity
who will soon use them in a campaign against militarism.
The skeleton of the shape is made of strong, light bamboo,
held together with strong cable-ties and gaffer tape. Then
I used old cardboard boxes to make the bulk of the body.
Then good old papier-mache of old news-papers and a
slightly watered-down exterior PVA wood glue. Then two
coats of PVA as a weather-proofing varnish, followed by a
final coat of black acrylic.
Many features are larger than life, partly to mock them
like a 3-D cartoon, and partly to make it clear that these
are NOT real. None have triggers! The pointed ends are
made of soft pillow foam to prevent an over-enthusiastic
stunt-man accidentally stabbing someone.
Mini-greenhouse on bike – a portable first aid kit
Here is a photo of the aloe vera plant growing in a small container on my bicycle. It’s been there for a few months and it seems quite happy there. I am about to remove it as the weather here in Oxford has just got a lot colder. Aloe Vera does not like the cold. The sap from this plant is a very useful ointment to alleviate the pain from cuts, and grazes, so this mini-greenhouse is also a mobile first aid kit.
Last year I planted a tayberry in this bike-pot, my favourite berry, which is a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry. But it did not live for long. I neglected it. The small pot runs dry quite soon. Aloe vera does not mind getting dried out in between watering.
This plant is protected from the winds by two thin sheets of clear plastic attached to the bike frame with gaffer tape. The plant’s pot is made from an upturned plastic milk carton, filled with some pebbles for drainage and soil and compost from my wormery. The screw-cap of the milk-carton has a few small drain holes. One side of the pot is coated with black gaffer (as shown) while the other is coated with white gaffer. This allows me to choose how hot it can get when I have to leave my bike in a sunny spot.
I am reminded of the wonderful tunes of the Formidable Vegetable Sound System who is currently on a tour to promote his debut album of permaculture-related songs. He calls his tour the “GROW FOOD EVERYWHERE TOUR”.
A folding card ‘ruff’ that is also very similar to the crass ‘floret’ logo for BP (British Petroleum) made of card in 2012. This prop folds flat to fit in a pocket, and was used several times the Reclaim Shakespeare Company, a troupe of anarcho-thespians who jump up on stage before BP-sponsored Shakespeare performances to perform their own Bard-inspired pieces about the perils of taking money from BP. Visit their website for some great videos, useful info and links, and many witty puns!
Tardis of Dissent
This is a simple cloth and bamboo box with two letterbox hatches. I made it in 2012 for a regional coalition of anti-nuclear groups (including AAWE) who are protesting against the Aldermaston Weapons Establishement- our local nuke-bomb factory. This ‘tardis’ was used in a number of theatrical street events where people were invited to ‘submit’ objections through the ‘Letter of Objection’ letterbox. A strange series of mechanical noises were then heard from inside this ‘machine’. Then the form was retunred to them through the ‘Official Response’ letterbox. Their letter had “IGNORED” stamped on it. This simple ‘participatory theatre’ was done to reflect the very real way local authorities have ignored the objections of individuals and groups in the area who are very concerned with the nuclear-arms factory, for a wide range of political and safety reasons. Below is the main graphic from the front of the tardis, based on a subvert of AWE:
This very simple ‘stocks’ props was made in 2009 for the Airport Watch campaign that was joining with several other groups to oppose the proposed third runway at Heathrow Airport just outside London. It was really just a banner with three holes cut into it, hung off a very simple bamboo A-frame, so it was very light and portable – easy to transport and set up quickly. It was used at several ‘flash-mob’ events both in London and at Heathrow and made fun of the Transport Minister Geoff Hoon. In medival times a set of wooden stocks were sometimes used to lock up a thief or other criminal in the town square, where villages were able to throw rotten vegetables at.
Plane and Train costumes
These two props were made for Transport 2000 (who are now called Campaign for Better Transport) in 2009. They are made of a light-weight bamboo skeleton covered in a papier-mache skin, like with many of the props I make. They are small enough to fit in a taxi but large enough to be eye-catching.
They were used by some young film-makers to make this rather silly short ‘web-film’ to raise awareness of the unfair fight between Aviation and Trains:
No New Coal – Chimney and cooling towers
I made this set of three giant, but very portable, props for People & Planet in 2008. They were used in the international ‘April (fossil) Fools Day’ protest at Westminster in London, and again at several other events. That year P&P were adding a lot of energy to the wider movement against plans by the UK Labour government to build new coal-powered power stations in the UK. A wide range of protest were happening, including the Climate Camp at Kingsnorth, and Greenpeace occupations of several coal power establishments. In the end we won, forcing legislation through that blocks the building of new coal-power infrastructure. Sadly, the new con-dem coalition governemnt are moving to side step this victory by approving a string of new gas power stations, and also approve new fracking operations. Here is a view of inside the giant towers, a view of a folded tower and a view of one of the towers next to a friend’s house:
This summer (2013) the folks at People and Planet are teaming up with Bill McKibbon’s 350.org and Operation Noah to run a fossil-fuels-free UK tour, bring Bill’s “Do the Math” message to UK student. This is great news and I hope this really inspires thousands of new people to get active on saving our climate.
Dick Cheney Puppet
This large head-n-shoulders prop (with optional giant arms-with-hands) of Dick Cheney was made in 2008 for the “Hands off Iraqi Oil” campaign. The animated GIF above shows the various stages of it being made, from a skeleton of bamboo and water-piping, through it’s papier-mache skin and final painted surface. The campaign was launched in 2007 as the new Iraq government was caving in to intense western pressure to give very ‘corporate-friendly’ oil-deals to western Oil companies, particularly Shell, BP and Chevron. The campaign was run by a coalition of US and UK charities, including War on Want, Corporate Watch, Platform and Voices UK. Below is a photo of it on a march in London:
In 2010 the puppet was no longer needed by the HOIO campaign, so they asked around in London and discovered that the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) wanted to use it as the CEO of BAe Systems, a Dick Olver, who luckily look quite similar. The giant cigar was replaced by a giant missile snugly pulled under the raised top lip. Below are a few photos of the puppet in it’s new role:
In 2005 I made a giant telescope for the Stop Aids Campaign, who used it at a number of events including the 2005 G8 meeting in Scotland. The cunningly simple ‘eye-in-the-world’ logo was designed by Polyp, the prolific and inspiring cartoonist and prop-maker from Manchester. Here are a few photos of the different sides of the telescope:
Here is a very short video showing two friends testing the finished telescope:
I made this fun ‘tank’ for People & Planet in 2003 out of painted cloth and bamboo. The prop was used along with a ‘sinking’ oil tanker (see below) in a peaceful mass tresspass of the Esso HQ in Leatherhead. Esso is the UK name for Exxon. There was an amusing mention about this protest in the Guardian newspaper, as copied in here:
Below is the oil tanker that was used at the same event, also made of painted cloth and bamboo. It had a half a brick inside the rear end to tip it backwards, alongside a large block of foam packaging that acted as a float, to stop it actually sinking. This was left to drift in the pond:
The tank was so light and portable that you could even cycle a bike while wearing it, as shown in the photo below. Later in the year there were many large anti-war protests in Oxford, and at one such event a large group of students decided to peacefully blockade a major road in Oxford. Many costumes, banners and placards were in the crowd, along with music and chanting. This tank was also there reminding folks that oil was a major factor in the war. Apparently the police charged the students quite violently and two large cops were seen to tear apart his prop. I wish someone had captured that act on film – it would have been a great symbol of our times.
A giant costume and carnival float from 2001 of a fat cat. This prop was the first BIG prop I ever made and it has its own page of photos, here.