Send in the (embedded) clowns

The mainstream were not the only media reporting from Gleneagles. Matt Salusbury watched the whole event as a 'foot-soldier' of the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army

e hear about embedded journalists in Iraq, attached to military units, living and eating with them, wearing their uniform, and submitting their dispatches to military censors for approval. Most "embed" material is broadcast without mentioning that reporters were censored. David Hambling's recent book Weapons Grade claims embedding is one of the military's "variations on brainwashing techniques". As a journalist from an activist background, I decided it was time to "embed" with the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (Circa), a surrealist army of clowns protesting at the G8 summit.

Friday 1 July, on the special train from London King's Cross to Edinburgh. Non-Clown Stuart Hodgekinson admits to being terrified of clowns from an early age. Stuart is in the Dissent Media Strategy Group, which was started with a view to actively placing "nice", issue-based, stories ahead of G8 - a departure from the prevailing "blanket nothing response" to the media. Activists are also annoyed with the media's narcissistic insistence that protesters only do what they do to get their voice and their images in the mainstream media. One activist - who didn't want to be named - says most people weren't going to the G8 to get on the telly, they were there because they "want to shut the G8 down".

Saturday 2 July. It's the Make Poverty History rally. Even the clowns are shocked by the huge turnout - more than a hundred clowns from as far afield as Ireland, Belgium, the US and Canada. Fluffy pink-trimmed camouflage is everywhere. My local NUJ branch warned I should be readily distinguishable from "the demonstrators", so I have a distinct black and white "urban" camouflage uniform and a press card round my neck. I organise a media "gaggle" (affinity group) with photographer Ian Te and Zoë Young, a film-maker who has been embedded with the Clown Army since their recruitment tour started in June. I spend most of the day covering her back as she films.

The Canadian freelancer Patrick Falby is allowed along "out of Clown", although he's more at home working for the London Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, plus other agencies who "are only interested if it kicks off". Patrick is a graduate of a two-day "clown training" sessions, which is more than I can say for myself. I am being thrown into combat with only an evening's basic drilling in clowning manoeuvres.

BBC 4's documentary film team - cameraman Olly Bootle and his assistant Agnes - are welcomed aboard, also clown-trained but "out of clown", after orders from upstairs banned them from filming wearing the clown costumes they'd made, for fear it would compromise their objectivity. As a gesture of defiance, a strip of Clown Army style pink fishnet is wound around the camera mike.

A call comes in to say that the anarchist Black Bloc are penned in by police and we march off to assist them. Clowns kiss policemen and rub themselves up against riot vans on the way. As the policing gets heavier, the Clown Army suddenly changes into a sorted activists' affinity group, with some very serious huddles to discuss tactics.

Monday 3 July. At its open-air "spokesperson council", Circa evaluates Saturday's action and decides the approaching clowns are too easy for the police to spot. As I am wearying of the squeaky voices by now, I am deployed in an "undercover clown" role, to scout ahead in normal clothes and report on police deployments.

The Clown Army is alarmed by the growing media scrum it has attracted. This now includes Italians Lorenzo The Fresh Guy and Allesandro, who've been following the movement since 2000. Like most of the Clown media pool, they haven't got any commissions and are working on spec. They say it's much easier to get access to protesters than previously. At the G8 in Genoa, they found it impossible to gain images.

Suddenly, the police move in and detain clowns for on-street searches. Answering police questions in a squeaky clown voice is a good way to disguise nerves, it turns out. The BBC4 crew are also searched, despite showing their ID.

Tuesday 4 July. The clowns are encamped behind Stirling football ground. Their mainstream-media followers show all the signs of Stockholm Syndrome - like some kidnap victims, they are getting way too sympathetic with their hosts. Something weirder, though, has happened to me.

After days of dissing me for working for the corporate media, the protesters' own alternative media team and the legal defence team now beg me to use my press card to enter the Edinburgh Sheriff's court, to report back to them on hearings for the arrestees from Monday's carnival. In four days I have gone from embedded clown to undercover clown to desertion from the Clown Army to conscription as an activist court reporter.

This report was compiled under Clown Army restrictions.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Social Media Account Writers

£12000 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This social media management pr...

Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor (Magazine Publishing) - Wimbledon - £23-26K

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor - Wimbledon...

Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publishing) - Wimbledon - £26-30K

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publish...

Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent