BP-sponsored ballet hit by triple protest

For interviews and high quality photos, contact info@bp-or-not-bp.org

Last night, musicians and campaigners held a triple protest against BP’s sponsorship of the Royal Opera House. As audience members arrived for a BP-sponsored performance of the ballet, Romeo and Juliet, a group of musicians launched into an unsanctioned musical protest in the opera house’s foyer, despite security’s attempts to remove them. A short time later, during the interval, another group unfurled two banners from a balcony next to the opera house’s stage before being escorted out by security staff. Their banners read “End Oil Sponsorship” and “BP – World’s Biggest Corporate Criminal”. Meanwhile, environmental campaigners in Bristol took on a BP-sponsored screening of the ballet which was taking place in the city centre, with an original theatrical protest.

Photo: Anthony Perrett.
Photo: Anthony Perrett.

Miranda Shaw, a violinist who took part in the musical protest, said:

“By accepting BP’s money, the Royal Opera House is giving BP a legitimacy that it does not deserve. We used music to commemorate, to creatively challenge this ill-advised partnership and also to expose BP’s injustices around the world. Our performance stands in stark contrast to the way BP uses the arts – as a tool to deceive, to cleanse its tarnished brand and buy favour from political leaders.”

Photo by Elizabeth Hughes
Photo by Elizabeth Hughes

The musicians gave a performance of a newly composed piece, entitled “Meditation for a BP spill”. They musical score instructs performers to play a single musical chord 87 times, “once for each day that oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico”, and they should create the sound of the “submerged seismic booms that BP uses to search for oil in even deeper waters in the Great Australian Bight.” A copy of the original score is included at the end of this post.

Meanwhile, a team of performers gatecrashed the live screening of the ballet in Millenium Square in Bristol, and staged a play of their own in front of the crowd, just before the start of the screening. Taking their theme from the ballet itself, the performance featured Juliet imploring Romeo to abandon his relationship with BP:

“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy sponsor and redeem thy name…
Yet still they retain the putrefaction of their misdeeds.
This oily devil plays a mummer’s game- pretending ‘goodness’ and ‘sustainability’
Yet their villainy is known throughout the land.”

IMG_0119The full script can be seen below.

All three of this season’s BP-sponsored performances at the Royal Opera House have now attracted protest. In July, 75 composers, musicians and music academics called on the Royal Opera House to end its partnership with BP in a letter to The Guardian and in June, two young composers held a musical protest in the opera house’s auditorium while another anti-BP action was staged at the “BP Big Screen” in Trafalgar Square.

Photo by Anthony Perrett
Photo by Anthony Perrett

Last night’s protests are part of a growing wave of action against BP sponsorship of arts and cultural institutions. Earlier this month, 250 people occupied the British Museum in a mass creative protest against oil sponsorship, incorporating multiple performances from fifteen different groups. Additional actions also took place at the BP-sponsored National Portrait Gallery, by “Children Against Global Warming”, and at Tate Britain, by the performance art collective, “Liberate Tate”.

Chris Garrard, a campaigner with the group “BP or not BP?”, who took part in last night’s Royal Opera House protest, said:

“BP has a business plan that will push us into runaway climate change and its attempts to derail crucial climate legislation are well documented. But BP has also supported repressive regimes in West Papua, Colombia and Azerbaijan and it should therefore have no place in our cultural institutions when these are spaces where freedom of expression is celebrated.”

Photo by Elizabeth Hughes
Photo by Elizabeth Hughes

BP paid the largest criminal fine in US history of $4.5 billion after admitting guilt to fourteen charges over its Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP also admitted to having lied to US Congress during the disaster. BP has recently been criticised for its close relationship with the Aliyev regime in Azerbaijan, a regime with a record of human rights abuses and which currently has over 100 political prisoners.

The Royal Opera House is one of four major cultural institutions sponsored by BP as part of a five-year deal, along with the British Museum, the Tate galleries and the National Portrait Gallery. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the British Museum and the Tate have recently been forced to reveal that BP’s donations make up less than 1% of their overall income – an “embarrassingly small” amount campaigners say.

Score devised by Chris Garrard
Score devised by Chris Garrard

Script from the performance at the Bristol #BPBigScreen :

Introduction (by Romeo):
Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please. There will now be a 2 minute performance about BP’s sponsorship of the arts.

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east and Juliet is the sun!

O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy sponsor and redeem thy name:
Or if thou wilt not, then forswear my love,
For I can no longer stand silent.

I ask- what’s in a word?  The burning tar-sands by another name would smell as rank.
Doest thou call BP a kind and merry patron of the arts…?

(BP comes frolicking on all in green and yellow, smiling beatifically and sniffing a bunch of yellow flowers)

Yet still they retain the putrefaction of their misdeeds.
This oily devil plays a mummer’s game- pretending ‘goodness’ and ‘sustainability’
Yet their villainy is known throughout the land
For they are this world’s largest corporate criminal.

(She points at BP accusingly. BP starts to smear oil over their face and arms.)

While poison waves still lap the gulf of Mexico,
They wreak destruction on far Canadia’s fair shore, and seek even to despoil the high white Arctic,
In their search for yet more black gold.

Sweet muse of dance, ’tis but this tiny logo that is my enemy-
Why canst thou not take some other coin?
Be not BP’s maid, for they are devious;
Their vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it.

(Romeo pushes BP out of the way and tears the logo from his chest. If there is time this can be expanded into a short sword fight. Both ways end with BP cowering on the floor.)

I pray, renounce this sponsorship, which should have no part of thee.

Juliet & Romeo together:
Out! Out damn logo! (Romeo tears the logo in half).

Performers join hands and bow, while 3 other players open 3 umbrellas that read ‘ART’ ‘NOT’ ‘OIL’

(Exit, pursued by security)

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