Today it was revealed that, after 34 years, BP will no longer sponsor the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF). The move follows intense pressure on the EIF last August, including one of its major stars, Simon McBurney, speaking out publicly in criticism of the sponsor, and two protest performances from theatrical campaign group BP or not BP?.
The EIF 2016 programme was announced today and BP was absent from the sponsors list. The end of the relationship was confirmed by the EIF via twitter.
— edintfest (@edintfest) April 6, 2016
This comes less than a month after BP and Tate announced they were parting company after 26 years, and two days after the new British Museum director came under intense pressure from 100 cultural, scientific and political luminaries to end its own long-running contract with the oil giant.
Daniel Bye, whose show won a Fringe First award last year and who joined the creative protest against BP outside Usher Hall, said:
Whether or not it’s down to the vociferous campaigns, I’m delighted that EIF have ended their association with massive corporate criminal BP. I look forward to the day when arts organisations gladhanding big oil looks as freakishly untenable as tobacco or arms sponsorship. This takes us one step closer.
Last year saw two creative protests against BP during the festival, once outside Usher Hall and one in the Hub, the EIF’s headquarters. Following the festival, a group led by EIF staff, called BP Out of the Arts – Edinburgh, formed. They sent a letter to Fergus Linehan, EIF Director, and launched a public petition, resulting in a meeting with the director last autumn.
Jess Worth from BP or not BP?, who co-ordinated the protests at least year’s festival, said:
‘It’s less than a month since Tate parted company with BP and the dominoes are clearly starting to fall. The EIF has walked away from a 34-year partnership because being associated with BP was doing too much damage to its reputation. Big oil has been embedded in our museums and festivals for too long but now the shift to a fossil free culture is taking off. However, there is more to be done in Edinburgh. Now the Science Festival must clear out its fossil fuel funders and the Portrait Gallery should close its doors to BP.”
The announcement comes as pressure is growing on all arts organisations to sever their ties with oil companies. An opinion poll by Morar Consulting, commissioned by arts group Platform last week, shows that one in two Londoners (49.6%) want the British Museum to drop BP sponsorship. (27.8% said the museum should make another deal with BP, and 22.5% responded “I don’t know”.) Another survey of British Museum staff showed that 62% think BP sponsorship is ‘unethical’. This is survey was conducted by the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents workers in major museums including the British Museum and Tate.
Amanda Grimm from BP or not BP? Scotland, which formed after the EIF protest last year and in February highlighted the ethical problems with BP’s sponsorship of the Portrait Award by staging a pop-up performance inside the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, said:
‘We are delighted that the sponsorship deal between BP and the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) has not been renewed. We congratulate the EIF staff who kept the pressure on the Festival’s director after the performance protest at the Festival last August. The world is shifting away from fossil fuels, and we believe that arts and cultural institutions, as trend-setters and forward-thinkers, should be at the forefront of this vital shift.
Ric Lander from Friends of the Earth Scotland said:
“Edinburgh International Festival should be congratulated on freeing itself from fossil fuel sponsorship. We know that most fossil fuels reserves must be kept in the ground if we want to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. We need to urgently move away from extracting and burning fossil fuels and companies like BP who continue to profit from the destruction of our environment have no place in our treasured cultural events or institutions.”