On Monday night, campaigners from BP or not BP?, Feral X and the Wilderness Society mounted a creative protest at the BP-sponsored British Museum. The group projected the words “Drop BP” alongside images of the BP rig preparing to drill in the Great Australian Bight onto the museum’s iconic building. It took place as the museum hosted a sold-out lecture on its next BP-sponsored exhibition, the aptly titled, “Sunken Cities” and follows a letter published in the Guardian last week from almost 100 respected figures urging the British Museum’s new director to drop BP as a sponsor. Later this week at BP’s AGM, shareholders will challenge BP’s plans to drill four ultra deep-water wells in the Great Australian Bight, off the south coast of Australia.
Lyndon Schneiders, National Campaign Director of the Wilderness Society in Australia, said:
The Great Australian Bight is too wild and too precious to be drilled for oil. It is a renowned whale sanctuary and BP should not be offshore drilling for oil there. We do not want a Deepwater Horizon disaster in Australia and the British Museum should not be associating itself with a company that wants to threaten this special place.
Chris Garrard, a member of BP or not BP? who helped organise the protest, said:
Last year, just as BP was pushing to drill in the Great Australian Bight, the British Museum gave the company valuable legitimacy by allowing it to sponsor an exhibition on Indigenous Australia. And this year, BP will sponsor the museum’s ‘Sunken Cities’ exhibition. But the bitter irony is that if BP drills four new wells in the Great Australian Bight, ‘Sunken Cities’ won’t just be a record of the past – it will be a vision of the kind of future we will face with dangerous climate change.
BP sponsorship of arts and culture has been in the spotlight after the end of its 26-year partnership with Tate was announced a few weeks ago and the confirmation last week that BP’s 34-year partnership with the Edinburgh International Festival has also come to an end. BP claimed the end of both deals was down to a “challenging business environment” but campaigners have disputed this, pointing out that BP’s CEO Bob Dudley is poised to gain a 20% pay rise at Thursday’s AGM.
Campaigners are now targeting the British Museum’s sponsorship deal, which is up for renewal this year. Last Sunday, a group of twenty activists set up a ‘disobedient exhibition’ – A History of BP in 10 Objects – inside the museum, displaying items sent by communities from around the world directly impacted by BP’s operations. They criticised BP’s “meagre” payment to the museum, which represents around 0.8% of the British Museum’s budget.
The projection protest was organised by BP or not BP?, activist projectionist Feral X and supported by the Wilderness Society. A film of the action will be made available on social media on Wednesday 13th April at 9am.