British Museum hit by musical protest calling for “climate reparations”

  • 100 brightly-dressed performers create musical protest in museum courtyard
  • Performers call for British Museum to end BP sponsorship and return stolen artefacts, and for British Government to pay its fair share towards the climate crisis
  • Oil-sponsored British Museum “perfectly represents the historic damage caused by British colonialism and UK carbon pollution”
Photo by Ron Fassbender

Today at 11.00am, activist theatre group BP or not BP? and New York performance activists Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir led around 100 people in a surprise musical action in the courtyard in front of the British Museum.

Dressed in bright colours, the performance activists led the crowd in songs, movement, and a visual performance, featuring “Earth-preacher” Reverend Billy and high-energy harmonies from his Stop Shopping Choir. The performance highlighted the need for “climate reparations” at the COP26 climate talks – the demand that rich Northern countries should pay for the loss and damage already inflicted by climate change on the Global South, as well as providing funds to help Southern nations transition away from fossil fuels.

Photo by Ron Fassbender

By targeting the BP-sponsored British Museum [1], the performers aimed to draw attention to the interlinked issues of oil sponsorship and colonialism, and call on the UK to redress the damage caused by its historic and ongoing exploitation of countries in the Global South. 

The performers filled the front steps of the museum with large banners reading “Colonialism x fossil fuels = climate crisis” and “Drop BP”. A large group of singers dressed in bright colours and with fabric covering their faces then spread out in a grid across the courtyard and processed towards the museum, calling out the names of climate disasters, looted British Museum artefacts, and incidents of BP’s pollution and corruption. While singing the words “Reparations Now”, the performers symbolically pulled on imaginary ropes, hauling stolen wealth from the British state, and hauling stolen artefacts and BP sponsorship from the museum.

Photo by Ron Fassbender

The performance formed part of a global day of action during the UN COP26 climate talks, with many different groups taking action in London, Glasgow and around the world to demand fair and rapid action on the climate crisis. The performers took this action in support of the “climate reparations” bloc at the large London climate march organised by the COP26 Coalition, due to leave Bank at 12.00 today to march to Trafalgar Square. 

Cherif Wahab is a young Climate Leader from Revoke, a grassroots organisation advocating for the rights and welfare of underserved young people. Representing the Climate Reparations Bloc on today’s march, he said: 

“We say no more to a world that leaves people in West Africa – where I was born – facing more diseases, more food insecurity, and more water insecurity. This unfair system has left us exposed when droughts, storms, diseases and floods visit. Our resources and money are not there when we need them, they have already been taken. We do not need charity or aid from the corporations and governments that did the most to cause this harm. We need them to repair the harms they have caused and to get out of our way as we – the people – come together to build new worlds. We are not poor, Africa is not poor, Latin America is not poor, Asia is not poor, indigenous communities around the world are not poor. Our wealth is being stolen.”

Photo: Ron Fassbender

The British Museum’s partnership with BP looks even more hypocritical this week, as the museum has announced a new “sustainability ethos” on its website [2], in which the museum claims it’s committed to “improving our sustainability throughout all aspects of the British Museum’s operation”, but ignores the fact that it’s sponsored by one of the world’s most polluting fossil fuel companies. Yesterday, the museum co-hosted an event at the COP26 climate summit with the “One Young World” initiative, which is also sponsored by BP and other fossil fuel corporations.

Sarah Horne from BP or not BP? said:

“By partnering with BP and by refusing to return colonially-looted items such as the Benin Bronzes and the Gweagal Shield, the British Museum has become the perfect symbol of the historic damage caused by Britain’s colonialism and carbon pollution. We’re hoping that this action will support the global demand for climate reparations, and also put pressure on the museum’s management to change its position on the issues of oil sponsorship and stolen artefacts.”

With COVID safety in mind, today’s performance was held outdoors and all participants took a lateral flow test before attending.

Photo: Ron Fassbender

One thought on “British Museum hit by musical protest calling for “climate reparations”

  1. We arrived on time but sadly missed you all as one of us felt ill. Thank you for this excellent demonstration. We took posters in saying , British Museum- have you completely lost your Marbles? Funded by BP who are actively causing climate breakdown.


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