Scottish Ballet follows National Portrait Gallery in cutting ties to BP

  • Scottish Ballet says BP partnership no longer ‘aligns with the company’s green action plan – to be carbon neutral by 2030’
  • Shift in stance follows ballet-inspired protest during COP26 climate summit
  • News follows announcement that BP sponsorship of National Portrait Gallery will end after 30 years
  • Pressure grows on British Museum not to renew its BP sponsorship
Our action targeting Scottish Ballet during COP26 in Glasgow

The Daily Telegraph has revealed that Scottish Ballet has ended its partnership with BP, on the same day as the National Portrait Gallery announced its 30-year sponsorship deal with BP was ending. In a statement to the Telegraph, Scotland’s national ballet said its agreement with BP no longer ‘aligns with the company’s green action plan – to be carbon neutral by 2030’ and it had ended the deal on January 31. 

This follows a balletic action by activist theatre group BP or not BP? on November 12th 2021, during the COP26 summit in Glasgow, targeting the Ballet, which immediately tweeted a statement in response.

Alys Mumford, a Scottish climate activist and member of BP or not BP? Scotland said:

‘For too long Scotland’s arts have been stained by oil. It’s fantastic news that Scottish Ballet are the latest in a long line of institutions and festivals who recognise that they must no longer partner with fossil fuel companies who drive climate change. Despite this, BP continue to spread their ‘greenwashing’ in Scotland by sponsoring places like the Aberdeen Art Gallery, while making record profits from oil extraction. Thank you to all of the artists and performers who have backed the campaign so far – we won’t stop until there are no BP logos left in Scotland’s arts.’

Zoe Lafferty, a member of BP or not BP? who was involved in the Scottish Ballet action during COP26, said:

‘One by one cultural organisations are finally making the right ethical decisions. However, it has taken years of work from artists and activists to push this to happen. We desperately need cultural gatekeepers to start being leaders in times of crisis rather than allowing the arts to hide decades of violence towards people and ecosystems. After this double victory, all eyes are now on the British Museum which must not renew its BP sponsorship deal.’

The news came on the same day as another major win for the campaign against fossil fuel sponsorship, when the National Portrait Gallery announced that it is ending its partnership with BP after over 30 years of the oil and gas company sponsoring the BP Portrait Award. The announcement followed years of growing opposition to BP’s sponsorship of the Gallery, from artist Gary Hume speaking out against the sponsorship while a judge of the annual portrait prize, to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery announcing it would no longer host the exhibition each year, to numerous creative protests taking place at the Gallery itself, including BP or not BP? blockading all three entrances to the 2019 award ceremony, forcing guests to climb over a wall to get in.

The creative action by BP or not BP? that seems to have ultimately persuaded the Scottish Ballet it was time to follow in the footsteps of many other cultural institutions, such as Tate, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Edinburgh International Festival and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and drop BP, took place on the final day of the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow last November. Around 50 performers and supporters took part in a singing and dancing protest led jointly by BP or not BP? and New York-based performance activists Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir. It featured a ballet dancer in a BP-branded tutu, gradually being persuaded – through dance and song – to remove the BP logo.  

The news intensifies the pressure on the British Museum to end its BP sponsorship deal after Culture Unstained revealed just last week that the Director has already been seeking to renew the controversial partnership, and over 300 archaeologists came out in opposition to the renewal. BP or not BP? staged another performance action inside the British Museum on Sunday, highlighting the hypocrisy of BP sponsoring the museum’s new Stonehenge exhibition while its operations in Western Australia are damaging Indigenous rock art even older than Stonehenge. BP or not BP? have also launched a petition calling on the Trustees not to renew the deal.

The announcement of the end of both partnerships comes as the oil giant faces public criticism over the huge profits it announced a few weeks ago, generated in part from the rising energy prices that are forcing many UK households to have to choose between heating and eating. BP is also continuing to invest millions in new exploration for oil and gas despite the International Energy Agency making clear that there can be no new investments in oil and gas exploration if we are to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Last year BP, along with other major oil companies, was barred from sponsoring or having any formal role at the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow as its business plans were judged not to be consistent with the Paris Climate targets.

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