We are BP or not BP? – a merry troupe of players who came together in 2012 aghast that our beloved Bard’s works and memory had been purloined by BP in a case of greenwash most foul. We are like a drop of water that in the ocean seeks another drop. Together, we will make a flood.
Now we are a national network of actor-vists, our number growing daily, performing disobedient theatre in many different oil-sponsored spaces. Our first guerrilla Shakespeare performance (as the Reclaim Shakespeare Company), on April 23rd 2012 (Shakespeare’s birthday), starred 2 players; our largest to date – a mass creative action at the British Museum’s BP-sponsored Assyria exhibition – featured 350 people. We have performed without permission at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the British Museum, the Edinburgh International Festival, the National Gallery, Cadogan Hall, the Royal Opera House, the Science Museum, the Roundhouse, the Noel Coward Theatre, the National Portrait Gallery and in Tate Britain. You can watch films of them here.
We invade stages and cultural spaces with courage, humour and respect; our aim is to win over audiences, to provoke and entertain, and to make the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Science Museum and others profoundly uncomfortable with the noxious, treach’rous, belching oily rogue they have chosen as a partner.
We have achieved fame and notoriety in our brief existence. Our exploits have been covered by Radio 4, the Financial Times, the Times, the Guardian, the Telegraph, Channel 4 News, BBC Business News, Front Row, the Morning Star, Vice, Hyperallergic, Dazed & Confused, Time Out, Pink News, the Evening Standard, the Metro, the Stage, the Museums Journal and Arts Professional, amongst others.
We believe deeply in solidarity, and regularly partner with representatives of communities feeling the monstrous force of BP’s misdeeds. From the Gulf Coast to the Tar Sands, from Colombia to Australia, from West Papua to Azerbaijan to Egypt to Mexico – we stand shoulder to shoulder with those battling BP’s destructive greed, and bring their voices and demands into our performances where we can.
We have signed up to the Oil Sponsorship Free commitment, and will not rest until we have collectively (with Art Not Oil Coalition friends Liberate Tate, Platform, PCS Union and others) kicked big oil out of the arts. The Art Not Oil movement has already helped to end Shell’s sponsorship of Wildlife Photographer of the Year, the Shell Classic International concerts at the Southbank Centre and the climate change gallery at the Science Museum. The Almeida Theatre was briefly sponsored by BP, but following protests this deal was not renewed. In 2016, our groups kicked BP out of the Tate galleries and the Edinburgh Festival, ending decades-long sponsorship deals. In 2019, we saw the end of oil sponsorship deals at the Royal Shakespeare Company, National Gallery, Edinburgh Science Festival and National Galleries Scotland. Every one of these victories chips away at the power of the fossil fuel industry, reducing its public and political influence, and strengthening the hand of everyone around the world who’s pushing for cleaner alternatives and a safer climate.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!