Letter to British Museum Staff

Dear British Museum staff,

We’re here today to create a performance inside the museum, based around the destructive activities of the museum’s sponsor, BP. Please be aware that our activities are not targeted at staff, and that we have taken measures to make this performance as COVID-safe as possible for everyone.

All participants in the event were tested negative for COVID this morning, we are socially distancing from staff and the public, and are performing for a much shorter length of time than usual. We have chosen to perform in locations that will allow the public to watch us in a socially distanced way, without crowding smaller spaces or galleries

.We know that the BP sponsorship deal is decided by the management and Trustees, not by the frontline museum workers. We’re aware that the centralised, unaccountable decision-making structures at the Museum are also affecting the rights of workers in this building.

We support the PCS union in their campaigns for better working conditions for cultural sectorstaff, and have been inspired by the ongoing protests by British Museum staff against privatisation and in support of the former Carillion staff.We also applaud the PCS Branch at the British Museum for issuing a public statement in support of British Museum Trustee Ahdaf Soueif who resigned in Summer 2019 in protest at BP sponsorship, the reluctance to rehire workers transferred to Carillion and a lack of engagement with calls for repatriation. We thank the branch for also issuing a statement in support of our “BP Must Fall” protest last year.

We appreciate that this has been a really tough time for the cultural sector, and are delightedto see museums open again. It’s just such a shame to see the British Museum open with an exhibition sponsored by an oil company. BP is one of the most destructive corporations on the planet. According to the UN, we have just ten years to avoid catastrophic climate change. Sponsoring arts and culture makes it easier for oil companies to get away with their pollution, lobbying against climate action and human rights abuses, and the British Museum shouldn’t be helping BP to do it. BP’s long-running deals with Tate and the Edinburgh Festival ended in 2016, and in 2019 both the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Galleries Scotland announced an end to their BP partnerships. Around the same time, the National Theatre ended its partnership with Shell and last year both the Southbank Centre and BFI parted company with Shell. By clinging on to its oil sponsor, the British Museum is looking increasingly out of touch with the rest of the cultural sector.

It’s time for the British Museum to stop promoting the oil industry and start to decolonise. Clara Paillard, outgoing President of PCS Culture Sector said: “BP or not BP? have been fantastic in supporting our campaigns. They actively participate in our struggle for an alternative to the Tories’ arts and culture policies. No privatisation! No to Zero Hours contracts! Yes to the Living Wage! No to oil sponsorship! Solidarity!”We’re interested in your thoughts on all this so please do feel free to talk to us today, and in the future.

For a culture beyond oil,

BP or not BP? x