Performance 45: We pretend to be BP staff, and greet VIP visitors and press arriving for a preview of the British Museum’s new BP-sponsored Scythians exhibition. Accompanied by two official-looking pop-up signs, our fake “BP Brand Enforcement Ambassadors” gave visitors a startlingly honest introduction to the exhibition, explaining exactly why BP was sponsoring it and how proud BP is of causing the climate change that is revealing (and destroying) more Scythian artefacts from the Siberian permafrost. 12th September 2017.
Performance 44: We set up a new exhibit, without permission, inside the National Portrait Gallery. Alongside street artist Dale Grimshaw, we take over a space at the entrance to the BP Portrait Award exhibition, and create a display featuring Dale’s portrait of the Indigenous West Papuan independence leader, Benny Wenda. We give talks to the public about the painting and show films of Benny Wenda and Raki Ap, another prominent West Papuan activist, talking about BP’s role in the occupation of their lands. We also create a spoof awards ceremony, where BP receives a “Pollution Award”, the National Portrait Gallery is given a “Hypocrisy Award”, and the West Papuan activist Yanto Awerkion has the whole performance dedicated to him. 31st August 2017.
Special intervention: We accompany William “Hawk” Birdshead, a leading Indigenous water protector from Standing Rock, on a trip to the British Museum. A beautiful film of his powerful critique of the way Indigenous objects are displayed and sponsored, can be seen on Facebook here and via Real Media here. 20th July 2017.
Performance 43: We join Indigenous Australian campaigner Rodney Kelly for a series of rebel lectures in the British Museum calling for the return of his ancestor’s stolen shield and an end to BP sponsorship of Indigenous cultures.
Together, we take up residence in the museum’s “Living and Dying Room” for the day and Rodney tells crowds of visitors the shocking story of the Gweagal shield. The shield was stolen from Rodney’s direct ancestor with musket fire and bloodshed by Captain Cook in 1770, and is vital evidence of the colonial violence of the very first contact between British forces and the Indigenous peoples of Australia. In 2015, the museum placed the shield – and other Indigenous artefacts – in an exhibition sponsored by BP. Most of the communities whose items were featured in the exhibition – including Rodney and his people – were not consulted about the choice of sponsor. June 18th 2017.
Performance 42: We invade the British Museum with a live quiz show featuring BP!
Despite over-the-top security measures and prop confiscations, the British Museum couldn’t stop our “cashmob” performance from going ahead. Our all-singing, all-dancing, completely rigged quiz show “Who Wants to Pay a Billionaire?” highlighted the disgraceful fact that BP receives hundreds of millions of pounds of subsidy from taxpayers each year. BP then has the cheek to sponsor institutions like the British Museum with a small fraction of that amount and claim that it’s being generous. Not cool, BP. Not cool at all. 14th May 2017.
Performance 41: We return to the RSC stage – with William Shakespeare himself!
The evening’s performance of Antony and Cleopatra in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre had an unexpected warm-up act, when two of our performers took the stage without permission a few minutes before the play was due to start. The first performer pretended to be a spokesperson for the RSC’s sponsor BP, but his cringeworthy PR-speak was suddenly interrupted by a furious William Shakespeare. The performance was met with laughter and applause from the audience. 27th April 2017
Performance 40: For Global Money Week, we bring a pipeline into the British Museum to challenge four museum sponsors – BP, Citi, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley – who are supporting the Dakota Access Pipeline. 1st April 2017. #DefundDAPL
Performance 39: We take over the British Museum with a “rebel ceremony” for an entire afternoon. To mark the end of the BP-sponsored Sunken Cities exhibition, 40 performers from 8 different countries create a living installation in the Great Court and carry out a series of performances featuring voices, statements, poems and films from seven global cities at risk from rising seas. 26th November 2016.
Performance 38: We join a group of Indigenous Australian campaigners and elders for a different – and very special – visit to the British Museum.
First, we join Rodney Kelly to visit the Gweagal shield displayed in the British Museum’s ‘Enlightenment’ gallery. Rodney, the sixth generation descendant of the shield’s original owner, spoke about the shield’s significance and the campaign for it to be repatriated. The shield was held by Rodney’s ancestor as Captain Cook first approached the shore at Botany Bay in 1770 (see http://www.firstcontact1770.com for more information).
Then, Mirning elder and whale song man, Bunna Lawrie, sings and performs in the museum’s Great Court, including a song dedicated to the campaign against BP’s drilling in the Great Australian Bight. Bunna was at the forefront of the successful campaign against BP’s planned drilling, as part of the Great Australian Bight Alliance. Rodney and Bunna are accompanied by Vincent Forrester, traditional elder of Mutitjulu, sacred fire keeper, Roxley Foley, other members of ‘First Contact 1770’, and Tony Boye. 22nd October 2016.
Performance 37: In our most ambitious action yet, we flood the British Museum with a 200-strong splashmob featuring musical mermaids, oily pirates, and a 40-foot BP kraken. Well, what does the museum expect if it lets BP sponsor an exhibition called Sunken Cities? 25th September 2016.
Performance 36: Alongside London Mexico Solidarity, JusticeMexicoNow, and The Wretched of the Earth, we occupy the Great Court of the British Museum with Mexican justice campaigner Letty Hildago. We fill the space with banners and photos of Mexico’s disappeared, and Letty tells museum-goers the story of the forced disappearance of her son and her ongoing struggle for justice against the Mexican government. We call out the museum for promoting the Mexican government and BP at its Days of the Dead event last year, and demand an end to BP’s plans to drill in Mexico. Watch the livestream here. 24th September 2016.
Performance 35: We launch a finvasion of the British Museum, with a troupe of singing merfolk. These marine denizens are delighted at the idea that BP is going to keep on sinking more and more cities, providing future homes for merpeople everywhere. Meanwhile, a group of humans gather memories of at-risk cities from museum visitors, using a giant map. This action was timed to coincide with a sponsorship protest by London Campaign Against Arms trade, challenging arms company funding of the London Transport Museum. 3rd July 2016.
Performance 34: The British Museum have set up one of those cut-out photo-board thingies to accompany the BP-sponsored Sunken Cities exhibition. We pay it a little visit, and make a handy guide for how to stop BP with your face. 3rd June 2016.
Performance 33: We occupy the Great Court of the British Museum with a water-drenched performance, at the same time as the evening VIP launch of the BP-sponsored ‘Sunken Cities’ exhibition. We get close to the reception event, and hold the space with our ‘Sunken Cities of the Future’ performance despite the museum being officially closed. The Evening Standard reports that our performance can be clearly heard inside the reception itself. 17th May 2016.
Performance 32: We gatecrash the press launch of the British Museum’s new BP-sponsored exhibition, ‘Sunken Cities – Egypt’s Lost Worlds’, creating a large-scale art work at the exhibition’s entrance. Formed of crude oil from the Gulf Coast, a teargas cartridge from Cairo’s Tahrir Square and 340 lines of black stones, the art piece symbolises how BP’s operations in Egypt are ‘surrounded’ by human rights violations. 17th May 2016.
Performance 31: Three actor-vists crash the stage at Cadogan Hall, just before a BP-sponsored performance of Prokofiev’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’.
Our troupe of actors, who are all LGBT, perform their own balcony scene between same-sex lovers – ‘Ramira and Juliet’. The audience applauds, shushes a heckler and boos mentions of BP. The performance also shines a spotlight on BP’s close relationship with the Russian government and its draconian anti-gay laws. 18th April 2016.
Performance 30: We take over the British Museum’s Great Court with a rebel exhibition: “A History of BP in 10 Objects”. We also launch a website showcasing all the objects, and a public petition; meanwhile, 91 famous and respected figures sign a letter to the Guardian calling on the Museum to drop BP. All in all, a proper welcome for the Museum’s new Director, Hartwig Fischer! 3rd April 2016.
What we did in 2015: See fifteen different performance actions in just over two minutes! It’s been a busy year – but we need your help to make 2016 even bigger…
Performance 29: Neil MacGregor – British Museum Director and BP apologist extraordinaire – is moving on from his post! We give him a special surprise farewell party inside the Museum. 20th December 2015.
Performance 28: We join hundreds of art-activists from all over the world to create two performances at the oil-sponsored Louvre during the Paris climate talks. Outside, a mass performance with umbrellas; inside, a smaller group singing and smearing fake oil on the floor. Ten of the inside performers – including some of our own actor-vists – are arrested, but manage to smuggle a phone into their cell and send out an illicit message to the world! All are eventually released without charge. All in all, a spectacular launch for a new global movement for #FossilFreeCulture. 9th December 2015.
Performance 27: The Science Museum has ended its sponsorship deal with Shell! But they haven’t ruled out a future partnership, and they’re still sponsored by BP, so we team up with the Progressive Science Institute and hold a “public but unauthorised” scientific conference inside the Museum. 22nd November 2015.
Performance 26: BP holds its annual schmoozing event at the British Museum, cosying up to government ministers and the cultural elite. But oh look – some actorvist pixies also show up with a projector. 12th November 2015.
Performance 25: Day of the Dead, sponsored by…BP and the Mexican government?! We join forces with the amazing London Mexico Solidarity group to crash this deadly party at the British Museum, with a team of undead BP executives, an out-of-control Mexican president and a “living shrine” to commemorate all the people fighting for justice in Mexico. 30th October 2015.
Performance 24: We are honoured to be joined by Gilberto Torres, a Colombian trade unionist who was kidnapped and tortured for standing up to oil companies, including BP. We carry out a performance inside the BP-sponsored British Museum, with two “Truth Translators” to decode BP’s spin, and Gilberto tells visitors about the legal action he is taking against BP for their role in his abduction. 11th October 2015.
Performance 23: We take part in a triple protest against the BP-sponsored ballet ‘Romeo and Juliet’ – a musical intervention in the foyer of the Royal Opera House, a banner drop inside from the balcony near the stage, and a theatrical protest at the live screening in Millenium Square in Bristol! September 22nd 2015
Performance 22: We join 15 other groups in a mass Art Not Oil takeover of the British Museum! Hundreds of people take part in the biggest action so far against BP sponsorship. September 13th 2015.
Performance 21: We team up with Friends of the Earth Scotland and People & Planet Edinburgh to challenge BP’s sponsorship of the Edinburgh International Festival (nb. not the Fringe). We recreate the Deepwater Horizon oil spill with music, words and our bodies outside iconic festival venue Usher Hall.
Then we go to the festival’s HQ, The Hub, to rip BP’s logo out of their programmes. Legendary theatremaker Simon McBurney, joins us in speaking out against BP despite having a show in the festival, and helps add to our amazing haul of media coverage! August 16th 2015.
Watch the film on Facebook here.
Performance 20: We occupy the British Museum for over three hours with a pop-up oil rig and an epic performance featuring a colonial explorer, a crowd of dying animals, an angry climate scientist, powerful voices from Aboriginal communities, an oblivious Museum and a sleazy BP. We speak to hundreds of museum-goers, distributing British Museum feedback forms and collecting solidarity messages for the return of the stolen artefacts in the BP-sponsored Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation exhibition. July 19th 2015.
Performance 19: We hit a BP-sponsored performance at the Royal Opera House with two separate protests: a singing action inside the Opera House itself, and a banner invasion of the live broadcast in Trafalgar Square. Our “End Oil Sponsorship” banner is broadcast to thousands of people watching the opera all over the UK. June 11th 2015.
Performance 18: We team up with Reclaim the Power and create a surprise anti-Shell performance in front of Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” at the National Gallery. The performance also challenges the Gallery’s privatisation plans in solidarity with striking workers, and calls for the reinstatement of sacked gallery worker and PCS union rep Candy Udwin. Kick out Shell! Bring back Candy! June 1st 2015.
Performance 17: We recreate the Deepwater Horizon oil spill inside the British Museum (again), but this time with 50 umbrellas, a pelican, and Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir! This film of the action has now been viewed more than 70,000 times on Facebook and Youtube. May 2nd 2015.
Performance 16: We gatecrash the press launch of the BP-sponsored “Indigenous Australia: Enduring Cultures” exhibition at the British Museum, dressed as robbers, holding a banner reading “Stolen Land, Stolen Culture, Stolen Climate”. The exhibition includes many stolen Aboriginal artefacts that the Museum refuses to return. 21st April 2015.
Performance 15: Sherlock Holmes and Watson return to the British Museum with a 50-strong flashmob! We succeed in catching the dastardly BP and put the criminal company on trial for its crimes, in front of hundreds of museum-goers. 29th March 2015.
Performance 14: We bring Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson and a unit of bumbling Victorian cops into the British Museum to track down the world’s biggest corporate criminal, BP. Unfortunately, BP escapes into the museum! So we call out for reinforcements, by announcing a public “detective flashmob” inside the Museum (on March 29th, all welcome). 8th February 2015.
Performance 13: We gatecrash the media launch of the Shell-sponsored Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery, and perform a musical based on Dr Faustus. This action was in solidarity with gallery workers who are facing the threat of mass privatisation of their jobs. 14th October 2014.
Performance 11: a publicly-advertised flash-horde brings 200 Vikings and a longship into the British Museum, to give BP a Viking funeral. The Museum escalates its security measures and several people are excluded from the building, but the performance carries on regardless. 15 June 2014
Performance 10: a horde of oily vikings invade the British Museum, in protest at BP sponsorship of the Vikings exhibition.
The Norse gods intervene and soon BP is ejected. 27 April 2014.
Film: ‘Pillaging the Planet’
Spoof film mocks BP’s sponsorship of British Museum’s Vikings exhibition, 24 April 2014
Performance 9: ‘Is this a logo I see before me?’
We take over Tate Britain, on 19 January 2014.
Performance 8: a huge ‘Shakespearean flashmob’ in the British Museum
18 November 2012.
Film: Behind the Curtains of the Reclaim Shakespeare Company
November 12 2012. Essential viewing for anyone with an interest in creative protest.
Performance 7: in the interval of Much Ado About Nothing
In the Noel Coward Theatre, London’s West End. Members of the RSC cast tweeted their support and intervened to stop security removing us mid-performance. 23 October 2012
Film: The Merchant of Darkeness
The story of the Reclaim Shakespeare Company and our most honourable quest to kick BP out of the theatre world, presented in three acts.
Performance 6: back at Stratford-Upon-Avon for Twelfth Night
29th September 2012.
Performance 5: Inside the British Museum‘s ‘Shakespeare: Staging the World’ exhibition
20th July 2012.
Performance 4: At London’s Riverside Studios, before Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad.
28th June 2012.
Performance 3: At the Roundhouse, Camden, before Comedy of Errors
And in front of an audience partly made up of BP and RSC staff! 27th June 2012.
Performance 2: The Royal Shakespeare Theatre again, before Twelfth Night
April 25th 2012
[Unfortunately this video is no longer available online]
Performance 1: The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, before The Tempest
April 23rd 2012 (Shakespeare’s birthday!)