MASS ACTION against the climate crisis and colonialism – let’s kick BP out of the British Museum!
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 8TH 2020 (exact times tbc)
Want to join the largest protest the British Museum has ever seen?
The British Museum is launching a major new exhibition, sponsored by the oil giant BP.
We are in the middle of a climate emergency. The British Museum claims to agree – its Chair of Trustees recently called climate change “the great issue of our time”. Yet the museum continues to support and promote BP, one of the corporations most responsible for the crisis.
The Royal Shakespeare Company has just committed to dropping BP as a sponsor. Now it’s time for the British Museum to do the same.
The new BP-sponsored exhibition is called Troy: Myth and Reality. This is horribly appropriate: we’re sick of the oil industry using our arts and culture as a Trojan Horse to hide its deadly activities. BP’s sponsorship may look like a gift, but death and destruction are lurking inside. The oil giant wants to associate itself with this famous myth but in reality, just 75 miles from the site of ancient Troy, it recently completed an enormous gas pipeline in partnership with the repressive Turkish government, locking us into using more fossil fuels when we should be ditching them.
BP: the brand that launched a thousand protests
But arts sponsorship is also BP’s Achilles heel. Earlier this year, Ahdaf Soueif resigned as a British Museum trustee in protest at the sponsorship deal. Polls show that most staff at the British Museum want its deal with BP to end, along with at least half of Londoners. If we can kick BP out of the museum, we’ll deal a significant blow to the oil giant, reducing its power and influence at this crucial moment in the climate struggle. So join us as we lay theatrical siege to the Troy Exhibition (in a thoughtful and responsible way).
Talking of sieges: THANK YOU to everyone who donated to our crowdfunder to bring a Trojan Horse to the British Museum as part of the action! We’ve hit the target, but there’s still time to chip in if you want to support the action 🙂
WHAT TO EXPECT
We will fill the museum with people, movement, props, costumes and other surprises – including a Trojan Horse – to highlight the problems with BP sponsorship and other injustices in the museum. When you arrive, you’ll be given instructions on how to take part – there will be multiple roles to play to match your own particular interests, needs and skills 🙂 We are aiming to make this a fun and impactful day of creative action.
Please fill in this form* if you’d like to take part and we’ll send you more information as our plans unfold!
*Feel free to use a disposable email address if you want to be extra-secure – just don’t forget to check it from time to time between now and November 23rd!
SAVE THE DATE: JOIN US ON FEBRUARY 8TH TO OCCUPY AND REIMAGINE THE BRITISH MUSEUM
The British Museum is also ignoring calls for the return of colonially looted artefacts from around the world. Many of the same communities that suffered under British colonialism are today on the frontlines of BP’s pollution, corruption and climate disaster. Justice for these communities means the return of stolen culture and a rapid transition to a cleaner energy future – a transition that BP actively opposes through its lobbying and oil extraction. It’s time for the British Museum to step up to its responsibilities, respond to the demands of affected communities, return looted artefacts and #DropBP.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN ON THE DAY?
We are currently cooking up some bold plans to take over the British Museum in new and creative ways. We’ll release more details as the day gets closer – in the meantime, please fill in this form to let us know you’re interested. The more people that sign up, the more ambitious our plans can be 😊
WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?
The science is clear: to have a chance of keeping global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees, we cannot build any new fossil fuel infrastructure, and leave most of existing oil and gas reserves in the ground.
BP plans to spend £41 billion exploring for and exploiting new oil in the next ten years, putting in place wells and pipelines that would make the 1.5 degree target impossible to reach and tip us over into climate disaster. The company spends tens of millions each year on political lobbying, working to water down climate laws that might prevent its fossil fuel expansion plans. Despite a few widely advertised solar, wind and biofuel projects, BP plans to spend no more than 3% of its capital investments on renewable or low-carbon energy, with 97% still going into fossil fuels. It sponsors a number of arts institutions (the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Science Museum and Royal Opera House) in order to distract attention from all this, and to gain schmoozing opportunities with government officials at exhibition launch parties and events.
Our public arts institutions should not be boosting the power of the fossil fuel industry in the middle of a climate crisis.
This will be a family-friendly event and we aim to make it as accessible as possible for all, with multiple ways to take part – please let us know if you have any particular needs or questions, by sending us a message or filling in this form. The front entrance to the museum on Great Russell Street has 12 steps with a handrail, with self-operable lifts on both sides of the steps. The back entrance on Montague Place has a level entrance, and then a lift to the Great Court level once you are inside.
The acoustics inside the museum can be difficult, so we are aiming to make this performance as visual as possible, including the directions on how to take part. There are accessible toilets in the Great Court.
TROY TODAY: PIPELINES AND REPRESSION
BP has been working with the Turkish government to build the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) through Turkey. The pipeline was completed in July 2019.
The pipeline runs about 75 miles from the site of ancient Troy, and is part of a complex of pipelines called the Southern Gas Corridor, intended to bring fossil gas from Azerbaijan to Europe. The final part – the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) from Turkey via Greece and Albania to Italy – is still under construction, and has faced serious protests along its route.
When a previous BP pipeline (the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline) was built in this region from 2003 – 2005, there was an organised international campaign linked up with activists on the ground to oppose it. People in Turkey were especially concerned about militarisation and land grabs along the route of the pipeline where it came into North East Turkey.
However, the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline has not experienced similar protest on its route through Turkey. This is very likely because of the anti-protest crackdowns of the repressive government of Turkish President Erdoğan, which has made people too scared to speak up this time. This means that BP is, once again, benefiting from a relationship with a repressive regime that is silencing protest and thus making it easier for BP to build its destructive and polluting projects.
The Southern Gas Corridor, if completed, could lock Europe into increased fossil gas use for decades to come.
WHY HAVE WE CHANGED THE DATE FROM NOVEMBER TO FEBRUARY?
We want this mass museum takeover to be as impactful as possible, and timing is a really important part of that. A general election has now been called, and our planned action date is slap bang in the middle of the campaigning period.
We want this to be the action that ends the BP sponsorship deal – and for that to happen, we need to flood the museum with people and make sure our action really hits the headlines. BP and the British Museum may have been hoping that the election would draw attention away from our mass performance and the scrutiny it would bring to their dirty sponsorship deal. Rescheduling the action to February will make it much easier for us to keep the spotlight firmly on the museum bosses and the oil giant.
We also know a lot of our members and supporters are actively involved in campaigning around this election. This snap election is a key opportunity to fight for many issues relevant to our campaign, from ending fossil fuel subsidies to challenging institutional racism to reversing cuts to arts funding. Rescheduling will mean that all of our supporters who want to get involved in the election will be able to do that, and then also have time to be fully involved in planning, creating and performing at our action in February.
We will also make full use of the extra time to make our mass performance action at the museum even bigger and better, to make sure we kick out BP for good 🙂
This doesn’t mean that BP and the British Museum are off the hook until February though! We still have a few plans up our sleeves that we won’t be postponing…watch this space.
We didn’t take this decision lightly, but felt that it was the right decision to make. We’re really sorry if you had made plans around joining the action, but hope you’ll still be able to make the new date.
Please do keep spreading the word and we look forward to horsing around with you in February!
It’s time for the Fall of BP – help us to make it happen!
The BP-sponsored Troy exhibition: these people have no respect for Paris…