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A message from protesters in the British Museum main court (photo: Anna Branthwaite).

A message from protesters in the British Museum main court (photo: Anna Branthwaite).

Local greens take part in protest against BP’s arts sponsorship

Members of the Hastings and Rye Green Party and Combe Haven Defenders participated in recent protests in London against oil major BP’s sponsorship of British arts bodies. Nick Terdre reports.

Protests against BP’s sponsorship of four leading London arts institutions – the British Museum, Tate Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and Royal Opera House – included local representation in the form of members of Hastings and Rye Green Party and Combe Haven Defenders (CHD).

The protests, involving actions at all four institutions, were organised by Art Not Oil, a coalition aiming to ‘end oil industry sponsorship of the arts’. The actions culminated at the British Museum on Sunday 13 September when campaigners deployed black umbrellas to form a giant NO in the main court.

Under a five-year deal, BP is providing a total of £10 million to the four institutions. The donations represent a small part of their funding – 0.8% for the British Museum, 0.5% for the Tate and ROH and 3% for the NPG, according to Hastings Greens – but in the view of protesters, the aim is to ‘artwash’ BP’s image. The company is probably best known for the BP Portrait Award at the NPG, which it is sponsoring for the 26th year.

“Providing a tiny trickle of oil money to these iconic national institutions allows BP to present itself as a generous and responsible company,” said local green party member, Gabriel Carlyle. “In reality, it is one of the most destructive corporations on the planet, lobbying governments to block renewable energy projects and clean energy policies, forcing us all to keep using polluting fossil fuels and pushing us towards irreversible climate change.”

The current sponsorship deals with the four bodies expire in 2016, says Art Not Oil: “Whether or not those deals are renewed will depend on the amount of pressure we pile on these institutions in 2015.” There seems little doubt that BP will offer fresh funding, though it failed to respond to an enquiry from HOT on its intentions.

The institutions themselves appear only too happy to have BP’s money. “The income generated through corporate partnerships is vital to the mixed economy of successful arts organisations and enables each of us [the four institutions] to deliver a rich and vibrant cultural programme,” the British Museum said in a statement.

“BP has, for many years, made a significant contribution to the arts and cultural life of this country, including support for the Royal Opera House since 1988, the BP Portrait Award since 1990, Tate since 1990, the British Museum since 1996 and the Royal Shakespeare Company since 2012.

“‪We are grateful to BP for their long term commitment, sharing the vision that our artistic programmes should be made available to the widest possible audience.”

“I would strongly encourage local people – including local artists – to join the growing campaign to withdraw BP’s ‘social licence to operate’ by blocking the renewal of these sponsorship deals,’ Mr Carlyle said.

Next month Hastings Greens will show Do the Math, a film arguing that the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground if catastrophic climate change is to be avoided.

Art Not Oil

Do the Math: to be screened on Tuesday 27 October at 7.30pm at the cinema in the Observer Building, 53 Cambridge Road, Hastings TN34 1DT. For more information, contact Hastings and Rye Green Party on 07494 360801 or at

Combe Haven Defenders


Posted 20:08 Saturday, Sep 19, 2015 In: Campaigns

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