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Lloyd Dorfman reviles ‘profoundly misguided’ oil sponsorship protestors

Lloyd Dorfman. Photo: The Prince's Trust

One of the National Theatre’s biggest private funders has defended BP’s arts sponsorship deals, claiming people should “applaud” the oil giant for its support of the sector.

Travelex founder Lloyd Dorfman said private sponsorship helped create better quality arts and claimed that without it “our cultural horizons would be narrower”.

The sponsorship of Dorfman’s old company was crucial to the National Theatre bringing in its cheaper Travelex tickets in 2003.

The businessman and philanthropist has been a strong supporter of the theatre, serving on its board from 2007 to 2015 and donating £10 million to the NT Future development project in 2010 [1].

In turn, the Cottesloe Theatre was renamed after him when in reopened in 2014.

Writing in the Evening Standard [2], Dorfman said people calling for an end to arts funding by major oil companies were “profoundly misguided”.

He said: “Our arts and cultural sector, one of the jewels in the crown of London life, has benefited immeasurably from partnerships with philanthropists and businesses over the ages.”

Recalling a “negative reaction from some” when the Cottesloe was renamed after him, Dorfman continued: “This group [of detractors] had a problem with a business leader being so publicly identified with a venerable cultural institution.”

He added: “Those protesting about BP’s support for the arts should bear in mind…corporate funding can help deliver better quality arts.

“Without it, our cultural horizons would be narrower.”

BP does not have a major sponsorship deal with the National Theatre, but has provided smaller scale funding through means such as advertising in the theatre’s programmes.

Dorfman also claimed private sector funding helped the arts to widen access, and pointed to the National Theatre’s £15 Travelex tickets scheme.

He also suggested private funding of the arts was even more key now public funding had dwindled – citing £56 million in local council arts cuts since 2009 [3].

“Rather than attracting protests, BP should be applauded for its support for the arts,” he concluded.

Dorfman’s defence of private sponsorship comes after BP renewed its sponsorship of arts organisations including the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Opera House [4].

The deals were condemned by Mark Rylance [5] and 200 other cultural and scientific figures.