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Royal Opera House and Royal Shakespeare Company renew BP deals amid criticism

Royal Opera House. Photo: Laika AC
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The Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company have renewed their controversial sponsorship deals with BP, prompting criticism from environmental campaigners.

The ROH and RSC, with the British Museum and National Portrait Gallery, have renewed their partnerships with the oil and gas giant for a further five years as part of a £7.5 million deal.

The move has drawn fervent criticism from campaigners, who earlier this year set their sights on major cultural institutions that continue to receive sponsorship from fossil fuel companies, following the termination of deals with Tate and the Edinburgh International Festival.

BP’s current deals with the organisations run until 2017, with the new ones lasting until 2022.

BP said its sponsorship of cultural institutions allowed them to “plan and sustain access to arts and culture including exhibitions, performances, and learning and participation activities of the very highest quality”.

The ROH’s 28-year partnership with BP has funded educational and outreach activities as well as the ROH’s Big Screens live broadcasts, while the oil and gas company also sponsors the RSC’s £5 ticket scheme and its 16-25 Shakespeare pass.

ROH chief executive Alex Beard said of the renewed deal: “BP has been and remains at the forefront of corporate investment in arts and culture in the UK. It’s wonderful for the Royal Opera House to have their commitment for a further five years.”

RSC executive director Catherine Mallyon said the money it receives from corporate sponsors was an important part of its “diverse funding mix”.

“Together they allow us to deliver our artistic programme and reach the widest possible audience,” she added.

It is not known how the £7.5 million will be divided between the four organisations. However, activist theatre group BP Or Not BP?, which has been campaigning against BP’s sponsorship of the arts since 2012, described the new deals as “deeply irresponsible”.

“As the devastating effects of climate change become ever more apparent, this decision will look more shortsighted with every passing day,” Chris Garrard, speaking on behalf of the group, said.

Anna Galkina, from campaign group Platform, added that activism against the sponsorship would continue.

“[Sponsorship] buys BP legitimacy, access to invaluable advertising space, and masks its role in destroying indigenous lands, arming dictatorships and wrecking our climate,” she said.

She added: “That’s why art interventions and protests against BP will go on. The new deals will not last five years.”

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