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Andrew Garfield backs ‘ethical’ alternative to RSC’s £5 tickets sponsored by BP

Andrew Garfield in Angels in America. Photo: Helen Maybanks Andrew Garfield is backing a £5 ticket scheme designed to challenge arts sponsorship from oil companies. Photo: Helen Maybanks
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Actors including Andrew Garfield, Emma Thompson and Mark Rylance are among more than 30 theatre figures backing a ticket scheme set up to challenge arts sponsorship from oil companies.

Fossil Free £5 Tickets aims to provide an “unofficial, ethical alternative” to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s £5 ticket scheme, which is sponsored by BP.

Last year, the RSC renewed a five-year sponsorship deal with BP, so that it could continue supporting its £5 tickets scheme.

At the time, the RSC said the money it receives from corporate sponsors was an important part of its “diverse funding mix”.

The scheme will be crowdfunded and will offer 16 to 25-year-olds £5 tickets to RSC shows.

It was launched on May 31 and has been set up by a new campaign organisation, Culture Unstained, which is part of the Art Not Oil coalition.

Tickets will be bought from the RSC at full price, using the crowdfunded money, and then resold for a donation of £5.

The scheme has not been endorsed by the RSC.

In addition to Rylance, Thompson and Garfield, other figures supporting the scheme include Vanessa Redgrave, Tamsin Greig, Caryl Churchill, Max Stafford-Clark, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Maxine Peake and Simon McBurney.

Thompson said: “I’ve seen first hand the effects climate change is already having on our planet – and the need to transition away from fossil fuels couldn’t be more urgent. Things are moving really fast in the world of renewable energy, so it saddens me to see some arts organisations lagging behind.”

In addition to providing tickets, the scheme will also donate 10% of funded money to grassroots groups battling BP – the Free West Papua Campaign and Bridge the Gulf.

It is not anticipated that the scheme will rival the RSC’s in the long term, but is aiming to “show the RSC the strength of feeling from its own community – and the young people it wants to engage with – against BP sponsorship”.

It is being launched in the first week of RSC production Myth, directed by Kirsty Housley, who is backing the scheme.

She said she felt working with companies that accept money from companies such as BP was “deeply problematic”.

“I’ve now twice been in a situation where I’ve been making a piece of work and found myself doing it in organisations that are sponsored by BP. By putting their brand on arts organisations that people rightfully love and care deeply about, BP are buying a level of social acceptability that they simply shouldn’t have at this stage in the game,” Housley said.

In response, Catherine Mallyon, RSC executive director, said corporate sponsorship allowed the RSC’s work to reach the widest possible audience.

She added: “We support people’s right to protest. None of our sponsors drive our artistic decision making, and we remain committed to exploring contemporary issues and ideas in all our work, including Kirsty Housley’s current play Myth which explores climate change.

“We will honour any tickets which are valid and have not been resold for profit or commercial gain.”

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