Caryl Churchill pens anti-BP Christmas carol for arts sponsorship protest

BP logo surrounded by cracks at the British Museum protest. Photo: Diana More BP logo surrounded by cracks at the British Museum protest. Photo: Diana More
by -

Caryl Churchill has contributed to the rewriting of several Christmas carols that were performed at the British Museum by a 100-strong group of activists protesting against arts sponsorship by oil companies.

The London museum receives sponsorship from oil and gas giant BP, and was being targeted by campaign group BP or not BP?, which focuses on arts sponsorship. The group has previously staged protests at the Royal Shakespeare Company, which also receives BP money.

Churchill, whose plays include Top Girls, Serious Money and Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, was one of several people to contribute rewritten Christmas carols for the protest. Her rewriting of The First Noel included the lyrics: “The first no oil the people did say / Was to certain rich bastards who made the oil pay / In fields where they were digging so deep / And making the profits they wanted to keep.”

The mass protest took place at the British Museum on December 10, when 100 individuals performed a flash mob, singing the rewritten carols and laying down giant paper cracks on the floor to symbolise the damage being done to the permafrost by climate change.

It was the group’s 30th performance at the museum since it was formed in 2012 to pressurise arts institutions that receive money from fossil fuel companies to forego their support.

The anti-BP protestors targeted the RSC in April, when activists invaded the stage at a performance of Antony and Cleopatra in opposition to BP’s sponsorship of the RSC’s £5 ticket scheme.

Fellow campaign group Culture Unstained also launched an “ethical alternative” to the RSC’s ticket scheme, and fundraised in order to purchase full price tickets and resell them to young people for £5. The initiative was backed by actors including Andrew Garfield, Emma Thompson and Mark Rylance.