Climate activists have welcomed the news that the Royal Shakespeare Company is severing ties with BP, bringing an end to years of campaigning against the oil and gas giant’s sponsorship of the arts.
The RSC’s decision to end its relationship with BP after nine years has been hailed as a victory for the campaign groups that continue to condemn sponsorship of the arts by fossil fuel companies.
Jess Worth, the co-director of research organisation Culture Unstained, described the RSC’s announcement as “fantastic news”.
“[It] is testament to years of creative activism from groups like BP or Not BP?, and most recently Mark Rylance and the youth climate strikers,” she said.
Earlier this year, Rylance resigned his associate artist position with the RSC over its BP sponsorship, which funds the theatre’s £5 ticket scheme for 16 to 25-year-olds.
Announcing the company’s intention to drop BP as a sponsor, RSC artistic director and executive director Catherine Mallyon said they could not ignore recent threats from young people that they would boycott the RSC’s shows if BP remained a partner.
Worth added: “The RSC has understood that a climate emergency means that business as usual cannot continue, and we congratulate them for showing such leadership and urge the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Science Museum and Royal Opera House to follow suit. There is no longer any excuse for promoting a fossil fuel company in the middle of a climate crisis.”
BP or Not BP? has been campaigning against the fossil fuel company’s RSC sponsorship since its inception in 2011, and has staged many high-profile demonstrations at the Stratford-upon-Avon theatre since then, including interrupting performances to and ‘protest festivals’.
The group tweeted that the RSC’s decision was “amazing news” for its cause, and credited the company with “waking up to the reality that oil has no place in the arts during a climate emergency”.