Young people from across the country have threatened to boycott the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatre productions over its continued sponsorship deal with BP.
BP currently sponsors the RSC’s under-25s tickets scheme, but young people who qualify for the scheme have written to the theatre company warning that they will stop attending the theatre’s shows if the relationship continues.
The letter states: “If we, as young people, wish to see an affordable play at your theatre we have to help promote a company that is actively destroying our futures by wrecking the climate.”
The letter argues that “it simply makes no sense” for the RSC to count among its sponsors the third biggest corporate source of greenhouse gases.
It reads: “The RSC needs young people far more than it needs BP, with children and young people making up the bulk of the audiences of your hit show Matilda the Musical, which has made you a financial surplus of millions.
“In comparison, BP provides less than 0.5% of the RSC’s income, and yet is allowed to put its logo on tickets. We are the audiences of the future and we will not support theatre that accepts sponsorship from a company that is continuing to extract fossil fuels while our earth burns.”
The letter follows widespread activism against climate change, including last week’s youth-led strikes, that saw millions of young people across the globe attend demonstrations, and more than 100 employees from arts organisations including the National Theatre and the Southbank Centre walk out of work to join the London protest.
A youth strike in Stratford-upon-Avon saw hundreds of people gather outside the RSC to hear speeches, which included criticisms of the company’s relationship with BP.
Young people from towns and cities including Stratford, Brighton, Huddersfield, Oxford, Manchester and London have now signed the resulting letter, pledging to avoid RSC plays and encourage friends and family to do the same unless the sponsorship deal is brought to an end.
“We will lobby our schools to not run school trips to the RSC, and to instead support other theatre companies that put on Shakespeare performances without fossil fuel branding,” the letter says.
The signatories have also requested a meeting with RSC artistic director Gregory Doran, executive director Catherine Mallyon and deputy artistic director Erica Whyman to discuss the issue in person.
The RSC has faced growing pressure over its relationship with BP, and earlier this year, Mark Rylance – who held an associate artist position with the company – severed ties over its continued sponsorship.
He said he could not remain associated with the RSC while it receives money from a company that “wilfully destroys the lives of others alive or unborn”.
A joint statement from Doran and Mallyon said: “We thank the school climate protestors for their clear and passionate letter which we have read through the Guardian article published today. As requested we are happy to meet with representatives to hear their views directly. We recognise the importance for a robust and engaged debate on this question and this is very live at the RSC.”