British Museum cuts ties with BP after 27 years
The British Museum has ended a 27-year sponsor partnership with BP, with campaigners now urging the museum to ensure that it won't agree to any future agreements with fossil fuel companies.
The Guardian confirmed that the British Museum’s sponsorship agreement with BP came to an end earlier this year, following the expiration of the latest contract. The final BP-sponsored exhibition “Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt” closed on 19 February 2023.
The long-standing partnership between the fossil fuel major and the museum had angered campaigners, who have been lobbying for decades for the UK’s arts sector to end sponsor relations with fossil fuels. The end of this partnership follows a decade-long campaign of creative resistance spearheaded by the activist theatre group BP or not BP?
Campaigners are now calling on the museum to ensure that no future partnerships will be signed with fossil fuel companies and that BP’s name will be removed from its lecture theatre. The museum states it has “no records” currently to renew the partnership or agree on a different type of partnership with BP.
BP or not BP? Member Lydia Hiraide said that this decision proves that the fossil fuel industry is “rapidly running out of places to hide its climate crimes”.
“Over the last 27 years, the British Museum has backed BP while it partnered with repressive rulers, spilled oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and poured billions of dollars into extracting new oil and gas,” Hiraide said. “But today, creative protest, people power and solidarity have turned the tide, and BP and its climate-wrecking business model has been roundly rejected by the cultural sector.”
Before the pandemic, hundreds of people occupied the British Museum to object to its relationship with BP, and several leading artists wrote to the director of the National Portrait Gallery on the eve of its annual awards, calling on it to end its links to the company.
In 2019, bestselling novelist Ahdaf Soueif resigned from the Museum’s Board of Trustees over the issue. Additionally, the PCS Union, which represents front of house workers at the museum, backed a motion to support anti-fossil fuel campaigns.
British Museum joins 14 leading UK institutions in cutting ties with fossil fuels since 2016.
The Royal Shakespeare Company ended its sponsorship deal with BP back in 2019. Separately, the Scottish Ballet, National Galleries Scotland, Edinburgh International Festival and Tate galleries have also cut their ties to BP since 2016.
Sarah Waldron, Co-director of Culture Unstained, which campaigns for an end to fossil fuel funding of the arts, has said: “This is a massive victory for all the artists, activists and workers that campaigned for BP’s logo to be taken down from the museum’s blockbuster exhibitions, with it now joining the RSC, Royal Opera House and National Portrait Gallery in not renewing sponsorship deals with BP that began back in 2016.
“It was also a huge opportunity for the museum to seize the moment and finally demonstrate climate leadership. So it’s deeply disappointing that, rather than proudly kicking out this major polluter which is pouring billions into fossil fuel extraction, the museum appears to be stage-managing its exit. If it is serious about responding to the climate crisis, the museum must now confirm that it will have no future relationships with fossil fuel producers, take down BP’s name from its lecture theatre and roundly reject the climate-wrecking business it represents.”
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