PROTESTERS against oil giant BP stormed RSC venues to accuse the theatre company of hypocrisy,
More than 70 performers, part of a group called To BP or not to BP, held a ‘Fossil Free Mischief Festival’ on Saturday (June 16) at Royal Shakespeare Company.
It coincided with the RSC’s own ‘Mischief Festival’, which is being held at the Other Place.
The protest – which included a mob of Shakeapearean characters, wrestling clowns, music and poetry – accused the RSC of hypocrispy for staging plays about freedom while promoting the oil company. They say BP works closely with repressive governments in countries such as Mexico and Turkey.
Protesters took to the streets outside RSC venues before storming the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and singing in the foyer.
The oil company – which has worked with the RSC since 2012 – sponsors discount tickets for young people.
The group is calling on the RSC to ditch BP as a sponsor and use more ‘ethical funding’.
Member Sarah Horne said: “We are delighted the RSC is showcasing political plays about freedom of speech. The shows in the official Mischief Festival tell vital stories of struggles against repression, stories that more people need to hear. But it is deeply upsetting to see these plays being used by BP to position itself as a champion of free speech while colluding with governments that silence people speaking out against the oil and gas industry around the world.
“The RSC’s choice of BP as a ticket sponsor for these particular plays is especially egregious – the oil company recently signed a major new offshore drilling contract with the repressive Mexican government, and has a significant stake in a controversial new gas pipeline running through Turkey.”
Since announcing it would be sponsored by BP some six years ago, the RSC has been subject to several protests by the group, but members say this was the biggest yet.
But RSC executive director Catherine Mallyon said BP’s sponsorship is highly-valued.
She told the Observer: “We believe in people’s right to protest peacefully and in everyone’s right to free speech, both themes explored in our current Mischief Festival at The Other Place.
“BP’s sponsorship of our £5 ticket scheme for 16-25 year olds gives many young people the chance to see our work. The scheme is highly valued by our audiences and helps us establish lifetime enthusiasts for Shakespeare and live theatre. Corporate sponsorship is an important part of our diverse funding mix, alongside ticket sales, public investment, private philanthropy and commercial activity.
“We have a clear donation and sponsorship acceptance policy, and consider potential offers of support individually. Importantly, no sponsor influences or drives our artistic decision making and we remain committed to exploring contemporary issues and ideas in all our work.
Our donation and sponsorship acceptance policy can be viewed online.”
Other companies across the world who also receive support by oil giants have also previously been called upon to cut ties with their sponsors by protestors. These include the British Museum, Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum and New Orleans Jazz festival.
Click here to view the RSC’s donation and sponsorship acceptance policy.