RSC cuts ties with BP amid pressure over its 'sickening' link to oil firm
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has announced it is ending its partnership with BP after coming under growing pressure over its “sickening” links to the oil giant.
Last week, a group of students threatened to boycott the organisation, saying in a letter that the multinational is “destroying our futures by wrecking the climate”.
BP, which has sponsored the renowned theatre company’s £5 ticket scheme for 16 to 25-year-olds since 2013, with 80,000 tickets issued, has said it is “disappointed and dismayed” by the decision.
But in a statement, the RSC said it “cannot ignore” any longer the fact the sponsorship is “putting a barrier” up.
Gregory Doran, the theatre company’s artistic director, and Catherine Mallyon, executive director, said: “Amidst the climate emergency, which we recognise, young people are now saying clearly to us that the BP sponsorship is putting a barrier between them and their wish to engage with the RSC. We cannot ignore that message.
“It is with all of this in mind that we have taken the difficult decision to conclude our partnership with BP at the end of this year. There are many fine balances and complex issues involved and the decision has not been taken lightly or swiftly.”
They thanked BP for its support and said the £5 ticket scheme “remains a priority”.
Earlier this year, Oscar-winning actor Sir Mark Rylance, an associate artist with the RSC for 30 years, quit the company over the issue.
Writing for The Guardian and campaign group Culture Unstained, he said: “I feel I must resign as I do not wish to be associated with BP any more than I would with an arms dealer, a tobacco salesman or anyone who wilfully destroys the lives of others alive and unborn.”
Students from Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, signed a letter calling for an end to the sponsorship last week, criticising BP for its environmental impact, lobbying and human rights record.
“It is sickening that the works of Shakespeare are being associated with these events,” the letter said – concluding: “BP’s influence is nothing but a stain on the RSC.”
A statement from BP says it is “disappointed that this will bring a successful programme to a premature end”.
It added: “We’re dismayed because we share many of the concerns that apparently contributed to the decision.
“We recognise the world is on an unsustainable path and needs to transition rapidly to net-zero in the coming decades. The debate centres around how to deliver this whilst meeting the world’s growing energy demands.”
BP said it was “focused on this dual challenge”, and added: “Ironically, the increasing polarisation of debate, and attempts to exclude companies committed to making real progress, is exactly what is not needed.
“This global challenge needs everyone, companies, governments and individuals, to work together to achieve a low carbon future.”
The oil firm has been accused of obscuring its damaging environmental impact by supporting arts organisations.
It also sponsors the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Opera House.