BP is no longer a sponsor of the London Royal Opera House, which terminated their relationship after 33 years. This shift can be attributed to activist pressure, as partnerships between UK cultural institutions such as the Royal Opera House and the British Museum and the British multinational oil and gas company BP have sparked many protests in recent years.
In a comment to the Guardian, a Royal Opera House spokesperson confirmed that BP and ROH “agreed that the partnership would not extend beyond 22 December, when BP’s contract came to an end.”
What we are witnessing is a seismic shift, a near wholesale rejection across the arts of BP’s brand and the climate-wrecking business it represents. By bringing down the curtain on fossil fuel funding, the Royal Opera House can now play a leading role in creating the culture beyond oil we so urgently need.
Chris Garrard, composer and Co-director of Culture Unstained
Concerns didn’t just come from environmental activists but also from culture sector workers. More than 200 musicians wrote to the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, in 2019 to ask him to withdraw permission for BP’s branding of the Royal Opera House’s Big Screen’ broadcasts.
As union activists, we are delighted by the decision to drop BP: the work of artists and stage managers at the Royal Opera House is no longer being used to greenwash BP’s reckless behaviour.
Will Attenborough of Equity for a Green New Deal, a network of activists within the union
What is artwashing?
The term “artwashing” is used to describe the practice of utilizing the arts to divert public attention from the controversial actions of individuals, companies, and authorities or to legitimize said actions in people’s eyes.
Gas and oil companies like BP, which recently released its investment plans involving billions allocated to oil and gas amid a climate crisis sparked by fossil fuels, often engage in partnerships with arts and cultural institutions. Such partnerships are beneficial to these businesses as they allow the companies to boost their image by associating themselves with culture and its promotion.
BREAKING! After 33 years, BP's sponsorship of the @RoyalOperaHouse in London has come to an end! 🎶🎭🥳
BP has been a sponsor of the British Museum since 1996. In April 2022, climate activists, experts, and culture sector workers signed a formal submission to the British Museum’s Board of Trustees highlighting the contradiction between the museum’s commitments to sustainability and the deal with oil and gas company BP.
The British Museum has now become one of the last remaining major UK arts charities still receiving funding from the oil and gas company. The museum has yet to confirm whether it will continue with BP after the current five-year funding deal ends on 19 February 2023.