Sunday, July 14, 2024
HomeMusicBarclays suspends fest sponsorships amid protests | IQ Magazine

Barclays suspends fest sponsorships amid protests | IQ Magazine

Barclays has suspended its sponsorship of Live Nation UK’s remaining 2024 festivals following a raft of artist withdrawals over the bank’s ties to Israel.

Pest Control, Scowl, Speed and Zulu pulled out of this weekend’s Download Festival, with Pillow Queens, CMAT, Mui Zyu and Georgia Ruth dropping out of July’s Latitude 2024 earlier this month.

Barclaycard became headline partner of Isle of Wight and Latitude in 2023 as part of its partnership renewal with Live Nation UK. The five-year extension also included collaborations with events including TGE, Download, Lytham Festival, Camp Bestival and Reading & Leeds.

“Following discussion with artists, we have agreed with Barclays that they will step back from sponsorship of our festivals,” says a Live Nation spokesperson.

Previously, more than 100 speakers and acts pulled out of March’s SXSW, held in Austin, Texas, in protest at the event’s sponsorship by the US Army and its support for Israel during the Gaza war, while a similar number of acts withdrew from the UK’s The Great Escape (TGE) due to the Brighton event’s Barclays sponsorship.

A spokesperson for Barclays tells the Guardian: “Barclays was asked and has agreed to suspend participation in the remaining Live Nation festivals in 2024. Barclays customers who hold tickets to these festivals are not affected and their tickets remain valid. The protesters’ agenda is to have Barclays debank defence companies which is a sector we remain committed to as an essential part of keeping this country and our allies safe.

“The only thing that this small group of activists will achieve is to weaken essential support for cultural events enjoyed by millions”

“They have resorted to intimidating our staff, repeated vandalism of our branches and online harassment. The only thing that this small group of activists will achieve is to weaken essential support for cultural events enjoyed by millions. It is time that leaders across politics, business, academia and the arts stand united against this.”

The publication notes that it understands the suspension does not apply to the entire contract.

Pressure has been directed towards the festivals to cut ties with sponsors linked to Israel. Massive Attack, Idles and Eno were among dozens of artists who were not booked to play at TGE but signed an open letter launched in April calling for it to drop Barclays as a partner.

“This is a victory for the Palestinian-led global BDS movement,” says protest group Bands Boycott Barclays following today’s announcement. “As musicians, we were horrified that our music festivals were partnered with Barclays, who are complicit in the genocide in Gaza through investment, loans and underwriting of arms companies supplying the Israeli military. Hundreds of artists have taken action this summer to make it clear that this is morally reprehensible, and we are glad we have been heard.

“Our demand to Barclays is simple: divest from the genocide, or face further boycotts. Boycotting Barclays, also Europe’s primary funder of fossil fuels, is the minimum we can do to call for change.”

IQ recently spoke to industry figures to find out how the business is dealing with the issue.

“We have been asked why we invest in nine defence companies supplying Israel, but this mistakes what we do”

In response to the boycotts, Barclays have repeatedly pointed to their online Q&A which states: “We have been asked why we invest in nine defence companies supplying Israel, but this mistakes what we do. We trade in shares of listed companies in response to client instruction or demand and that may result in us holding shares. We are not making investments for Barclays and Barclays is not a ‘shareholder’ or ‘investor’ in that sense in relation to these companies.”

The activism, which has extended beyond live music, has become a growing topic of debate in the wider arts world. Speaking on The Rest is Entertainment podcast, presenter Richard Osman said: “There’s an awful lot of pressure on Latitude and artists playing Latitude because of their ties to Barclays… And people I spoke to in the last week, they’re all talking amongst themselves, saying, ‘I don’t really want to boycott in this way. I understand what’s happening, but it feels like this isn’t the best thing to do.’”

The Financial Times reports that Wimbledon is now being targeted over its Barclays sponsorship, while investment management firm Baillie Gifford cancelled its sponsorship deals with literary festivals in the UK last week following protests over its links to Israel and fossil fuel companies.

Nick Thomas, a partner at Baillie Gifford, said: “The assertion that we have significant amounts of money in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is offensively misleading. Baillie Gifford is a large investor in several multinational technology companies, including Amazon, NVIDIA, and Meta.

“Demanding divestment from these global companies, used by millions of people around the world, is unreasonable and serves no purpose. Much as it would be unreasonable to demand authors boycott Instagram or stop selling books on Amazon.

“Nor is Baillie Gifford a significant fossil fuel investor. Only 2% of our clients’ money is invested in companies with some business related to fossil fuels. We invest far more in companies helping drive the transition to clean energy.”


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