We are all philanthropists

Graphic showing aerial view of people holding hands in concentric circles
01 Feb 2024

The Secretary of State for Culture, Lucy Frazer, has called for an attitude shift towards philanthropy to boost arts funding. But that view, writes Caroline McCormick, fails to recognise the huge contribution of the 99%.

Activists target Science Museum over fossil fuel sponsorship

Protesters sitting in on a panel debate organised by the Science Museum
06 Feb 2024

A group of climate activists including Greta Thunberg protested the museum’s ongoing sponsorship deal with several fossil fuel corporations at a public panel debate.

Activists urge architects to boycott British Museum redesign

22 Jan 2024

Environmental campaigners are calling on architects not to take part in a contest to redesign around a third of the British Museum following a controversial £50m sponsorship deal with BP that will fund the redevelopment.

The boycott is backed by the Architects Declare network, the Section of Architectural Workers trade union, now part of Unite, and Future Architects Front (FAF).

A spokesperson for FAF told the Architects Journal: "We fully support calls for architects to reject commissions funded with oil money.

"In the context of cascading ecological collapse, it is completely indefensible for architects to knowingly work with the most blatant perpetrators of climate destruction. Such donations by oil companies are transparent acts of reputation washing, and any architect with the slightest pretence of social concern must refuse to become complicit."

British Museum signs controversial £50m deal with oil giants BP

BP petrol station sign
19 Dec 2023

New 10-year partnership with BP will support transformation described by museum as 'one of the most significant cultural redevelopment projects ever undertaken'.

Activists warn of ethical ‘loopholes’ in cultural corporate sponsorship 

National Portrait Gallery, London, June 2023
15 Nov 2023

National Portrait Gallery and Sadler's Wells have both faced criticism over the organisational links of some of their corporate sponsors.

Climate protesters target Science Museum Director 

Protesters from XR North East holding placards that say 'Science Museum funded by fossil fuels'
09 Nov 2023

Science Museum Director Sir Ian Blatchford was met by protestors as he attended the Museums Association annual conference.

Exclusive: Donor revenue for cultural sector falls by a quarter

The exterior of the Royal Opera House
02 Nov 2023

The amount of money being donated to UK cultural organisations dropped sharply last year.

Challenging sponsors in a climate crisis

Climate change activists with banners protesting inside the Science Museum
11 Oct 2023

For more than 10 years, Chris Garrard has been active in demanding accountability from some of our major cultural institutions around the ethics of accepting sponsorship.

Fringe organisers hit back at corporate sponsorship criticism

Edinburgh fringe high street stock photo
23 Aug 2023

The chair of the Edinburgh Fringe Society says “the entire culture sector could implode” if a sure-footed approach isn't taken to sponsors with links to the oil and gas industry.

British Museum urged to remove BP name

08 Aug 2023

More than 80 people from heritage, arts and climate backgrounds have written an open letter to the British Museum calling on it to remove BP’s name from its lecture theatre.

The move would send “a powerful message” about fossil fuel sponsorship, supporters said, calling on the museum’s director Hartwig Fischer to enact the change before he steps down next year.

Fischer announced the decision to resign his eight-year role last month, stating that he wanted to focus on the “rescue and preservation of cultural heritage in times of climate crisis, conflict, war and violence”, the Guardian reported.

The museum chose not to renew its 27-year sponsorship deal with the energy firm this year, stating that there were “no other contracts or agreements in effect between the museum and BP”.

Tate, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Shakespeare Company, Scottish Ballet and Royal Opera House have all ended funding partnerships with the company in recent years, to the approval of environmental campaigners.

Signatories calling on Fischer to change the name of the theatre include photographer Nan Goldin, climate scientist Bill McGuire, writer Gaia Vince, climate justice activist and mental health advocate Tori Tsui, the director of the Brunel Museum Katherine McAlpine and archaeologist and author David Wengrow.

“Just as cultural institutions around the world have removed the Sackler family name as evidence of the harmful ways their money was made came to light, the damning evidence of BP’s past – and present – can no longer be ignored,” they wrote to Fischer in a letter organised by Culture Unstained.

“Renaming the lecture theatre would send a powerful message about the future the museum wants to see… You would be demonstrating the kind of climate leadership that is now so urgently needed.”

The letter acknowledged that its writers welcomed the news that the museum’s existing sponsorship deal with BP had come to an end this year and urged Fischer to “pledge that the museum will accept no further funding from sponsors or donors involved in fossil fuel production”.

Why would a bank support the arts?

Woman in a gallery looking at pictures
27 Jun 2023

The National Portrait Gallery has reopened after a three-year refurbishment. Its Director, Nicholas Cullinan and Andrea Sullivan of the Bank of America discuss how their partnership will improve access for young people - and why that's so important. 

BP sponsorship of British Museum ends after 27 years

Interior of British Museum
05 Jun 2023

Activists celebrate news that no exhibitions or activities are being sponsored by BP, although documents show certain terms of the deal remain in effect until the end of the year.

Edinburgh Comedy Awards endangered by lack of sponsor

31 May 2023

The future of the Edinburgh Comedy Awards is at risk following the end of a two-year title sponsorship deal with UKTV channel Dave.

The awards have failed to secure a new sponsor for 2023 and will not run this year without last-minute support from sponsors.

The awards were established in 1981 by West End producer Nica Burns. She continues to oversee them and funded them herself in 2009 and 2018, in the absence of an official sponsor.

The awards are now being moved into ownership of a charitable trust and will seek funding from several smaller sponsorship deals in future years, British Comedy Guide reported.

The awards cost more than £200,000 a year to run, including events, prize funds, administrative costs and judging and scouting teams.

“As everyone across the arts knows, post-Covid the commercial landscape has changed significantly: marketing and sponsorship budgets are under huge pressure and the pool of ethically appropriate sponsors diminished,” organisers said.

"It has become clear that we need to change the funding model, to think beyond one large title sponsor, to raise money from a mix of sources.”

They called for "potential heroes” to offer support that might allow the awards to be distributed at this year’s edition of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

“As the comedy section [of the Fringe Society's annual programme] has expanded to become such a significant genre of the Fringe, so have the costs of running the awards,” Burns said.

“Having stepped in and personally sponsored them twice over the years, I will be the first to put money on the table for 2023, but post-Covid I can no longer do it on my own. 

“I am therefore inviting the comedy industry and all potential partners to get in touch immediately to help make the awards happen this year."

Culture & Business Scotland launches new funding round

A giant puppet created by theatre company Vision Mechanics
02 May 2023

Cultural organisations in Scotland are invited to apply for funding facilitated by sponsorships from local businesses.

Plymouth music festival cancelled due to financial pressures

18 Apr 2023

The 1 Big Summer Festival in Plymouth will not go ahead this year due to the cost-of-living crisis, organisers have announced.

The festival was due to be held in Hoe on 25-26 August, but financial pressures for both organisers and visitors have been cited as the reason for its cancellation, the BBC reported.

“A perfect storm of rising costs, reduction in sponsorship income, an end of support for tourism and hospitality such as VAT reductions, and an unprecedented strain on people's disposable income have sadly left the event untenable for this year,” organisers said in a statement.

People who have already purchased tickets will be refunded within 21 days.

Royal Opera House ends sponsorship deal with BP

26 Jan 2023

The Royal Opera House is ending its sponsorship relationship with oil giant BP after 33 years.

In a statement the opera house said an agreement between the two parties to not renew the funding partnership has been made.

“We are grateful to BP for their sponsorship over 33 years which has enabled thousands around the country to see free opera and ballet through our BP Big Screens,” a spokesperson told the Guardian.

The move leaves just two major arts institutions – the British Museum and Science Museum – with fossil fuel sponsorships.

The British Museum is currently in a five-year funding deal with BP, which is due to finish on 19 February, but it is yet to comment publicly on whether or not the partnership will be extended.

The Science Museum is currently sponsored by Shell and Adani despite long-running protests and the resignation of several board members.

Director of Campaign Group Culture Unstained Chris Garrard said: “What we are witnessing is a seismic shift, a near total 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.”

National History Museum criticised for gagging clause with oil sponsor

11 Jan 2023

The National History Museum has been widely criticised for a contract it signed with a Danish oil company. 

The contract was originally negotiated in 2016 with Dong Energy, a Danish company with substantial investments in oil and gas. The company changed its name to Ørsted the following year, switching its focus from fossil fuels to renewables.

The current agreement with Ørsted, which sponsors the museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, is set to continue until September 2023.

The Observer reports that the original contract included a gagging clause that prevented the museum from making “any statement or [issuing] any publicity which may reasonably be foreseen as discrediting or damaging the reputation” of the company.

Environmental groups have denounced the partnership, raising concerns about the influence of large corporations on public discourse around environmental issues and accusing the museum of greenwashing.

“It is totally unacceptable that, when the public walk through the doors of British museums, the information they consume is being controlled by large corporations,” said Robin Wells, a spokesperson for campaign group Fossil Free London.

The National History Museum has issued a statement denying that sponsors have influence over the editorial content of its exhibitions. 

“Clauses such as this are standard for corporate partnerships but, as they can be open to misinterpretation with regards to the absolute editorial control we retain, we no longer include them in new agreements,” it said.

A spokesperson for Ørsted said that the company “would not seek to influence the Natural History Museum’s views or limit its ability to provide its usual high standard of independent, critical, fact-based commentary on any aspect of the energy industry sector”. 

Private arts funding 'increasingly reliant on social impact evidence'

People sitting on grass at a Coventry City of Culture event
16 Jun 2022

Arts and culture organisations report more competition for private sector funding, and requirement to show the work they do has a positive effect.

Activists occupy British Museum

25 Apr 2022

Hundreds of activists have staged another protest at the British Museum against the institution’s links to oil giant BP.

Activist theatre group BP or not BP, organisers of the "Make BP History" event said around 400 people took part in multiple protests across the British Museum on Saturday (23 April), culminating in a 10 metre BP logo being pulled apart in the Great Court. Protestors then went on to occupy four different rooms in the museum after closing time.

BP is one of the British Museum's longest standing corporate supporters, supporting the museum since 1996. The current five-year contract was signed in May 2016 and extended for a year due to Covid. It is understood the museum is in talks with the oil giants over extending the arrangement further. Several protests against the museum's corporate partnership with BP have been held in recent weeks.

Deborah Locke, a member of BP or not BP, said: "Renewing this sponsorship deal would send a terrible message, making an oil giant seem acceptable when we need to urgently shift away from this disastrous industry.”

The British Museum has previously defended its relationship with BP, stating that "without external support much programming and other major projects would not happen".

Fresh pressure on British Museum’s BP sponsorship

19 Apr 2022

The British Museum's board of trustees have received a formal call to reject a new sponsorship deal with BP.

Sent following revelations that Museum Director Hartwig Fischer plans to renew the partnership, Culture Unstained's submission argues trustees must exercise “informed and ethical judgement” of its continued association with the energy company.

The demand is co-signed by eight leading professionals including former Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Chair Robert Watson, and Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of PCS Union, which represents many British Museum workers.

More than 300 people are planning to take part in a protest arranged by BP or not BP? on Saturday, the fourth held at the museum this month.

Culture Unstained Co-Director Chris Garrard says it is vital trustees "fulfil their legal duties".

"If the board does approve a new deal with BP, it would signal that they chose to sidestep their own sustainability policy and dismiss the reputational risks of partnering with a leading fossil fuel producer as the climate crisis worsens."


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