The British Museum’s controversial sponsorship deal with BP is under intensifying pressure as hundreds of people sign up to ‘make BP history’ at a mass creative action taking place on Saturday (23 April 2022).
More than 300 people have already pledged to take part, which would make it the largest protest at the museum since pre-COVID times. The action has been called by the activist theatre group BP or not BP? because the British Museum is actively deciding whether to renew its current deal with BP.
Participants will create hundreds of smaller protests all over the museum throughout the afternoon, to “bring in the facts about BP that the museum is trying to ignore”, followed by a mass performance action inside the museum at 4pm.
The group have previously smuggled a sea monster, a Viking longship and a giant Trojan horse into the museum, and are promising to do something equally spectacular this time.
Sarah Horne, a member of BP or not BP? who will be taking part in the April 23rd protest, said: “The British Museum management seem determined to ignore the destructive behaviour of their sponsor BP – so on 23 April, hundreds of us will fill the museum with uncomfortable facts about this deadly company.
“We will lay down this challenge to the museum director: we know he’s been meeting with BP over a new sponsorship deal. Will he also meet with the people affected by BP?
“Will he speak to the 300 archaeologists and heritage professionals who are calling for the end of this deal, the frontline communities facing BP’s pollution and corruption, and the young people whose future BP is actively destroying? Or is he only interested in speaking to BP?”
She added: “As we’ve seen this month, we can expect an inevitable increase in fossil fuel protests as the climate crisis deepens. If the British Museum keeps supporting BP then they’ll essentially be painting a large oily target on themselves. Why on Earth would they want to do that?”
This will be the fourth BP protest at the museum in a single month. There was an action by BP or not BP? on 4 April, which sneakily added new labels to the BP sponsored Stonehenge exhibition and an action outside the museum on 8 April by Extinction Rebellion Grandparents and Elders.
There was also a performance protest by autonomous Save Stonehenge campaigners this week, where they poured fake oil on themselves inside the museum to challenge BP sponsorship and the proposed Stonehenge road tunnel.
These actions follow on from a series of events in the last three months that have put more pressure on the museum over BP than ever before.
The National Portrait Gallery, Scottish Ballet and New Scientist Live have all ended their partnerships with BP, leaving the British Museum as one of only a tiny handful of UK arts organisations still partnered with fossil fuel companies.
A damning report on Channel 4 News revealed that a shadowy corporate ‘chairman’s advisory group’ – including BP – has been secretly advising the museum’s management while hiding documents such as minutes and membership, keeping it out of reach from Freedom of Information requests.
In an unprecedented intervention, 300 archaeologists and heritage professionals have signed a letter calling on the British Museum to end its BP deal.
BP has at the same time faced serious public anger over profiteering from rising energy prices as millions struggle with rising energy bills.
And there has been a new report has revealed how much BP’s Russian operations have been helping Vladimir Putin build his power and wealth – over £600 million has flowed from BP to the Russian government since the invasion of Crimea in 2014.
Recently, the respected ClimateAction 100+ assessment report found that BP failed to meet any of its criteria for aligning its investments with meeting the Paris Agreement target of 1.5°C.
Another report released this week confirmed that BP is planning to spend £23 billion on new oil and gas fields between now and 2030 – plans that fly in the face of the International Energy Agency’s warning that no new fossil fuel extraction can go ahead if we want the world to stay within 1.5 degrees.
Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from BP or not BP?