Art

BP sponsorship of Royal Opera House ends after 33 years | Royal Opera House

Campaigners have hailed a “seismic shift” in arts funding after the Royal Opera House confirmed it had ended its sponsorship relationship with BP after more than three decades.

The multinational oil and gas company has been a sponsor of the ROH since 1988. But in a statement on Wednesday, the opera house said there had been an “agreement” that the funding would not be renewed.

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

They said the two parties had “agreed that the partnership would not extend beyond December 2022, when BP’s contract expired.”

The ROH decision will put further pressure on the British Museum, which is now one of the last major art institutions still receiving support from the energy firm. The museum’s current exhibition Hieroglyphics, the last under its existing five-year funding deal with BP, ends on February 19, and it has so far declined to say whether it plans to renew, saying only: “(BP) is a long – term supporter and our current partnership runs until this year.”

The science museum has also stuck with its fossil fuel sponsors Shell and Adani despite prolonged protests. The two museums are now increasingly isolated.

The Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Portrait Gallery have cut ties with BP in recent years, after decades of sponsorship, joining the BFI, National Theatre, National Gallery and Tate Galleries, among others, in rejecting oil company sponsorships. Explaining the RSC’s decision in 2019, the company’s directors said: “In the midst of the climate crisis, which we acknowledge, young people are now clearly telling us that the BP sponsorship puts a barrier between them and their desire to engage with the RSC. We cannot ignore that message.”

Chris Garrard, a composer and director of campaign group Culture Unstained, said: “What we are witnessing is a seismic shift, an almost total wholesale rejection across the art of BP’s brand and the climate-destroying business it represents. By lowering the curtain on fossil fuel funding, the Royal Opera House can now play a leading role in creating the culture beyond oil that we so badly need.”

The move was also welcomed by Mark Padmore, a tenor who has performed at ROH. He said: “We in the cultural sector need to ask difficult questions and encourage better practice. We need to put sustainability, fairness, inclusiveness and generosity at the heart of everything we do. I welcome the decision to end sponsorship of the Royal Opera House from fossil fuel companies.”

The loss of BP funding for the ROH follows a 9% cut in its core grant from Arts Council England, which the institution said would contribute to “significant financial challenges going forward with our colleagues in the sector”. But Culture Unstained said that, based on its accounts, BP’s sponsorship represented less than 0.5% of ROH’s annual income, “and despite ROH being BP’s ‘longest-standing arts partner’, its sponsorship payment would not have covered the total salaries of ROH’s executive director and musical director.”

BP said: “We are proud to have supported the Royal Opera House for more than three decades. During that time, BP Big Screen brought world-class opera and ballet performances for free to thousands of people across the UK, and more recently we have supported some of the ROH’s sustainability initiatives. As our partnership agreement expired at the end of last year, we wish the Royal Opera House every success for the future.”

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