Photo: Mark Kerrison/Alamy
Campaigners hailed a “seismic shift” in arts funding after the Royal Opera House confirmed it had cut its sponsorship relationship with BP after more than three decades.
The multinational oil and gas company has sponsored ROH since 1988, most recently under a five-year deal that began in 2018. non-renewable.
“We are grateful to BP for over 33 years of sponsorship that has enabled thousands across the country to watch free opera and ballet on our BP Big Screens,” a spokesperson said.
They said the two sides “agreed that the partnership should not be extended beyond 22 December, when BP’s contract expires”.
The ROH decision will put more pressure on the British Museum, one of the last major arts institutions still to receive funding from the energy firm. The museum’s current exhibit, Hieroglyphs, which is the final exhibition under its five-year funding deal with BP, ends February 19, and the museum has so far declined to reveal whether it plans to renovate.
The Science Museum has also stubbornly stuck to its fossil fuel sponsors Shell and Adani, despite long-standing protests. The two museums are now increasingly isolated.
The Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Portrait Gallery have severed ties with BP in recent years after decades of sponsorship, rejecting oil company sponsorship, joining the BFI, the National Theatre, the National Gallery, and the Tate Galleries, among others. Announcing RSC’s decision in 2019, company executives said: “Amid the climate emergency we know, young people are now openly telling us that BP sponsorship puts a barrier between them and their desire to engage with RSC. We cannot ignore this message.”
Chris Garrard, composer and director of the campaign group Culture Unstained, said: “What we are witnessing is a seismic shift, an almost wholesale rejection of the art of the BP brand and the climate-destroying business it represents. By lowering the veil on fossil fuel finance, the Royal Opera House can now play a leading role in creating a culture beyond the oil we urgently need.”
The move was also welcomed by Mark Padmore, a performing tenor on ROH. “We in the cultural sector must ask tough questions and encourage better practices. We must put sustainability, fairness, inclusion and generosity at the center of everything we do. I welcome the fossil fuel companies’ decision to end their sponsorship of the Royal Opera House.”
The loss of BP funding to ROH follows a 9% cut in its core grant from Arts Council England, which the agency says will contribute to “significant financial challenges going forward with our industry peers”. However, Culture Unstained said that by their calculations, BP’s sponsorship represents less than 0.5% of ROH’s annual revenue, adding that “despite ROH being BP’s ‘longest-standing arts partner’, the sponsorship payout is BP’s combined would not be able to afford their salaries. He is the CEO and music director of ROH.”
BP said: “We are proud to have supported the Royal Opera House for over three decades. During this time, BP Big Screens has provided world-class opera and ballet performances for free to thousands of people in the UK, and we’ve recently supported some of ROH’s sustainability initiatives. We wish the Royal Opera House every success in the future as our partnership agreement expired at the end of last year.”