Royal Opera House cuts ties with BP after activist crackdown

The Magic Flute performed as Queen of the Night at the Royal Opera House by Aigul Chismatullina©Alastair Muir - Alastair Muir/amx

The Magic Flute performed as Queen of the Night at the Royal Opera House by Aigul Chismatullina©Alastair Muir – Alastair Muir/amx

The Royal Opera House was forced to terminate its sponsorship deal with BP after more than three decades following pressure from climate activists.

The oil giant has sponsored the Royal Opera House (ROH) in London’s Covent Garden since 1988.

However, the organization said the deal has not been extended beyond December 2022, when its most recent contract expired.

A spokesperson for ROH said: “We are grateful to BP for over 33 years of sponsorship that has enabled thousands across the country to watch opera and ballet for free on our BP Big Screens.

“Over the last three years, BP’s support has focused on sustainability initiatives, supported the Royal Opera House’s post-pandemic recovery and supported our progress towards net zero.

“We would like to thank BP for their support, but have agreed that the partnership should not extend beyond BP’s contract expiration in December 2022.”

ROH is the latest arts and cultural institution to break with BP, following in the footsteps of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate galleries and the Scottish Ballet.

The BFI, the National Gallery, and the National Theater also rejected sponsorship from the oil and gas industry.

ROH’s decision will put more pressure on the British Museum as it nears the end of its five-year deal with BP. It is not yet clear whether the contract will be renewed.

The Science Museum has also refused to end its relationship with Shell, despite long-standing protests.

ROH’s decision was a triumph for environmental activists, who have been calling for the agency, which dates back to 1732, to cut ties with the fossil fuel industry for years.

In 2019, more than 200 composers and musicians wrote to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, urging BP to block ROH from branding its outdoor screenings.

Chris Garrard, head of the campaign group Culture Unstained and composer, said: “What we are witnessing is a seismic shift, an almost wholesale rejection of BP’s art 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.”

A BP spokesperson 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 have recently supported some of ROH’s sustainability initiatives.

“As our partnership agreement expired at the end of last year, we wish the Royal Opera House every success in the future.”

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