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

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

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

The oil and gas multinational has been a sponsor of the ROH since 1988, most recently under a five-year agreement that began in 2018. However, the opera house said in a statement on Wednesday that there was an “agreement” that the funding would not be renewed.

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

They said the two parties “agreed that the partnership would not extend beyond December 22, when BP’s contract came to an end.”

The ROH decision will put further pressure on the British Museum, which is now one of the last major art institutions still receiving funding from the energy firm. The museum’s current exhibition Hieroglyphics, which is the last under its five-year funding deal with BP, ends on February 19, and it has so far declined to say whether it plans to renew.

The Science Museum has also stubbornly stuck to 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, and the BFI, National Theatre, National Gallery and Tate Galleries, among others, have rejected oil company sponsorship. Explaining the RSC’s decision in 2019, the company’s directors said: “Amidst the climate emergency, which we acknowledge, young people are now clearly telling us that the BP sponsorship is putting a barrier between them and their wish to liaise with the RSC. We cannot ignore that message.”

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

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

The loss of BP funding to the ROH follows a 9% cut in its core grant from Arts Council England, which the institution says will contribute to “significant financial challenges going forward, alongside our colleagues in the sector”. However, Culture Unstained said that based on its accounts, BP’s sponsorship represents less than 0.5% of the ROH’s annual income, “and despite the ROH being BP’s ‘longest existing arts partner’, its sponsorship payment would not exceed the joint salaries of the ROH’s chief executive and musical director.”

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

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