Barclays suspends sponsorship of UK music festivals after threatened boycotts

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Barclays has suspended its sponsorship of some of the UK’s largest music festivals after bands threatened to boycott the events over the bank’s links to defence companies working in Israel.

The UK bank said on Friday it had been forced to cut ties with festivals organised by Live Nation such as Download, Latitude and the Isle of Wight this summer. It said protesters had intimidated its staff and carried out repeated acts of vandalism at branches as well as online harassment. 

“The only thing that this small group of activists will achieve is to weaken essential support for cultural events enjoyed by millions,” said the bank. “It is time that leaders across politics, business, academia and the arts stand united against this.”

The group cited Barclays’ “links with weapons firms involved in the genocide in Palestine”. Irish singer-songwriter CMAT was among the artists and comedians to have already withdrawn from Latitude.

Barclays said that “the protesters’ agenda is to have Barclays debank defence companies, which is a sector we remain committed to as an essential part of keeping this country and our allies safe”. 

Activists are now putting the organisers of Wimbledon under pressure to cut links to the bank.

The decision will spark further debate over political activism in the arts, with many authors and publishers angered by the campaign that led to the withdrawal of Baillie Gifford as a backer of literary festivals. 

The investment group was forced to pull out of its sponsorship of the Hay and Edinburgh international book festivals, as well as smaller festivals in Cheltenham, Cambridge and Wigtown in Scotland, after protests over purported links to Israel and the fossil fuel industry through its investments. Galleries, museums and music venues have also been under pressure to end their associations with oil and gas companies. 

As well as Latitude, artists have withdrawn from other Live Nation festivals such as heavy rock weekender Download. Scores of acts cancelled appearances at the Great Escape festival in Brighton last month. 

However, many of these festivals and events operate on narrow financial margins given soaring costs and unpredictable risks such as the weather, and need longer-term commercial backers to keep them in business.

The Association of Independent Festivals, a trade body, said 40 UK festivals had been postponed or closed entirely in 2024, and that more than 170 UK festivals had disappeared since 2019. 

Nick Thomas, partner at Baillie Gifford, said in a statement that “the assertion that we have significant amounts of money in the occupied Palestinian territories is offensively misleading”.

He added that “the activists [were] squarely responsible for the inhibiting effect their action will have on funding for the arts in this country”.

Joanna Warrington, at Fossil Free London, said that “all eyes are now on Wimbledon to have the courage to do what other cultural institutions are doing and end their sponsorship deal with Barclays before all this pressure turns to them in two weeks”.

Barclays is a Wimbledon sponsor and the biggest contributor to the Wimbledon Foundation, which aims to help disadvantaged young people.

“This won’t stop until Barclays stops funding destruction,” said Warrington.


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