These musicians won’t take a cent from this sponsor

These musicians won’t take a cent from this sponsor


norman lebrecht

July 03, 2015

A very long list of musicians has written to the Guardian, telling the Royal Opera House not to accept sponsorship from the oil company, BP.

We wonder, with respect, how they heat their houses, drive their cars… and why they clamour for public subsidy from bad Governments.

Below the list of names. And here’s the letter.

john luther adams


John Luther Adams Composer
Paul Griffiths Opera librettist and writer
Simon Holt Composer and professor of composition, Royal College of Music
Trevor Wishart Composer
Maja Ratkje Composer
Jem Finer Composer
Boff Whalley Composer
Georgina Born Professor of music and anthropology, University of Oxford
Max Paddison Professor of music aesthetics, Durham University
John Pickard Professor of composition & applied musicology, University of Bristol
Paul Whitty Composer and sonic arts researcher, Oxford Brookes University
Joe Duddell Composer and professor of composition, Bath Spa University
JPE Harper-Scott Professor of music history and theory, Royal Holloway, University of London
Niels Rosing-Schow Composer and professor of composition, Royal Danish Academy of Music
Dr Jonathan Hicks Musicologist and Research Fellow, King’s College London
Dr Anna Bull Sociologist and researcher in music, King’s College London
Dr Eric Egan Lecturer in composition, Durham University
Dr Geoff Baker Reader in musicology and ethnomusicology, Royal Holloway, University of London
Dr John Croft Composer and reader in music, Brunel University
Dr Stephen Graham Lecturer in music, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Simon Mills Lecturer in Ethnomusicology, Durham University
Dr Duncan Williams Research fellow in music and AI, University of Plymouth
Dr Sam Wilson Lecturer in music aesthetics, Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Dr Chris Garrard Composer and musicologist
Dr Graham Lack Composer
Dr Richard Bullen Composer
Dr Adam Harper Musicologist and music critic
Dr Jacob-Thompson Bell Composer and principal lecturer in postgraduate studies, Leeds College of Music
Anna Appleby Composer
Eden Bailey Musicologist
Tim Bamber Composer
Alan Bowman Conductor
Ethan Braun Composer
Leah Broad Musicologist and DPhil student, University of Oxford
Chris Brody Musician
James Bull Musician and sound recordist
Rob Burbea Composer
Lucy Cadena Musician and composer
Manos Charalabopoulos Composer and pianist
Ben Comeau Composer
Athena Corcoran-Tadd Composer and musician
Alex Cowan Undergraduate music student
Andrew Crossley Composer
Becky Dawson General manager of music at Oxford
Genevieve Dawson Musician and campaigner
Mudge FM Musician and songwriter
Robin Grey Musician
Martin Hagfors Musician
Kate Honey Composer
Owen Hubbard Musicologist
Marie Incontrera Composer and bandleader of the Eco-Music Big Band
Dan Jeffries Composer
Darragh Kearns-Hayes Composer
Alice Kelly Undergraduate music student
Luke Lewis Composer and DPhil student, University of Oxford
Sarah Loader Theatre Producer and musician
Ben Lunn Composer
David McFarlane Composer
David Mears Musician
Sally Mears Conductor
Aubrey Meyer Musician and climate campaigner
Mette Nielsen Composer
Lola Perrin Composer and pianist
Benjamin Picard Composer
Owen Roberts Composer
David Roche Composer and PhD student, University of Cambridge
John Rodge Composer, musician and teacher
Katie Rose Singer and musician
Susannah Self Composer
Julian Skar Composer and multimedia artist
Martin Stauning Composer
Isa Suarez Composer and sound artist
Anna Tam Composer and musician
Elin Vister Musician
Heather Young Musician


  • Doug says:

    Here’s an idea next time they conside crossing the Atlantic. Find some bird feathers (preferably migratory birds that have been killed by wind generators, you’ll find thousands of them each migration) then fashion them into human-size wings held together with wax. Sound familiar?

    • Ed says:

      Of course because every British person aspires to flock to your glorious nation of climate change deniers, hate preachers, cultural bankruptcy and awful food. And musicians who can’t sight-read.

  • Robert Roy says:

    We are all part of the same hypocrisy…

    (As Michael Corleoni tells the Senator at the beginning of Godfather 2)

  • Robert Roy says:

    We are all part of the same hypocrisy…

    (As Michael Corleoni tells the Senator at the beginning of Godfather 2)

  • Novagerio says:


  • SVM says:

    Forgive my indulging in a digression, but I am perturbed to note that a number of the signatories describe themselves as ‘composer and musician’, thus suggesting that a ‘composer’ were not /ipso facto/ a ‘musician’. This aberration must be stamped out before it infests British English as badly as it has already infested American English.

    Better descriptors would be ‘composer’, ‘composer and performer’ (if that be what is meant), or simply ‘musician’.

  • Patrick says:

    Never look a gift horse in the mouth.

  • Observer says:

    Yikes: I didn’t know there were so many composers. They must make up a significant proportion of The Guardian’s readership.

  • william osborne says:

    Three companies were found guilty of gross negligence in the spill. 67% of the blame went to BP, 30% to Swiss-based drilling rig owner Transocean Ltd; and 3% to Houston-based cement contractor Halliburton Energy Service.

    BP was also found guilty in 11 instances of manslaughter.

    The judge said BP made “profit-driven decisions” during the drilling of the well that led to the deadly blowout. These instances of negligence, taken together, evince an extreme deviation from the standard of care and a conscious disregard of known risks.”

    Interesting that for corporations, arts sponsorship is also a “profit-driven decision.”

  • Alistair Hinton says:

    When having to fly or drive, oil remains largely essential but not for heating one’s home; there are many alternatives and I have little doubt that these will become available over time for other purposes – so any such hypocrisy is gradually being ever more tempered. Whilst the days of oil are by no means over yet, the stranglehold of global oil conglomerates is slowly weakening and, I suspect, will continue to do so as time passes.

  • J Hughes says:

    Sigh. If you think it’s impossible both to use fossil fuels – own a car, fly, etc. – and also to lobby for better corporate behaviour from large companies, then please think again, more carefully.

    You seem to be smelling hypocrisy, which, incidentally, this isn’t. Do you refuse to listen to any criticism of a company if it comes from people who use them/deal with them? I think that’s obviously a ridiculous stance, and unworthy of you.

  • Remarque Melborne says:

    As a citizen of a country wholly owned and operated by corporations (namely Standard Oil and Halliburton, Gore Vidal used to say,) the cost of underwriting by corporations is huge: It costs your free elections, your legal rights, your democracy. It costs any legimate respect for constitutional rights: privacy, fair trial, decent jobs.

    We now have a corporate-tocracy of 1 percenters who own 80% of all wealth. And now that they can fund candidates without limit, our future looks dim.

    The letter of those musical artists opposing BP underwriting looked beyond short term gratification, and ahead to a dim future where the “suits” would one day be calling the shots.

    There’s no such thing as a free lunch, folks.

  • enemigopublico says:

    They are not asking the ROH to stop using its central heating, they’re asking the ROH to stop whitewashing BP’s image. There would only be a contradiction or hypocrisy here if the signatories were sponsored by oil companies, which I very much doubt.

  • Max says:

    I support this. These institutions could surely find alternative sponsors if they need them. If anyone else supports, there’s a petition.

  • El Grillo says:


    Somehow, if BP (with their charity) weren’t there amassing the ability to pay (what’s called) the largest criminal fine in history…

    If they weren’t there amassing such “profits” I have the utter deluded idea that people might still be able to heat their homes, drive their cars and it might even possibly not make governments necessarily worse, as clamouring goes. And if anyone else were providing such services (entropy not having stopped without BP), they might not be less charitable.

    Neither do I think it’s criminal to take money from BP for presenting art, which transcends political boundaries, in this sort of “Scrooge” and the art of giving brought to by so and such, once again.

    One can only wonder whether there’s enough balogna to feed the multitudes.

    And I have no idea what I’m going on about anymore….

  • William Stribling says:

    You lessen the quality of your classical music blog with the on going right wing blather. BP pollutes the earth, threatening the future existence of certain species on it – why is it so mandatory that you infuse your reports so often with no nothing propaganda?

  • El Grillo says:

    Sorry, but on meditation I do think this is backwards.

    Art changes everyone’s heart, and acknowledging an offer to promote that does more (and actually is beyond measure), because it is effective in making change. It restores the human condition for everyone.

  • William Stribling says:

    Your right wing postering takes the value out of posts like these and distracts from the enjoyment of your industry reporting. BP is a destructive force in the world. Us and the creatures are going to perish in this oil.

  • Chris says:

    The issue of oil sponsorship of arts and culture has been raised here on several occasions in the past years but, disappointingly, there is only limited engagement with the underlying arguments and issues.

    Firstly, it is an insubstantial argument to suggest that simply because we currently live in a society that has evolved a dependency on fossil fuels, that we can’t advocate for a transition away from fossil fuel use. The International Energy Agency has said that we need to leave roughly two thirds of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground in order to have any chance of staying within the internationally agreed 2 degree limit of global warming. Meanwhile, BP relentlessly pursues new sources of oil including four ultra-deepwater wells off the coast of Australia, deeper than the Deepwater Horizon well. Changes in lifestyle choice, while important, will not bring about the necessary cultural shift we need in order to make sure we follow the IEA guideline and those of others.

    Secondly, BP is a company with a legacy of disregarding the rights of communities and Indigenous peoples, and pursuing close relationships with repressive regimes. You only need to do a web search of BP and West Papua, Colombia or Azerbaijan to find accounts of this and details of an active court case. Reference is made here to subsidy from “bad governments” – but I would argue that BP’s own sense of what is a “bad government” is significantly lower than our own. Should the promotion of our cultural activity be funded by a company that actively puts at risk the culture of others?

    We should perhaps note, it is not that these musicians and composers are making an accusation of BP. On Thursday, it was announced that BP will pay the largest environmental fine in US history to settle litigations over the Gulf of Mexico spill. Last year, BP was fined the largest corporate criminal fine in US history for its “grossly negligent” operations that led to the spill. BP admitted that it lied to the US Congress about the spill. The signatories have simply drawn attention to evidence that has been put before a court and is in the public domain.

    I would urge readers of this blog to read the letter as published in the Guardian and perhaps one of the many articles and blogs on this issue as there is a significant amount of research underpinning the arguments against oil sponsorship of arts and cultural institutions, not least, that BP’s donations are far from generous. In reality, this is not philanthropy but a form of cheap advertising that does a disservice to our arts and cultural institutions.

    • Greg Hlatky says:

      Did the signatories check with Putin before issuing this?

      • Chris says:

        It’s interesting to raise the question of the Russian state here.

        BP currently owns a 19.75% stake in the Russian state-owned oil company, Rosneft. During rising tensions in Ukraine and Crimea, when economic sanctions on Russia were agreed across the EU, BP actively lobbied against those economic sanctions. Just last week, a case was opened against Rosneft over a pipeline leak which resulted in local residents having oil-contaminated water flowing from their taps in Siberia.

      • Gerhard says:

        Chris wrote a calm and well phrased post on the subject. Obviously you disagree with his statement, yet you can’t come up with anything better than this slightly insulting question?

    • Lloyd P says:

      Well said that man.

    • Paul Sullivan says:


      Thank you for posting a well researched and thought out comment concerning this topic (or any, actually), here on

  • Margaret says:

    It’s amazing that the list of signatories is apparently more important to post up than the actual letter…

  • william osborne says:

    The top ad banner on SD represents an aggregate of firms. The companies advertised varies. The collection is probably put together by an ad agency that variously posts ads, perhaps also based on the site’s metadata, such as keywords. Or maybe it is just a set group of firms. Ironically, I noticed yesterday that BP is one of the companies advertised here.

  • El Grillo says:

    I wonder where all this money goes to, the 4.5 billion.

    There are still workers, workers who could find no other job because of the spill and thus took jobs cleaning up the spill who got very VERY sick. And no one was allowed to film what was going on, and they were told if they wore protective gear that they would be fired (it wouldn’t look good image wise). And this all happened before with the Exxon Valdez spill.

    When they were asked whether the dispersants were toxic, the dispersants they sprayed in huge amounts to really do nothing but make the oil look like it was gone although it was still there, they said it wasn’t any more toxic than the oil. Well, if you have an open cut on your body, and crude oil comes in contact with it, you’re likely to get cancer in your lifetime because of it. That’s how “non toxic” the crude oil already is.

    And there are a whole list of other things going on with BP and the other oil companies I won’t even try to get into, the list is so long.

    And here’s a list of suppressed forms of alternative energy

  • Roy Lisker says:

    Commendable artists, commendable cause. If it was the Nazi Party that was offering the sponsorship, Norman would not be so accomodating