Woke artists call for boycott of bank sponsor

Woke artists call for boycott of bank sponsor


norman lebrecht

June 23, 2021

A coalition of artists from all genres have published a letter in the Times today, demanding a boycott of sponsorship from Barclays Bank because its fossil fuel ‘investments pose a threat to the future of young people and arts organisations’.

We publish the letter and the names below. Let us know if you hear that any arts company refuses free money from a bank. We’ll find plenty of deserving others who would be happy to take their place.


Sir, We are writing to express our concern that Barclays’ sponsorship of youth tickets at Sadler’s Wells is undermining the future of the theatre, its audiences and performers. The Barclays dance pass offers up to 10,000 tickets a year at £10 for young people aged 16 to 30. Barclays is Europe’s largest financier of fossil fuel extraction, investing $145 billion in this activity since the 2015 Paris agreement. Addressing the United Nations this year, António Guterres, its secretary-general, stated that financing fossil fuels must stop so as to avert further extreme weather events, food shortages and mass migration.

Barclays’ investments pose a threat to the future of young people and arts organisations. This risk far outweighs any potential benefit from the provision of the dance pass. Sadler’s Wells provides huge cultural benefit but relies on sponsorship, especially now. Hence we do not ask that Barclays’ sponsorship be dropped but that the contract should be replaced by sustainable arts sponsorship.

Sadler’s Wells declared a climate emergency last year. We urge the theatre’s trustees to seek sponsorship in line with this declaration.
Sir Mark Rylance, actor; Dame Siobhan Davies, choreographer, performer; Rupert Graves, actor, Islington parent; Julie Ward, former MEP and Vice-Chair of European Parliament Culture & Education Committee, Board Member of Culture Action Europe and dance lover; Wendy Houstoun, dance artist; Matteo Fargion, dance artist; Hugo Glendinning, photographer, filmmaker; Deborah Hay, artist, dancer, choreographer, writer; Jessica Townsend, author; Zoë Solomons, dancer and Islington Parent; Rose Fenton, co-founder of LIFT, producer, author; Anthony Simpson-Pike, theatre-maker and dramaturg; Eleanor Sikorski, dancer, choreographer, Sadlers Wells commissioned artist; Da
n de la Motte, Creative Practitioner and Equity Councillor; Flora Wellesley Wesley, dance artist, co-director of Nora; Robert Anderson, Director, London Contact Improvisation; Seke Chimutengwende, choreographer, dancer, parent; Giuliana Majo, Director Tripspace; Bert Roman, Director Moveme, medical professional; Zosia Jo, dancer, movement lecturer; Dr Jane Munro, dancer, choreographer, lecturer; Alexandra Baybutt, artist, researcher, educator; Henry Montes, performer, dance lecturer; Jo Willis, creative director Shallal; Katye Coe, dancer; Tamara Ashley, lecturer, researcher, producer; Johnathon Byers, cellist, teacher, concert promoter; Rachel Dean, dance artist; Nina Feldman, performer and cultural practitioner, parent; Robert Vesty, lecturer; Dagmara Billon, dancer and lecturer; Dr Carolyn Deby, artist/researcher Sirenscrossing; Jan-Ming Lee, musician and dancer; Tania Soubry, dancer, choreographer, facilitator; Genevieve Maxwell, dance artist, choreographer, parent and lecturer; Holly Cullen-Davies, musician, educator; Sally Davies, musician and theatre maker; Marcus Caranbola, musician; Emma Zangs, dancer, choreographer; Eve Stainton, artist and performance asker; Danny Green, musician; Ashley Handel, audience member; Alice Yglesias, Islington parent; Gulcin Ozdemir, Islington parent; Beatrice Adigun, Islington parent; Samira Bella, Islington parent


  • Tribonian says:

    A lot of the signatories seem to describe themselves as “Islington Parents”. All very reminiscent of the Modern Parents in Viz (for UK readers with a long enough memory).

    I was also impressed by Sally Davies’ description of herself as a “Theatre Maker”. I hadn’t expected any of these signatories to be capable of manual work. Oh no, wait….

  • Gary Freer says:

    Perhaps we should move more artistic hubs out of London and Islington in particular?

    • Helen says:

      Good luck finding audiences without the millions of tourists that London attracts.

      The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds made that mistake.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Withdraw funding from these people because it is impossible to find investment funds that are totally free from investments they will object to.

  • James Weiss says:

    I wonder if these woke fools have given up driving cars, taking buses, flying in planes, heating their homes, or cooking their food. All powered by fossil fuels.

    • Ed in Texas says:

      And the list goes on. Include the synthetic fibers they wear as clothing. Even natural fibers rely on the fossil fuel industry when petroleum is made into fertilizers that feed the grass that feeds sheep that grows the wool that’s made into the clothing on the power loom (which father bought for two zuzum? No?)

  • Ellingtonia says:

    I think the bunch who signed the above letter have never done a real days work in their lives but just love to virtual signal their deep felt hurt at such sponsorship. If their livelihood depended on income generation from bums on seats many of them would be out of work. Perhaps someone should explain to them that just as miners, shipbuilders and engineers lost jobs because they couldn’t compete in the market place, they too would suffer the same fate without the obscene subsidies that some arts foundations get. As regards the “parents” who signed the letter, take one look where they all came from…..Islington. You couldn’t make it up even if you tried!

  • marcus says:

    They signed a letter? Yeah, that will really stick it to the man.

    • The View from America says:

      Yes, I’m sure they all felt ecstatic after signing it — accomplishing something so challenging.

  • Hayne says:


  • V.Lind says:

    What’s a “performance asker”?

    This is the Islington PTA in action. (Maybe they could bake cookies and host bring and buys to make up for the funding they are apparently asking people to throw away).

    Not that they are actually wrong — Barclay’s should divest from fossil fuels. Is it any more “woke” to ask the arts to get shot of this sort of investor than to forsake cigarette manufacturers, who kept the arts (and some sports) in business for a very long time?

    I don’t mind these people. I don’t think concern about climate change is “woke.” I think their hearts are pure and their cause is just.

  • Emil says:

    Is it woke to care about the environment now?
    Really, inflationary language knows no bounds.

  • Richard Turner says:

    This isn’t “woke”, whatever that means. This is totally understandable panic in the face of a climate catastrophe. Nothing is more important.

    • V.Lind says:

      Judging by the number of downvotes on my, Emil’s and your and some other comments, the SD “community” is a fossil-guzzing, carbon-footprint-plodding, emission-spewing horde!

      • Hayne says:

        Global cooling, global warming, global cooling…
        Which is it now?

        Let’s call it “climate change” and cover all our bases!
        If someone disagrees with the accepted wisdom of the media on climate change does it really mean they hate the environment?
        There are many thousands of INDEPENDENT climate scientists, geophysicists, scientists, etc. who disagree with the official narrative. They have been basically ignored by media. You all should look up some of them and read their research. Weigh the evidence yourselves and come to your own conclusions but for heaven’s sake stop the ad hominem attacks against people who disagree with you. Yes, it happens on both sides but it really seems to preponderate with the left.

  • Kyle says:

    “Barclays’ investments pose a threat to the future of young people and arts organisations. This risk far outweighs any potential benefit from the provision of the dance pass.”

    What if a 16-year-old attends on a sponsored ticket, the result of which is life choices that keep her out of trouble, and she goes on to solve the climate crisis? I’d say the potential benefit outweighed the threat.

    I only propose that most unlikely (though possible!) of scenarios to assert that writing such obviously flawed absolute statements is not smart. Neither is signing them. You cannot win a logic argument with flawed logic.

    • JYF says:

      That’s the problem: people, particularly the left, are far too certain about everything and there’s no acknowledgement of complexities..

      I would suggest that gestures like this are counterproductive; not only for the obvious reasons but because it makes concern for possible climate change look like a matter for nutters.

  • RobK says:

    ‘Islington parent’ – says it all.

  • Sylvia Edgerton says:

    Acknowledging the climate crisis requires actions. This group is demanding a path to a clean energy future. Have you any idea what life will look like at 4 degrees Celsius of global warming? Desertification, wars over water access, deadly summer heat, 200 million climate refugees by 2050, right wing xenophobic autocrats in response. Our children will damn us for our irresponsible inaction. We need more of this.

    • JYF says:

      ‘Our children will damn us for our irresponsible inaction.’

      What inaction? There have been enormous changes in Britain in the last twenty years.

  • Michael says:

    As a “dance lover” and “Hammersmith non-parent”, I support Sadler’s Wells as a Member and also by spending £100s annually to attend performances at the the world’s largest, leading, most-diverse most-inventive dance theatre.

    As the owner of a petrol-fuelled car, not to mention a consumer of the fossil fuels needed to make many of my clothes and to transport much of the food I eat, I felt insulted not to be asked by Sir Mark and his (new?) friends to stop going to Sadler’s Wells and not to renew my membership. Hopefully Barclays will respond by continuing this generous sponsorship which helps keep this fabulous art form alive.

    Climate change is complex: the world’s massive environment problems are not going to be solved by stopping 16-30s getting cheap access to dance performances.

    A real solution to the letter “signatories’ “ signed would have been a cheque to replace the funds from Barclays they want Sadler’s Wells to refuse. Judging by the number of “Islington parents” and celebs (few, admittedly, but possibly wealthy), that should not have been difficult!

  • JYF says:

    ‘Sadler’s Wells declared a climate emergency last year’

    I wouldn’t sponsor any arts organization that did such a thing and I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone in being annoyed. It feels as if they have too much money already. It’s counterproductive.

    Footballers kneeling, theatres declaring climate emergencies… I’m sick of it. I just want deep, satisfying performances.