Tomorrow: ‘Petroleo and Fueliet’ – Extinction Rebellion Lambeth to Stage Disruptive Performance at BP Royal Opera House Big Screen


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What emergency?  

  • From 5pm Tuesday 11 June in Trafalgar Square, Extinction Rebellion Lambeth musicians and visual artists will perform the tragedy of ‘Petroleo and Fueliet’ at the BP-sponsored Royal Opera House screening of Romeo and Juliet
  • Hundreds of Extinction Rebellion members are expected to join in as The Invisible Circus – visual artists dressed in red robes – perform the true story of the climate and ecological emergency
  • Extinction Rebellion Lambeth have today written to Trustees of the Royal Opera House calling on them to drop BP as a sponsor
  • The action comes as BP’s sponsorship of culture feels renewed pressure from the Art Not Oil movement
  • Today BP Portrait Award judge Gary Hume and 8 artists who have previously won or been shortlisted for the Award have spoken out against the oil giant’s sponsorship of the prestigious award

From 5pm on Tuesday 11 June, members of Extinction Rebellion Lambeth, visual artists and musicians will come together with rebels from all over London to protest BP’s sponsorship of the Royal Opera House Big Screen in Trafalgar Square.

In what looks set to be the largest mass protest against oil sponsorship to date, with up to 1000 people set to join the action, [1] Extinction Rebellion members from across London, dressed in red to represent the bloodshed and destruction caused by BP’s climate climes, will gather inside the BP Big Screen Event in Trafalgar Square. During the pre-performance warm up, Extinction Rebellion supporters will turn away from the action playing out on the big screen during the pre-performance warm up and instead raise their banners to silently proclaim the truth of BP’s devastating impact on the natural world. Out of respect to the audience, artists and performers, the main performance will not be disrupted. Outside the main arena, performance artists from the Invisible Circus and musicians from Extinction Rebellion Baroque, a string band, will stage their own visually stunning tragedy of ‘Petroleo and Fueliet’.

Timeline of events on the night:

  • 5pm: Extinction Rebellion members begin to gather inside the Big Screen Trafalgar Square
  • 6pm-7pm: The Invisible Circus (performance artists) and Extinction Rebellion Baroque (string band) will perform ‘Petroleo & Fueliet’, a tragedy about oil and climate breakdown
  • 7pm: During the televised broadcast pre-performance warm-up of the audience by Gok Wan, Extinction Rebellion members will stand up holding banners as they turn to face ‘the truth’, represented by visual artists and large banners showing victims of climate breakdown, while a young rebel reads part of the declaration of rebellion
  • 7.30pm: The disruption will end and Extinction Rebellion will leave in time for the ballet to start

A week of increased pressure for BP

The Extinction Rebellion Lambeth action comes in a week that is seeing increased scrutiny of BP’s sponsorship of the arts. In an unprecedented move, on Monday, the oil giant’s sponsorship of the National Portrait Gallery’s BP Portrait Award was criticised by previous winners of the award and one of this year’s judges, Gary Hume. Hume also called for an end to the practice of allowing a BP employee to be one of the award’s judges. [2]

On Sunday evening two Greenpeace activists scaled the Transocean rig Paul B Loyd Junior, contracted to BP. They are calling for BP to end drilling for new oils. [3]

BP seeks to greenwash its actions and shore up its social legitimacy through its sponsorship of culture, yet it plans to spend $70bn on new gas and oil exploration in the next decade. No more. Extinction Rebellion supports the Art Not Oil movement in saying enough is enough. Our cultural institutions can no longer continue to offer a platform to those organisations which wreak devastation on our planet. [4]

While BP pays a paltry sum to benefit from its association with some of our most respected cultural institutions, the social legitimacy these relationships offer BP, allows it to continue unchecked with unethical, ruinous practices. BP and its fellow oil majors have waged multi-million dollar campaigns of fake news and lobbying to obscure the truth about the climate crisis we are in and to reinforce their social license to operate and to expand fossil fuel operations. [5]

The UK faces imminent risk of food shortage due to global warming and yet BP want to exploit new gas and oil reserves. If we are to have even the slightest chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees and averting the catastrophic societal collapse, food shortages and security risks that lie just over the precipice, we must keep 80% of known oil reserves in the ground. [6]

We have already seen children speak out and beg for their futures. Culture has declared a climate and ecological emergency, as have doctors, teachers and local councils. It is time for the Royal Opera House to join them and stand in solidarity with those who seek to protect our planet for this and future generations, rather than with those who destroy it for profit.

Extinction Rebellion Lambeth have today written to Trustees of The Royal Opera House calling on them to drop BP as the sponsor of the Big Screens saying

“The national acclaim of the Royal Opera House, its integrity and values are transferred by association to the BP brand. They know this leads to a sympathetic public attitude towards their business and weakens the pressure on them to change. That sympathy undermines everyone now standing to confront the climate crisis; everyone trying to hold BP to account for the damage they are doing…The emergency is now, and it is your emergency too. It is time for the Royal Opera House to join the right side of this. Time to join with those trying to protect our planet for future generations to enjoy like we have.”

Global Witness’s Climate Campaigner and Researcher Murray Worthy offered his support to the Extinction Rebellion Lambeth protest, saying: “It’s no surprise to see BP targeted yet again given their breathtaking hypocrisy on the climate crisis. They claim to be committed to the Paris agreement, but more than half of the company’s planned oil and gas investments over the next decade can’t be squared with achieving the agreement’s targets for limiting global warming. Investors, campaigners and the public are increasingly turning against BP – unless it radically changes its approach, this kind of pressure will only escalate.”

‘There’s a real depth of feeling erupting about this now: it is just not right that BP are so directly responsible for the climate crisis yet their branding gets emblazoned all over a cultural treasure in the heart of London as if they were something to celebrate.’ George Deacon, Extinction Rebellion Lambeth member and spokesperson.

‘I’m here today to stand up for those whose suffering is invisible while BP’s advertising is made impossible to ignore. People suffer from the violence, corruption and human rights abuses that enable BP’s global business, and the resulting climate breakdown means upheaval, instability, drought and famine for millions. I want to highlight this as the Royal Opera House celebrates its ongoing deal with BP.’  Bells Davidson, Extinction Rebellion Lambeth Coordinator

Further actions to come over the summer from different Extinction Rebellion groups will continue to highlight the hypocrisy of our greatest cultural institutions in giving a platform to the fossil fuel companies that are knowingly destroying our planet and threatening to condemn us to a future of global hunger, mass migration, flooding and runway global warming. On 20 June Extinction Rebellion Families will stage an alternative ‘Dinner of Hope’ at the Natural History Museum in protest at the Museum hosting the Petroleum Group Awards Dinner. On 2 July, when the BP Big Screen returns to Trafalgar Square, so will Extinction Rebellion.

Background on BP’s sponsorship of the arts

On 28 July 2016 BP announced that it had signed a new 5-year sponsorship deal with four leading UK cultural institutions, which began in 2018 and is due to be renewed in 2021:

  • the British Museum (to continue sponsoring special exhibitions)
  • the National Portrait Gallery (to continue sponsoring the annual ‘BP Portrait Award’)
  • the Royal Opera House (to continue sponsoring the annual ‘BP Big Screens’)
  • the Royal Shakespeare Company (where BP currently sponsors the £5 ticket scheme for 16-25 year olds)

The deal is for £7.5 million in total, a reduction from the £10 million that BP spent on the last five-year deal [7]

Arts and cultural sponsorship is no philanthropic act by the oil majors. BP seeks to enhance its image by sponsoring culture and research shows that this approach works. 38% of people who were exposed to BP’s Olympic sponsorship believe that BP is doing better at working towards a cleaner planet. [8]

The Art Not Oil coalition

The Art Not Oil coalition comprises BP or not BP? and Culture Unstained among others. [9]

The movement has been challenging oil sponsorship of culture for over 10 years with creative activist interventions in the main UK oil-sponsored institutions: the British Museum, Royal Shakespeare Company, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Opera House and Science Museum. In 2016, the tide began to turn when BP’s sponsorship deals with Tate and Edinburgh International Festival ended following bold creative campaigns by the coalition’s members. [10]

The Invisible Circus [11]

The Invisible Circus, also known as the red rebel brigade, formed one of the most memorable visual elements of the International Rebellion in April. A striking troop of ghostly-white figures cloaked in scarlet-red to represent the blood of the species, their creative form of protest has universal significance and lasting impact.

Full letter from Extinction Rebellion Lambeth to Trustees of the Royal Opera House

Dear Dame Abramsky DBE and Mr Ian Taylor,

On Tuesday 11 June, the Royal Ballet is putting on Romeo and Juliet in a performance that will be shown around the country as a BP Big Screens event.

The Royal Opera House is an institution that is well-loved and the 25 audiences on Tuesday will be testament to the enduring quality and appeal of your dancers and their art. When Kevin O’Hare, director of the Royal Ballet, received a CBE for services to dance, he was being held up as a role model. The award was reflective of the honour and esteem that the public sees embodied by your institution.

It is for that reason that BP targeted you as an ideal organisation to sponsor and thereby represent them in the cultural sphere. No doubt, they are delighted to have you as their partner and standard bearer. The national acclaim of the Royal Opera House, its integrity and values are transferred by association to the BP brand. They know this leads to a sympathetic public attitude towards their business and weakens the pressure on them to change. That sympathy undermines everyone now standing to confront the climate crisis; everyone trying to hold BP to account for the damage they are doing. Consider the 1.4 million young people who marched as part of the Fridays for Future youth strikes. They refuse to let their future be ruined by those causing and complicit in the climate crisis.

Those protesting can see our natural systems being distorted in a way that is calamitous for both the natural and human worlds. As the world heats, ice-free arctic summers and the complete wipe-out of coral reefs are growing more likely. Extinctions, extreme weather events, flooding, crop failures, wildfires and droughts are growing more widespread and frequent. Last year, Cape Town almost became the first major city to run out of water. Consider the panic, violence and upheaval if it had. The climate crisis is both devastating and accelerate. The world’s pre-eminent climate scientists judge we have only 11 years for fully committed action before irreversible and unstoppable damage is done.

BP’s business is a major cause of this crisis. They alone are responsible for 1.5% of global emissions since 1988. BP has no plans for the fundamental reform of their business that the crisis demands. They plan to invest £41 billion in new oil extraction over the next 10 years. Only outside pressure on them can save us now. The UN, the British Parliament and the London Mayor have all declared this to be a climate emergency. Public opinion is hardening. People everywhere are standing up and rebelling for life. The emergency is now, and it is your emergency too. It is time for the Royal Opera House to join the right side of this. Time to join with those trying to protect our planet for future generations to enjoy like we have.

We are protesting to make this point to you as trustees. Out of respect to the dancers and the audience who do not have power over selection of sponsors, we will not disrupt the performance. No doubt though, we are a distraction on this important night from the furtherance of your charitable objects. We will continue to be so, and we will not go away. You must leave the sponsorship deal that you have with BP. You must not begin another deal with them nor tolerate their branding by your work. This is your solemn contribution to your art, your earth and all the people around you.

With love and rage,

Extinction Rebellion













Notes to editors

About Extinction Rebellion:

Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and abrupt, runaway climate change. Societal collapse and mass death are seen as inevitable by scientists and other credible voices, with human extinction also a possibility, if rapid action is not taken.

Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.

Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:

  1. Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  2. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

Get involved

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