Many artists and performers receive one-off commissions, roles, or workshop invitations from big institutions (e.g. Tate, British Museum, Royal Shakespeare Company) which also take fossil fuel funding. Many smaller organisations have touring partnerships with these institutions.
Some choose to turn down the opportunity, but not all of us can afford to. In this situation, we commit to challenge the institution involved to stop taking fossil fuel funding. We would appreciate pledge participants’ accounts of responses they received to their challenge.
Public arts funding is under threat from government cuts. So many arts organisations feel compelled to seek corporate sponsorship. But who we take money from is very important: it acts as an endorsement of our funders. Policies that expand corporate sponsorship go hand in hand with further privatisation. Outsourcing cultural institutions’ workforce loses security of employment for staff and quality for visitors – see the example of the National Gallery in London.
Oil sponsorship provides a miniscule amount that could never replace public funding, and only for institutions of the highest prestige, who are less likely to struggle with public funding cuts. For example, Tate receives less than 0.5% of its budget from BP. In the UK, it is public funding, not corporate sponsorship, that guarantees that the doors of many museums and galleries are open for free.
But in the context of public funding cuts it is especially important for artists and cultural organisations to decide independently and openly: what funding are we prepared to accept? And what should we refuse? What are we happy for our funding to do in the world?
Yes we do. At the moment it is all but impossible to use no fossil fuels whatsoever. But refusing to endorse and justify oil and gas – to give it ‘social licence’ through our work – is different and far more powerful than just minimising personal consumption. If we remove the cultural power of fossil fuels, we undermine the political, financial, and diplomatic support companies like BP and Shell desperately need to continue drilling ever deeper.
Fossil-fueled culture makes it difficult to imagine not using any oil or gas. And by refusing association with fossil fuels we are enabling alternatives to flourish.