Shell Out of the Southbank Centre
Oil-branded concerts come to an end after campaign exposed Shell’s record of environmental damage and alleged human rights abuses.
Photo by Hugh Warwick
On Friday 24th January campaigners were celebrating after the Southbank Centre in London announced that its sponsorship relationship with Royal Dutch Shell would be coming to an end in 2014.
The Southbank Centre is renowned as being one of the largest arts centres in the world. Comprising concert halls and gallery space it offers art and activities to the general public.
Shell have been widely criticised for a range of environmental and human rights injustices: extensive spills and contributions to the military in Nigeria, extraction of tar sands oil on Indigenous people’s lands in Canada and attempts to drill in the Arctic. Shell's reputation threatened to tarnish that of the Southbank Centre by association.
Over many years, groups including Platform, London Rising Tide and radical choir Shell Out Sounds have protested and raised awareness at the Southbank. Last October, the Shell Out Sounds choir gave an unsanctioned performance from the Royal Festival Hall’s choir seats before a Shell Classic concert could begin, following-up multiple choral ‘flashmobs’ in the Festival Hall foyer during concert intervals.
In November, on the anniversary of the death of Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, twenty one artists signed an open letter demanding that Shell be dropped as a sponsor.
The successful campaign at the Southbank is part of a growing movement against oil sponsorship. The Art Not Oil coalition is a growing community demanding an end to cultural sponsorship by large oil companies. The Southbank Centre’s decision now clears a path for other institutions, such as the Tate, the Royal Opera House and the Science Museum, to end their relationships with companies such as BP and Shell. The campaigns to end these relationships will press forward with renewed energy and innovative, creative strategies. For more information on this news click on the link to see the blog on Art Not Oil's website.