Barclays suspends festival funding after protests

By Mark SavageMusic Correspondent


Musician CMAT was among several artists who pulled out of Latitude

Barclays has suspended its sponsorship of all music festivals staged by promoter Live Nation in 2024, including Download, Latitude and the Isle of Wight.

The move comes after several acts pulled out of the events in protest at the bank’s investment links to arms companies that trade with Israel.

Artists including country singer CMAT, metal band Ithaca and comedian Joanne McNally all withdrew from planned slots this summer.

A spokesperson for Live Nation said: “Following discussion with artists, we have agreed with Barclays that they will step back from sponsorship of our festivals.”

The bank signed a five-year sponsorship deal with Live Nation in 2023. It is understood that the suspension does not apply to the full term of the contract.

Mercury-nominated band Lankum, who are on the line-up for Suffolk’s Latitude festival in July, were among the first to respond to the announcement.

“We welcome the news,” they said on Instagram.

“Since the beginning of the campaign there has been great collective effort from a number of bands, artists and fans to get to this point.

“Standing together is the best foot forward.”

Ticketholders unaffected

The development comes after more than 100 artists boycotted Brighton’s Great Escape Festival in May over the event’s ties to Barclays.

Campaigners have accused the bank of increasing its investment in arms companies that trade with Israel, amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

A spokesperson for Barclays told the BBC: “Barclays was asked and has agreed to suspend participation in the remaining Live Nation festivals in 2024.

“Barclays customers who hold tickets to these festivals are not affected and their tickets remain valid. The protesters’ agenda is to have Barclays debank defence companies which is a sector we remain committed to as an essential part of keeping this country and our allies safe.”

They added that the protests had led to intimidation of staff and vandalism of their branches.

“The only thing that this small group of activists will achieve is to weaken essential support for cultural events enjoyed by millions,” they added.

“It is time that leaders across politics, business, academia and the arts stand united against this.”

A number of bands pulled out of this weekend’s Download festival at Donington Park in Leicestershire.

“We cannot sacrifice the principles held by this band and by the scene we come from and represent, just for personal gain,” thrash metal band Pest Control posted on Instagram.

The bands Speed, Scowl, Zulu and Ithaca also joined the boycott.

The latter said: “Once we were made aware of Barclays’ involvement in Download we knew we could no longer participate. This moment of solidarity is an opportunity for festival organisers to reflect carefully on who they take money from and see that the younger generation of bands will no longer be silent.”

Irish singer CMAT also pulled out of Latitude, saying she would “not allow my precious work, my music, which I love so much, to get into bed with violence”.

Taskmaster star Joanne McNally cancelled her headline set in the festival’s comedy tent. British comedian and writer Sophie Duker also confirmed she would be boycotting the event, saying on social media she was “committed to minimising my complicity in what I consider to be a pattern of abhorrent, unlawful violence”.

Fellow comedian Grace Campbell, the daughter of Sir Tony Blair’s former spokesperson Alastair Campbell, also pulled out of the festival, as did Alexandra Haddow, who wrote on Instagram: “I can’t in good conscience take the fee.”

‘We have been heard’

Barclays has previously said it recognises “the profound human suffering” caused by the “complex and long-running conflict” in Gaza.

However, it insisted it does not make its own investments, but provides financial services to businesses “including those in the defence sector”.

That includes companies “that supply defence products to Nato and other allies including Ukraine”.

It added that “Barclays does not directly invest in these companies” and that “decisions on the implementation of arms embargoes to other nations” should be taken by governments.

Protest group Bands Boycott Barclays called the bank’s decision to suspend its ties with the festivals a “victory”.

“As musicians, we were horrified that our music festivals were partnered with Barclays, who are complicit in the genocide in Gaza through investment, loans and underwriting of arms companies supplying the Israeli military,” they said.

“Hundreds of artists have taken action this summer to make it clear that this is morally reprehensible, and we are glad we have been heard.”


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