BP sponsorship of World Shakespeare Festival draws protest

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

BP’s financial sponsorship of a cultural institution is once again provoking heated words in the arts community. This time, the World Shakespeare Festival has become the center of attention after a group of British actors launched a protest against the partnership between the oil company and the Royal Shakespeare Co.

The World Shakespeare Festival is a global celebration of the Bard’s plays coinciding with the Cultural Olympiad in London. The festival is being billed as the largest celebration of Shakespeare ever staged, with arts groups from around the world converging on venues around Britain.

The Royal Shakespeare Co. is producing the festival in partnership with Shakespeare’s Globe. The latter group is producing Globe to Globe, an event involving the staging of all of the Bard’s plays, each in a different language.


As reported in the Stage UK, a group of actors on Monday staged a protest of BP’s sponsorship just before a performance of “The Tempest” at Stratford-upon-Avon. The group has launched a website titled “BP or not BP?”.

The protest organization, named the Reclaim Shakespeare Co., states on its website: “We say to the RSC: to thine own self be true. Be nothing if not critical and forgo your damaging relationship with BP.” The group also has launched a Twitter account, @ReclaimOurBard.

In 2010, BP was at the center of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the largest oil spill in history.

The oil company’s sponsorship deals with other cultural institutions has drawn criticism in recent years. The Tate Britain in London was targeted by protesters in 2010 for its partnership with BP.

Organizations in Southern Caifornia that habr or had sponsorship deals with BP include the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.


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BP Grand Entrance at LACMA looking not-quite-so-grand