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Over 120 artists pull out of The Great Escape over Barclays sponsorship

25% of the Brighton-based conference and festival's line-up has withdrawn in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza

  • 16 May 2024
Over 120 artists pull out of The Great Escape over Barclays sponsorship

Over 120 artists have pulled out of The Great Escape due to the festival’s sponsorship by Barclays.

The Brighton-based conference and festival kicked off yesterday (May 15) and will run until Sunday (May 19), with TGE typically hosting a line-up of emerging musical talent, previously helping launch the likes of Stormzy and Kae Tempest.

The withdrawals are a result of Barclays' alleged ties to several arms manufacturers currently accused of profiteering from the Israeli Defence Force (IDF)'s continued ground assault and air bombardment of Gaza.

As a result, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has launched the Boycott Barclays campaign due to the bank's alleged "profiteering" of violence against Palestinian civilians.

"Barclays holds £1,300,688,880 in shares of companies whose weapons, components, and military technology have been used in unlawful violence against Palestinians," the PSC said. "In addition, Barclays provides £3,977,214,000 in loans and underwriting to these companies."

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The campaign for The Great Escape to drop Barclays as a sponsor has been supported by over 50% of the artists playing, garnering support from artists such as Idles, Kneecap, Brian Eno, and Alfie Templeman with the latter writing: “My morals cannot and will not align with the amalgamation of entertainment and human suffering.”

The campaign was started by Bristol band The Menstrual Cramps, who said, “As a political punk band, we cannot be complicit in glorifying the industries that fund this violence.” They continued, “We cannot let our creative outputs become smokescreens behind which money is funded into war and the killing of our planet.”

Other artists to join the boycott include Bimini, who has said, "I believe music has the power to connect us but I can’t support the sponsorships that profit over the loss of innocent lives" and Bodur who hopes that, "after the boycotts this year, festivals will have to think more ethically about who they accept sponsorship from in the future to avoid losing their lineups again."

Massive Attack have also come out in support of the boycott, saying, “Whether it’s apartheid and genocide in Gaza, or the funding of new fossil fuel extraction worldwide, Barclays has repeatedly proven it is without conscience. Barclays therefore has no place in any music festival or any cultural event. Solidarity with and total respect to all musicians who’ve taken this stand.”

Today (May 16), the alternative event and panel series The Great Boycott is set to take place in Brighton, featuring artists such as Alice Russell, J Felix, Liv Wynter, Go For It Tribe, Ideal Living and more.

The event is presented by Make Music Matter, who said, “While Barclays are still complicit in funding UK arms companies, the bombs will keep falling on Gaza. Seeing all these brave young bands boycotting the event feels empowering. All due respect to each and every one of them.”

The Great Boycott is intended to help musicians who have made the difficult decision to quit the festival, with Bodur commenting, "I now have no UK dates booked this year. I’m losing money and the experience of performing at a festival I’ve wanted to be a part of for years".

All proceeds from the event will go towards such artists involved in the boycott, providing financial support as well as a platform for these musicians to have an alternative space to continue to play.

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One of the organisers from Make Music Matter, Wayne Roberts said, “These guys are at the start of their careers. The Great Escape is a huge platform for the industry, and they’re standing up and throwing these opportunities in the bin because what’s going on in Gaza is more important.”

Figures from the Palestinian Health Authority suggest that more than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the military campaign so far, with human rights organisations accusing the IDF of failing to comply with International Court of Justice (ICJ) measures to prevent genocide.

In comments shared with The Guardian, Barclays has claimed that it "is not a “shareholder” or “investor” in such companies, insisting it "trade in shares of listed companies in response to client instruction or demand and that may result in us holding shares."

Mixmag has contacted representatives of The Great Escape for comment.

Jamaal Johnson is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow him on Instagram

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