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Protesters target British Museum over ‘dirty’ BP deal

by Felicity Collier

CAMPAIGNERS led an “oily” protest in London yesterday against the British Museum’s sordid links with oil giant BP.

About 40 performers at the British Museum highlighted taxpayers’ expense in paying for BP’s sponsorship of the museum.

An “oily mob” performed theatre and song in glitzy costumes to raise awareness of the planet-destroying multinational’s ties with museums and galleries in Britain and abroad.

The performance by campaign groups Art Not Oil and BP or Not BP? was part of a fortnight of action calling on public institutions to cut their links to fossil fuels.

It took place days after creative protests at the Louvre in Paris, which is sponsored by the oil and gas multinational Total, and at the Shell-sponsored Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Chris Garrard from BP or Not BP? told the Star that taxpayers in Britain pay £110 million a year to fund cultural institutions such as Tate, the Royal Opera House and the National Portrait Gallery as well as the British Museum.

But BP pays a paltry £2 million a year — yet received government subsidies to the tune of £210m in 2015.

Mr Garrard described its British Museum sponsorship as a “deception.”

He added that what BP was doing was “being seen to be generous.”

“It makes a song and dance about sponsorship — but it actually is a drain. We could be using [government subsidies to BP] to fund arts. The British Museum are trying to keep the figures hidden from the public.”

Signs exposing these sums were confiscated by museum security staff. And, bizarrely, several glittery bow ties and waistcoats were also taken away.

The group was expecting to host Who Wants to Be a Billionaire? — a rigged “gameshow” in which BP wins every time — inside the museum. They managed to perform some of it, as well as some songs and dances.

Mr Garrard said that BP recently signed a new deal with the museum for five more years and that the director did so without consulting trustees.

Using literary quotes to make points in its manifesto, BP or Not BP? describes the oil multinational as “the harlot’s cheek, beautified with sponsoring art.”

It added: “BP is conspiring to distract us from the naked truth of climate change, and by pursuing a future powered by more and more extreme fossil fuels, like tar sands, deep-water drilling and Arctic exploitation.”

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