Barclays suspends Live Nation festival sponsorship after anti-Israel boycotts

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Barclays suspends Live Nation festival sponsorship after anti-Israel boycotts

BBC DJ Liz Kershaw says loss of sponsorship for festivals including Latitude and the Isle of Wight is 'potentially devastating for musicians, music lovers and our culture.'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

St John's Wood branch of Barclays Bank after attacks
St John's Wood branch of Barclays Bank after attacks

Barclays has suspended sponsorship of all Live Nation festivals in response to a boycott of concerts by artists protesting about the bank’s alleged ties to defence companies supplying Israel.

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

The move affects festivals like Download, Latitude and the event in the Isle of Wight/Barclays signed a five-year sponsorship deal with Live Nation in 2023. It’s not clear if the suspension will apply to all events up to 2028.

Comedians Joanne McNally, Sophie Duker, Grace Campbell, and Alexandra Haddow all announced they would be boycotting Latitude Festival last week. Musicians including CMAT, Pillow Queens, Mui Zyu, and Georgia Ruth had also pulled out of the event.

Isle of Wight festival

BBC presenter Liz Kersaw was among those to condemn the impact of the anti-Israel boycott campaign.

She posted on X/Twitter: “Now our entertainment is under attack. No sponsor = no festival. Bullying of bands – no festival.

“This is really sinister and is potentially devastating for musicians, music lovers and our culture.’

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.”

Tom Morello, guitarist of Rage Against The Machine, which will play at Download, said:“The fact that the festival has listened to its musicians and cut ties with Barclays Bank is a testament to the power of artists taking collective action for human rights.

“I’ve been pushing hard for this behind the scenes and I salute all the artists like Zulu, Scowl and Speed who have taken a stand to help make this historic withdrawal happen.”

Campaign group Bands Boycott Barclays, which has been leading the protests, said 163 acts, four showcases and two venues previously pulled out of the Barclaycard-sponsored Great Escape festival in Brighton in May.

Following Live Nation’s announcement on Friday, the protest group wrote on Instagram: “This is a victory for the Palestinian-led global BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement.

“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.

“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.

“Our demand to Barclays is simple: divest from the genocide, or face further boycotts. Boycotting Barclays, also Europe’s primary funder of fossil fuels, is the minimum we can do to call for change.”

Barclays has been targeted by pro-Palestine campaigners in recent months, with protesters smashing windows and chucking paint over dozens of the bank’s branches across the UK earlier this week.

In a statement posted online, the bank said: “We trade in shares of listed companies in response to client instruction or demand and that may result in us holding shares.

“Whilst we provide financial services to these companies, we are not making investments for Barclays and Barclays is not a ‘shareholder’ or ‘investor’ in that sense in relation to these companies.”

In an opinion piece published in The Guardian on Friday, Barclays chief executive CS Venkatakrishnan criticised the recent actions as a threat to colleagues and claimed the bank has faced a disinformation campaign over its defence financing in recent months.

“The crux of the allegation is that we finance defence manufacturers and invest in them. Let me be clear about what we do and don’t do,” he wrote.

Venkatakrishnan added that a similar disinformation campaign has targeted the bank’s “support of cultural institutions”, claiming that writers and performers “are being pressured to withdraw from festivals because they receive funding from companies such as Barclays”.

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