On Wednesday 3rd October 2012, the current season of the Shell Classic International concert series opened at the Southbank Centre, with a performance of Benjamin Britten’s ‘plea for peace’, the Sinfonia da Requiem. However, there is an unpleasant irony in this programme choice. Shell, the sponsor of the concert series, have now spent in excess of $65 million supporting Nigeria’s military task force, exacerbating conflict and human rights incidents. In recent years, Shell’s oil spills have contaminated the Niger Delta, their extraction plants in Canada’s tar sands have encroached upon the land of Indigenous peoples and now they have turned their attention to dangerous oil drilling in the shrinking Arctic. By giving their money and attaching their name, Shell is buying the social legitimacy of these high-profile concerts to keep their record of environmental damage and unjust practices out of sight. We represent a cross-section of the current and emerging generation of performers, composers, artists and audience members, that believe Shell’s sponsorship is tarnishing the reputation of the Southbank Centre. Even in a context of austerity and funding cuts, corporate sponsorship money does not exist in an ethical vacuum. Our arts institutions should provide a space for confronting injustice, not concealing it – we therefore urge the Southbank Centre to bring to an end its relationship with Shell.
We invite you to add your name to this open letter (below) to Alan Bishop,Chief Executive of the Southbank Centre. Please give your vocation/organisation in the box marked 'why is this important to you', to demonstrate the breadth of support.
(There is the possibility of publication in other media sources for this letter. In which case, no other information than your name and vocation/organisation would be given as your "signature")
For further information on Shell's activities in Nigeria, Canada and the Arctic, please see the following report: