Great Escape festival boycotted over Barclays sponsorship

The artists say they will no longer be performing at the Brighton based festival due to Barclays’ investments in Israel-linked arms companies [Getty]

Over 100 artists have dropped out of the Brighton-based Great Escape music festival in solidarity with Palestine, citing Barclays Bank’s sponsorship of the event.

The festival is set to take place across various venues across the UK seaside city from 15 to 18 May, however, more acts are dropping out by day.

Activists and campaigners have called for a boycott of the event due to the bank’s financial investment in companies that supply arms to Israel.

Several campaign groups have stated that Barclays has increased investments and shareholdings in loans to nine companies known to be producing weapons for Israel.

However, the bank previously told The New Arab that they only “trade in shares of listed companies in response to client instruction or demand and that may result in us holding shares”.

The artists have threatened to pull of of The Great Escape unless the festival drops its links with Barclays. Currently, around a quarter of the artists planning to perform in Brighton have pulled out.

DellaXOZ, a singer and songwriter who was set to perform at the festival, told The New Arab she was shocked by the “horrific” images of Israel’s “genocide in Gaza”, which fuelled her decision.

“I couldn’t consciously have any contribution towards that by playing three sets at a festival that is funding that very atrocity,” she said.

The festival, which was set to feature many new and upcoming artists, is seen as a great opportunity for those in the music industry. But the singer says she was sure of her decision.

“Sure I felt a momentary disappointment having to drop out but the feeling of choosing humanity over that and being part of a growing ethical movement is a greater feeling,” she said.

DellaXOZ said she initially had no idea that the event was backed by Barclays and called for such festivals to be more transparent.

“I dislike that these festivals are hiding behind the art and labour of small struggling artists to fund these atrocities instead of outwardly owning their role as Zionists they’re evidently so proud to be,” she told The New Arab.

“I think many people, musicians as well as music fans are not actually aware of the industry’s involvement in the genocide which is why everyone is accidently contributing by buying tickets to shows or playing.”

More acts pull out

Since the pull-out of artists, the festival’s opening showcase and a keynote speech have been called off.

The event has become a key part of the UK’s music scene since it was first launched in 2006, and typically sees over 500 artists perform.

Alfie Templeman, one of the most well-known acts set to play this year’s event, also announced on Tuesday he would no longer be taking part, stating Barclays are “actively funding the Israeli military and are therefore being complicit in genocide”.

“My morals cannot and will not align with the amalgamation of entertainment and human suffering,” he wrote on X, adding that he hopes the action will force other festivals to make ethical decisions when choosing their partners.

Lana Lubany, a London-based singer, expressed a similar sentiment online.

“During these very difficult times I’ve made the decision to pull out from the Great Escape Festival. Their values currently aren’t aligned with what I stand for as a Palestinian,” Lubany wrote.

Other artists who confirmed they would no longer be at the festival include Bettlebug, Bo Milli, Kerensa, Sophia Ryalls, Steven Bamidele and C Turtle.

Business and ethics

Others have criticised the event’s lack of response to the boycott.

“Seeing the horrors happening currently in Gaza, Palestinian solidarity should be at the forefront. I’m shocked The Great Escape festival have not responded to calls to drop their partner Barclays, who are actively funding genocide,” Delilah Bon, a British songwriter said.

Bon said that such moves were “forcing artists like myself to pick between business and my own ethics”, and expressed her support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Over half of the event’s line-up have signed an open statement organised by Bands Boycott Barclays, demanding the festival end its relationship with Barclays.  

The New Arab reached out to The Great Escape for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Israel’s war on Gaza has killed over 35,173 Palestinians and wounded at least 79,000 others since 7 October. The bombardment of the besieged enclave has levelled entire neighbourhoods and plunged the enclave into a deep humanitarian crisis.

Gaza’s Civil Defence says it has now lost at least 80 percent of its capability and that their teams can no longer respond to calls for help due to attacks, a lack of resources and no equipment.

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