RSC to sever its partnership with BP

Published: 2 October 2019
Reporter: Steve Orme

The Royal Shakespeare Company has announced it will end its controversial partnership with oil giant BP at the end of 2019.

Mark Rylance, an RSC associate artist for 30 years and former artistic director at Shakespeare’s Globe, resigned from the RSC in June. He said BP’s sponsorship deal allowed the company to “obscure the destructive reality of its activities” which he said threatened the future of the planet.

And in September, a group of school climate protesters who took to the streets sent a letter to the RSC threatening a boycott unless it severed its ties with BP.

The oil firm has supported the RSC’s £5 ticket scheme for 16- to 25-year olds since 2013.

RSC artistic director Gregory Doran and executive director Catherine Mallyon said, “over many months we’ve listened to a wide and varied range of voices and opinions about our partnership with BP and their support of our £5 ticket scheme.

“This careful and often difficult debate with, among others, our board, staff, our audiences and artists has highlighted the strength of feeling, especially among young people who we would like to benefit from the scheme.

“Amid the climate emergency, which we recognise, young people are now saying clearly to us that the BP sponsorship is putting a barrier between them and their wish to engage with the RSC. We can’t ignore that message.

“It’s with all this in mind that we’ve taken the difficult decision to conclude our partnership with BP at the end of this year. The decision hasn’t been taken lightly or swiftly.

“We’d like to thank BP for their generous support of the RSC since 2011. We’ve issued 80,000 tickets to young people who’ve been able to experience our work through the BP-sponsored scheme.

“We’re committed to sharing our work with the widest possible audience and the £5 ticket scheme for 16- to 25-year olds remains a priority.”