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Over 130 acts boycott The Great Escape Festival due to Israel-funding sponsor Barclay’s Bank

Over 130 acts boycott The Great Escape Festival due to Israel-funding sponsor Barclay’s Bank


Approximately 130 acts have now pulled their performances from The Great Escape, the new music festival in Brighton which kicks off in the English seaside resort town today.

As previously reported, solidarity groups including The Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK and How To Catch A Pig have highlighted the festival’s sponsor Barclay’s Bank and its ongoing investment in companies selling arms and military equipment to Israel that have been used in the oppression of Palestinians in the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

Barclay’s are on the BDS list as a result. Barclays has form in investing in apartheid states, as it eventually withdrew from South Africa in 1986 after years of pressure and criticism.

The festival starts today on the Nakba day, which marks the violent displacement of Palestinians in 1948, when white European settler groups invaded Palestine, massacred 100,000 people and forced 700,000 Palestinians to flee. These settler groups went on to become the first Israeli government. For 76 years since, Palestinians have been resisting violent occupation and ethnic cleansing. The genocide in Gaza is the most recent, extreme escalation.

New music acts that have cancelled to date include Lambrini Girls, Lvra, The Menstrual Cramps, Orchards, Alfie Templeman, Pem, UTO, Shadeemus and more, while the keynote speech due to be given by Jarvis Cocker and hosted by Brian Eno’s charity EarthPercent, but it seems to have been pulled.

The cancellations amounts to 25 percent of the festival lineup, and some are playing an alternative event in Brighton this week.

Irish artists cancelling

To date, the Irish artists that have cancelled their performances include Sarah Crean and Cherym, while Kneecap who were among the first to boycott SXSW are due to play the festival this week (and are facing calls in their mentions to cancel on Instagram), alongside 19 other Irish acts.

Update: Anna Mieke and Rachael Lavelle have also cancelled today, May 16th.

It’s a stark contrast to March’s SXSW boycott, where many music acts, pulled from the festival including almost all of the Irish musicians, after the festival’s links with the US Army and defence companies linked to Gaza’s destruction emerged.

The call for boycotting festivals based off problematic sponsorship aligned with genocide is a peculiarly 2024 problem, and it is likely to only get worse in the UK this summer, as Barclay’s is also a major sponsor at some major UK festivals including Latitude and Isle Of Wight.

Unequal pressure

For a showcase festival like The Great Escape where bands are paid a nominal fee and are playing to promote themselves and their art, boycotting doesn’t affect a band’s finances but it may affect their opportunities.

While a band playing a commercial festival like Latitude will have to decide between a paycheck and a moral issue.

It feels like an unfair burden for the bands to have to shoulder as the festivals get away with not responding to criticism, as it’s not controversial to expect music festivals to not have problematic sponsors in the first place.

Massive Attack posted in support of those bands boycotting.

I attended the festival last year.

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