Why are artists dropping out of The Great Escape music festival - and how is Barclays bank involved?

Why are artists dropping out of Great Escape music festival?
Why are artists dropping out of Great Escape music festival? Copyright Great Escape - Getty Images - Canva
Copyright Great Escape - Getty Images - Canva
By David Mouriquand
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Half of the line-up of one of the UK's best festivals has signed a statement demanding The Great Escape drop their sponsorship with Barclays bank. Here's why.


The UK, Brighton-based music festival The Great Escape – one of our top picks for the unmissable European fests this year – has got a crisis on its hands.

216 artists, making up approximately half of the festival’s line-up, have now signed a statement demanding the festival drop their sponsorship with Barclays in solidarity with Palestine.

The Great Escape is sponsored by the bank, which has been a source of controversy amid the current events in Gaza because of the bank’s financial investment in companies that supply arms to Israel.

The issue was first highlighted by a petition started by the promoter How to Catch a Pig and the band The Menstrual Cramps, and has since been signed by artists including Kneecap, Alfie Templeman, Lip Critic, and Mary in the Junkyard - who have urged the festival to their sponsor.

The statement signed by 216 acts reads: “UN human rights officials and genocide scholars have said that Israel’s military assault on Gaza is a “textbook case of genocide”. Over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in the last five months, with whole families being wiped out. Relentless bombings are causing more than 10 children per day to lose one or both of their legs. These bombings are bankrolled by Barclays, which invests over £1bn in – and provides financial services worth over £3bn to – companies supplying weapons and military technology to Israel, used in its attacks on Palestinians.”

It continues by saying: “A bank that is involved in Israel’s genocide has no place at The Great Escape, which is a fixture of the independent music scene and has a prized place in the industry. We refuse to let music be used to whitewash human rights violations. We cannot let our creative outputs become smokescreens behind which money is pumped into murdering Palestinians.”

Read the full statement here – which includes signatories and the artists that have pulled out of the festival.

Acts like Cherym, Mui Zyu, Hongza, LVRA, The New Eves and ZHEANI have all pulled out, with the latest name being Lambrini Girls.

Speaking about their decision not to play the festival, Lambrini Girls issued a statement saying: “We will not be appearing at The Great Escape festival this year. This is a targeted approach of a cultural boycott, considering Barclays sponsorship. Barclays provide financial services of over £1BN pounds to companies supplying military technology and weapons to the IDF, perpetuating the horrors unfolding in Gaza.”

Two independent record labels have publicly stated they will not be involved in this year’s event - Big Scary Monsters and Alcopop! Records.

In a post on X, Alcopop! Records wrote: “I think for us it has always been a case of listen to your artists! Looking back a few weeks ago we were really looking forward to The Great Escape. Hands down the best multi-venue festival in the UK, they do sterling work for up-and-coming bands and have welcomed us back to host our stage year after year.”

“However, when The Menstrual Cramps and How to Catch a Pig explained the Barclaycard situation, Alcopop! and Big Scary Monsters felt strongly about standing in solidarity and stepping away from the line-up. To be associating our label with Barclays doesn't sit right with our ethical standpoint, and if we can do anything to help raise awareness, and ultimately highlight the corporate greed at the heart of this horrendous genocide in Gaza, we will.”

What is Barclays' link to Israel?

Barclays Bank has faced criticism due to its financial investments in arms companies that supply weapons to Israel. Campaigns led by groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) have highlighted the bank's investments of over £1 billion in shares and providing over £3 billion in loans.

More festivals could be affected, as Barclays is an official sponsor of several major UK cultural events, like the Isle of Wight Festival, Latitude, Download and Lytham Festival – to name but a few.

Considering The Great Escape pull outs follow swathes of artists like Kneecap, Gruff Rhys, Rachel Chinouriri and Lambrini Girls refusing to play at the American SXSW Festival due to its connections with the US Army and weapons companies amid the Israel-Gaza conflict, there’s every chance more boycotts are on the way.

“We insist that The Great Escape drops Barclays as a partner, reads the statement. “There is no festival without the musicians – and as musicians, we are taking a stand against genocide. We call on The Great Escape to do the same.”

Time will tell whether more festivals are held accountable for their partners.

The Great Escape festival takes place from 15 to 18 May in Brighton, UK.

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