Great Escape music festival in doubt over artist exodus in protest of Israel link

The Menstrual Cramps, who pushed the Bands Boycott Barclays campaign
The Menstrual Cramps, who pushed the Bands Boycott Barclays campaign Copyright Zombie Teeth
Copyright Zombie Teeth
By Jonny Walfisz
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In the UK, more than 100 artists have now withdrawn from the Great Escape music festival in protest against the event sponsor Barclays Bank because of its investment in arms companies which supply Israel.

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At time of writing, 126 acts have withdrawn from performing at the Great Escape music festival that’s due to be held in Brighton from today until Saturday (18 May). The number represents over a quarter of the festival’s line-up.

The walkout is in protest of festival sponsor Barclays Bank. Barclays has been the focus of Bands Boycott Barclays, an online campaign for music festivals to divest from sponsors that are invested in Israel.

Bands Boycott Barclays originally made a petition against the Great Escape festival which was promoted by Bristol-based queer punk band The Menstrual Cramps. The petition raised signatures from over 200 of the 500-strong festival line-up. It also collected high-profile signatories not playing the festival including Massive Attack.

“As musicians, we are calling on The Great Escape to drop Barclays as a partner. Barclays is funding Israel’s genocidal assault on Palestinians through its financial ties with arms companies that sell weapons to Israel,” the petition reads.

It refers to the heavy bombing campaign that Israel is carrying out on the Gaza strip, and Barclays’ involvement in providing the Israeli Defence Force with its munitions. “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.”

The Menstrual Cramps, one of the main bands to lead the campaign at the Great Escape
The Menstrual Cramps, one of the main bands to lead the campaign at the Great EscapeBACK TO BACK WILD BLANKET PHOTOGRAPHY

The two main companies the campaign mentions are General Dynamics and Elbit Systems. Barclays has invested £100 million (€116 million) in “General Dynamics, which provides gun systems for the fighter jets used by Israel to bomb the Gaza Strip” and £2.7 million (€3.1 million) in Elbit Systems which “supplies the Israeli military with armoured drones, munitions and artillery weapons used in its attacks on Palestinians,” according to the campaign.

Barclays has reputed claims they invest in nine companies which arm Israel. “We trade in shares of listed companies in response to client instruction or demand and that may result in us holding shares. We are not making investments for Barclays and Barclays is not a “shareholder” or “investor” in that sense in relation to these companies,” a statement from the bank reads.

Taking cues from the 90s Artists Against Apartheid movement that tackled apartheid in South Africa, the Bands Boycott Barclays campaign refuses “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.”

Last month, when Euronews Culture first reported on the petition, six artists had pulled out of the festival in response to the petition. Those artists were Cherym, Mui Zyu, Hongza, Lambrini Girls, LVRA, The New Eves and ZHEANI.

Record label Alcopop! Records also pulled out of the festival noting that “when The Menstrual Cramps and [promoter] 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.”

Today on the day the festival is due to begin, the number of artists who have dropped out has risen to over a quarter of the total line-up.

The petition lists over 100 acts who have confirmed they have pulled out as follows: 

  1. Alcopop! Records (label)
  2. Alfie Templeman
  3. Animal Shithouse
  4. arliworld
  5. Avije
  6. Balraj Samrai (panellist)
  7. BEBELUNA
  8. Beetlebug
  9. Belmondo
  10. Big Scary Monsters (label)
  11. Bishopskin
  12. Blue Lab Beats
  13. Bo Milli
  14. BODUR
  15. borough council
  16. Bug teeth
  17. C Turtle
  18. Canned Pineapple
  19. Carsick
  20. Cherym
  21. Chowerman
  22. coex
  23. Come Play With Me (showcase)
  24. COMRAD
  25. Congratulations
  26. Cryalot
  27. Daltons Brighton (venue)
  28. Delilah Bon
  29. Delilah Holliday
  30. DellaXOZ
  31. ESEA Music (showcase)
  32. Faker Villain
  33. Fari
  34. Farrah
  35. future bubblers soundsystem (showcase)
  36. Gigi williams
  37. Graft
  38. Hang Linton
  39. Hatter
  40. Heights
  41. Hongza
  42. Ideal Living
  43. Izzy Withers
  44. jackie moonbather
  45. James Luxton
  46. Jasmine.4.t
  47. Jianbo
  48. Kaisha
  49. Kane Eagle
  50. Keeya Keys
  51. Kerensa
  52. King isis
  53. Lambrini Girls
  54. Lana Lubany
  55. LANDEL
  56. Lewis G Burton (panellist)
  57. Lucy Tun
  58. LVRA
  59. Martha May & The Mondays
  60. Message From The Ravens
  61. MOULD
  62. Mrisi
  63. Mui Zyu
  64. Mya Mehmi
  65. MYNK
  66. Noah and the Loners
  67. Opus kink
  68. Orchards
  69. Other Half
  70. Pem
  71. pertrelli purple
  72. Plantoid
  73. Pop Vulture
  74. Projector
  75. Rett Madison
  76. romy nova
  77. SAFENATH
  78. Sarah Crean
  79. Sen Morimoto
  80. SHADEEMUS
  81. She's got brass
  82. Smoke Filled Room
  83. Soft Launch
  84. SOMOH
  85. Sophia Ryalls
  86. Steven Bamidele
  87. Sunday Club
  88. Sunflower Thieves
  89. t l k
  90. Tala Yunis
  91. Tay Jordan
  92. The Halfway Kid
  93. The Menstrual Cramps
  94. The New Eves
  95. The Psychotic Monks
  96. the tubs
  97. Tiberius B
  98. Tom Rassmussen
  99. Tony Njoku
  100. Uninvited
  101. U T O
  102. Van Zon
  103. Vi0let
  104. Water Machine
  105. Yiigaa
  106. Yoshika Colwell
  107. ZHEANI

Other acts who have also confirmed they have pulled out of the festival online include the drag queen Bimini Bon Boulash, Lizzie Berchie, Picture Parlour, and Miso Extra in the hours since the list was published. 

It’s a significant moment for the boycott movement which has seen protests outside 50 branches of Barclays in the UK as well as individual cases of vandalism to buildings associated with the bank.

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