25% Of The Great Escape Line-up Quits Festival Over Sponsor Boycott

18 May 2024 | 9:26 am | Mary Varvaris

According to Bands Boycott Barclays organisers, 163 artists, four showcases, and two venues have quit this year’s Brighton-based festival.

Concert crowd

Concert crowd (Supplied)

Over 25% of the line-up for the UK’s music conference and discovery festival, The Great Escape, have pulled out of this year’s event in protest to the festival’s sponsor, Barclay’s Bank.

Barclays has recently faced controversy for its financial involvement in companies that supply arms to Israel, with the artists unwilling to support the festival during the ongoing Israel-Gaza war. The boycott is reminiscent of SXSW earlier this year, when artists protested against the music conference event’s alleged connections to the defence industry partnerships supplying weapons to the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).

The artists boycotting Barclays and The Great Escape festival have made the call due to the bank’s alleged ties to arms manufacturers who have been accused of “profiteering” from the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

According to Bands Boycott Barclays organisers, 163 artists, four showcases, and two venues have quit this year’s Brighton-based festival, which began on Wednesday (15 May) and runs until Sunday (19 May).

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) launched the Boycott Barclays campaign in response to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, which has seen tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians killed since 7 October 2023.

“The most powerful thing we can do as musicians to send a collective message is withdraw our labour – history has shown us this is a tactic that works,” a spokesperson of Bands Boycott Barclays told BBC. “Without the artists, there is no festival.”

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The boycott has found supporters and detractors, with Massive Attack showing support by posting on X (formerly known as Twitter) this month, “Whether it’s apartheid and genocide in Gaza, or the funding of new fossil fuel extraction worldwide, Barclays has repeatedly proven it is without conscience. Barclays, therefore, has no place in any music festival or any cultural event. Solidarity with and total respect to all musicians who’ve taken this stand.”

However, Nick Cave recently revealed that he doesn’t support the boycott, telling a conflicted musician thinking of dropping off The Great Escape festival to “play”.

In a statement to the BBC, a Barclays spokesperson said people concerned about the bank investing in nine defence companies supplying Israel “mistook” the bank’s actions.

They added that Barclays doesn’t make its own investments, but the bank does offer financial services to all sorts of businesses, such as those “in the defence sector.”

The spokesperson added, “Clients supply defence products to NATO and other allies, including Ukraine and are an important contributor to our security in the UK. Decisions on arms embargoes are rightly the job of elected governments.”