Fossil Free £5 Tickets

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Fossil Free £5 Tickets are an ethical alternative to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s ‘BP £5 tickets’ scheme for 16-25 year olds.

BP_02_wave_notext-01Everyone should have access to the arts, especially young people. But the RSC’s £5 tickets for 16-25 year olds are currently sponsored by BP – an oil company that is endangering those same young people’s futures. So we are crowdfunding an alternative scheme that gives young people oil-free affordable access to RSC plays – and shows that there are positive alternatives to oil sponsorship.

This scheme is backed by more than 30 leading figures in the theatre world, including: Mark Rylance, Emma Thompson, Vanessa Redgrave, Andrew Garfield, Tamsin Greig, Caryl Churchill, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maxine Peake, Simon McBurney, Miriam Margolyes, Zoë Wanamaker, Phyllida Lloyd, Vivienne Westwood, Jasper Britton, Margot Leicester, Moira Buffini, Timberlake Wertenbaker, April de Angelis, Sam Pritchard and Anders Lustgarten. See below for a full list.

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1) Why are we doing this?FF £5 tickets logo for web
2) Who is organising this?
3) Do RSC artists support the scheme?
4) Which frontline groups will it donate to?
5) Does the RSC need BP?
6) How can I get tickets?
7) How long will it last?
8) What do we hope to achieve?
9) How much do we plan to raise?
10) Why “Fossil Free” tickets?

1) Why are we doing this?

As the climate crisis intensifies, it has become clear that multinational oil companies are playing a very negative role: continuing to extract fossil fuels far beyond safe levels, lobbying against effective climate action and cleaner alternatives, undermining local communities’ rights and working in close partnership with repressive regimes, such as those in Azerbaijan, Egypt and Indonesia.

Many arts organisations have now parted company with BP and Shell, the UK’s most prolific oil sponsors – including Tate, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Almeida and the London Symphony Orchestra. Others – such as the Royal Court – have ethical fundraising policies in place that would prevent them from ever taking money from fossil fuel companies, and have signed up to the Oil Sponsorship Free commitment, along with hundreds of artists and arts organisations. But last year, the RSC chose to buck this trend by signing a new five-year sponsorship contract with BP, to continue sponsoring the RSC’s £5 ticket scheme for 16- to 25-year-olds, recently rebranded ‘BP £5 Tickets’.

This means that the RSC is actively providing publicity, legitimacy and support to one of the world’s most destructive corporations. It also means that all the artists who work with the RSC are now being associated with BP’s brand, without any consultation or consent.

Artists now working with the RSC who are ethically opposed to oil sponsorship are in a particularly difficult position. When they raise concerns or objections, some have been informed that their only option is for BP £5 Tickets not to be offered for their productions, thus depriving young people of experiencing their work. Others have been told that they are not allowed to exempt their production from the BP scheme.

2) Who is organising this?

This scheme is being run by Culture Unstained, a new research, communications and engagement organisation campaigning to end oil sponsorship, which is part of the Art Not Oil coalition. We are working on this in close partnership with theatre professionals and young people who share our love of theatre and our commitment to ending oil sponsorship of culture. You can contact us about the scheme at fossilfreetix@cultureunstained.org or sign up to the mailing list.

So far the scheme has been endorsed by many artists who work in the theatre sector, including: Mark Rylance, Emma Thompson, Vanessa Redgrave, Andrew Garfield, Tamsin Greig, Vivienne Westwood, Phyllida Lloyd, Caryl Churchill, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maxine Peake, Simon McBurney, Miriam Margolyes, Zoë Wanamaker, Jasper Britton, Margot Leicester, Moira Buffini, Timberlake Wertenbaker, April de Angelis, Sam Pritchard, Anders Lustgarten, Julia Pascal, Kirsty Housley, Natalia Kaliada, Daniel Bye, Cressida Brown, Lucy Ellinson, Francesca Martinez, Trevor White, Eleanor Matsuura and Shelley Hastings.

3) Do RSC artists support this scheme?

The majority of actors, directors and playwrights who have endorsed the scheme have worked with the RSC at some point in their careers. Mark Rylance and Jasper Britton are RSC Associate Artists. The crowdfunding campaign for Fossil Free £5 Tickets launched in May 2017, the same week that Kirsty Housley’s play Myth opened at the RSC (see film, above). She is deeply uncomfortable with BP sponsorship and so the very first tickets funded by this scheme helped young people to see her incredible play, without having to legitimise BP.

4) Which frontline groups will it donate to?

Initially, 10% of funds raised by the scheme will support two organisations on the frontlines of BP’s impacts:

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  • Bridge the Gulf – a community media project that lifts up the voices of Gulf Coast communities working towards justice and sustainability in the aftermath of the catastrophic BP Deepwater Horizon spill and multiple extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change.

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  • the Free West Papua campaign, campaigning for independence from West Papua’s occupiers, Indonesia. BP is one of the biggest investors in the region and has worked closely with the Indonesian government to develop a huge gas project. Indigenous West Papuan communities are calling for a boycott of BP given its support for and financial contributions to the regime that is brutally oppressing them.

5) Does the RSC need BP?

The RSC’s £5 ticket scheme for 16 to 25-year-olds used to be a non-corporate-branded initiative, called the “RSC Key”. The BP branding began in 2013. The RSC has not publicly revealed how much it gets annually from BP, but the most recent annual report shows it making nearly three-quarters of its income from box office sales (£35.1 million) and trading (£24.2 million), and just 3.7% (£3 million) from all fundraising – which includes not just corporate sponsors but all other types of donation. In the same year it spent 1.7% (£1.3 million) on bringing in this fundraising income.

A rough calculation can be made, based on the £7.5 million figure that BP announced it was providing in sponsorship to four cultural organisations (including the RSC) for the next five years. If the money is split evenly between them, each organisation will receive £375,000 a year – less than 0.5% of the RSC’s total income.

Meanwhile, BP receives vast subsidies from UK taxpayers – in 2015 alone, the company pocketed £210 million of public funds. We believe this money would be much better spent on funding the arts and other public services, and demonstrates that the government could fund the arts and so much more if BP and other fossil fuel companies had less influence over the public purse.

6) How can I get tickets?

If you are 16-25 and want a Fossil Free £5 Ticket, email us letting us know the performance you want to see, and how many tickets you want, and we’ll try and get them for you. You will also need to supply a scan of a form of ID that proves you are 16-25 years old. You will then pay £5 into our crowdfunder and we will send you the ticket details.

We also intend to reach out to young people from marginalised and disadvantaged communities, who would never normally go and see a play at the RSC. We will encourage them to join the scheme, and support them to make it possible – including covering transport costs – because we are committed to making culture accessible to all. If you are in touch with young people who might benefit from this, please email us at fossilfreetix@cultureunstained.org.

7) How long will it last?

The aim is not to set up a scheme that could rival the RSC’s £5 ticket scheme in the long-term, but to show the RSC the strength of feeling from its own community – and the young people it wants to engage with – against BP sponsorship, whilst demonstrating positive alternatives and supporting those who are at the sharp end of BP’s operations around the world.

Following our successful initial crowdfunding push, we plan to extend the ticket scheme into the autumn.

8) What do we hope to achieve?

We hope that the RSC will acknowledge the strength and breadth of feeling on this issue and end the sponsorship deal with BP as soon as is practical, without putting any jobs at risk. The Charity Commission expects all charities (which includes the RSC) to have ‘appropriate review processes to review arrangements with commercial partners to ensure they remain in the best interests of the charity throughout their duration’, meaning that the RSC should have included some kind of get-out clause in its contract with BP that a new wave of opposition to the deal could trigger.

Another sign of progress would be a consultation process with RSC stakeholders (including young theatre-goers, current company members and staff, Associate Artists and audiences) over whether the relationship with BP should continue.

9) How much do we plan to raise?

We are currently working towards a target of £10,000. If the crowdfunder goes well then we hope to increase this target.

10) Why “Fossil Free” tickets?

The Fossil Free £5 ticket scheme is one initiative in a much bigger global movement for fossil fuel divestment. The campaign to encourage institutions to sever their ties with oil, gas and coal companies has spread across the world in the last three years. So far, 710 institutions in 76 countries, from investment funds to universities to faith organisations, have committed to divest a total of $5.5 trillion from fossil fuel companies.

Now this global #FossilFree campaign has spread to cultural institutions, who are under increasing pressure to end their sponsorship deals with the fossil fuel industry. There are now #FossilFreeCulture campaigns targeting oil sponsorship of the British Museum, the Louvre, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and Canada’s Museum of History, among others.

If you have a question that hasn’t been answered here, please email us at fossilfreetix@cultureunstained.org