Letter from 200 musicians to Sadiq Khan

The following letter has been submitted to the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan calling on him to withdraw permission for BP’s branding of the Royal Opera House’s ‘Big Screens’ that take place annually in Trafalgar Square.

To get the full story on the letter and the background to it, read our blog here.

To: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan

Dear Mayor,

We are writing to you as musicians, composers and musicologists concerned about the growing climate crisis and the extremely short timeframe left in which to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In December, you acknowledged that there is a climate emergency – something the UK parliament has now declared – and that urgent action is needed. We agree. We recognise the work you have already done, including taking ‘all possible steps’ to divest London’s pension funds from fossil fuel companies and calling for the government to step up its response to the climate crisis. We now urge you to apply these standards across all areas of the GLA’s work.

Every summer, permission is granted for Trafalgar Square in London to be used for the ‘BP Big Screens’, a series of live opera broadcasts hosted by the Royal Opera House and sponsored by the oil and gas giant BP. During these events, BP’s brand is displayed prominently on posters, banners and signs, and a range of BP-branded merchandise is distributed widely to the public. Significantly, two of this year’s screenings will take place at the same time as your Climate Action Week.

Despite the warnings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that we have just 12 years to dramatically reduce our carbon emissions across all sectors of the economy if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, BP continues to:

The oil and gas company’s sponsorship of the Big Screens is a clear investment in a form of advertising intended to bolster the company’s social legitimacy at a time of climate crisis. It is only with permission granted by your team each year that BP’s brand can be displayed and its merchandise distributed in Trafalgar Square. Otherwise, this would potentially breach byelaws which state that ‘no person shall within the Square…exhibit any notice, advertisement or any other written or pictorial matter’ unless ‘acting in accordance with permission given in writing by the Mayor’.

We therefore call on you to:

  1. rescind permission for the distribution of BP-branded merchandise at this year’s BP Big Screens; and then
  2. not grant permission for the display of BP’s brand or logo for any Big Screens taking place in Trafalgar Square from 2020 onwards.

It is entirely reasonable for the GLA to grant use of Trafalgar Square for the public to access opera. It is not reasonable though for the Royal Opera House to then use it to promote a company whose core product the GLA is in the process of divesting from as part of its response to the climate crisis. The decision to allow BP to use one of London’s most loved public spaces to deflect attention from its impacts on the climate and its human rights record is clearly out of step with your own policies.

As musicians, composers and musicologists, we believe that opera sounds better when it is not associated with climate breakdown. A London without fossil fuels would be cleaner, healthier and more democratic, and we believe that ending fossil fuel branding and advertising in such public spaces is the right thing to do for our climate and the city. We look forward to you taking the action that is both responsible, proportionate and necessary in view of the urgency of the climate crisis, and ask that you respond to our letter within 14 days about the steps you plan to take.

Yours sincerely,

202 musicians and composers


Ackroyd & Harvey, Artists

Lara Agar, Composer

Robert Allan, Composer

J. Andrés Ballesteros, Composer

Anna Appleby, Composer

Newton Armstrong, Senior Lecturer in Composition, City, University of London

Lucy Armstrong, Composer

Martin Ash, Violist and Violinist

Emily Ashton, Baroque Cellist and Violist

Kim Ashton, Composer and Visiting Lecturer at Cambridge University

Kit Ashton, Musician and Doctoral Researcher, Goldsmiths College, University of London

Annaliisa Asveit, Musician and Singer

Yair Avidor, Lutenist and guitarist

Nigel Ayers, Musician and Composer

Alex Ball, Composer

Sophie Barber, Violinist

Mark Barden, Composer

Rachel Beckles Wilson, Professor of Music, Royal Holloway, University of London

Naomi Bedford, Singer-songwriter

Mark Berry, Reader in Music History, Royal Holloway, University of London

Jacob Bird, Drag Artist and Pianist

Edward Blunt, Freelance Musician

Jason Bond, Musician and Producer

Ellie Bray, Singer

Kat Brendel, Festival Producer

Chris Brody, Ludonia Artists

Joanna Brown, Musician and Actor

Mark Brown, Community Musician

Sophie Burrows, Saxophonist

Max Burstyn, Composer and Producer

Lucy Cadena, Musician and Composer

Haylin Cai, Actor and Cellist

Jane Caley, Musician, Vile Electrodes

Ewan Campbell, Composer and Conductor

Ailsa Campbell, Singer

Stuart Capstick, Musician and Academic

Alexander Carson, Singer-songwriter

Eliza Carthy, Musician

Martin Carthy, Musician

Aaron Cassidy, Professor of Composition, University of Huddersfield

Sam Cave, Guitarist, Composer and Tutor at Brunel University

Mark Chadwick, Musician, Levellers

Luke Cissell, Composer and Musician

Desmond Clarke, Composer

Lewis Coenen-Rowe, Composer

Ben Comeau, Composer and Pianist

Toby Comeau, Pianist and Composer

Athena Corcoran-Tadd, Composer and Musician

Jeremy Cunningham, Musician, Levellers

Ian Curnow, Songwriter and Producer

Jessica Dannheisser, Composer

Nina Danon, Composer and Pianist

Anita Datta, Conductor and Organist

Patrick Dawkins, Ligeti Quartet

Genevieve Dawson, Singer-songwriter

Rebecca Dawson, General Manager, Music at Oxford

Mandhira de Saram, Ligeti Quartet

Nick DiBerardino, Composer

Emily Doolittle, Composer and Researcher

Susanna Eastburn, Chief Executive, Sound & Music

Cathy Eastburn, Founder of Sarasa Sound

Eric Egan, Assistant Professor of Composition, Durham University

Leo Eguchi, Cellist

Nancy Elan, Violinist

Daniel Elms, Composer

Pauline Fairclough, Professor of Music, University of Bristol

Graham Fitkin, Composer

Johnny Flynn, Singer-songwriter

Gregor Forbes, Composer

Tom Foskett Barnes, Composer

Simon Friend, Musician, Levellers

Chris Garrard, Composer

Christine Garratt, Flautist

Ben Gaunt, Composer and Senior Lecturer at Leeds College of Music

Leo Geyer, Composer and Conductor

Rob Gigante, Composer and Producer

Dame Evelyn Glennie, Percussionist

Paul Griffiths OBE, Writer

Matthew Grouse, Composer

Bruno Guastalla, Violin Maker and Musician

Theo Guttenplan, Drummer

Rose Hall, Composer

Emily Hall, Composer

James Halliday, Conductor and Director

Matthew Hardy, Conductor

J.P.E. Harper-Scott, Professor of Music History and Theory, Royal Holloway, University of London

Robbie Haylett, Singer

Caitlin Heathcote, Oboist

Charlie Heather, Musician, Levellers

Bjorn Heile, Professor of Music, University of Glasgow

Sarah Hibberd, Professor and Badock Chair of Music, University of Bristol

Susie Hodder-Williams, Musician

Lucy Hollingworth, Composer

Kate Honey, Composer

Thomas Hood, Composer

Chris Hutchings, Composer

Hannah Jacobs, Producer, Musician and Indie Record Label Manager

Lewis Jamieson, Loudhailer Press

Dan Jeffries, Composer and Music Producer

Richard Jones, Ligeti Quartet

Matthew Kaner, Composer

Tom Kearsey, Trumpeter

Rob King, Composer

Cassie Kinoshi, Composer and Saxophonist

Amberlynn Lane, Music Teacher and Composer

Emily Langerholc, Music Teacher

James Lark, Director of Music, Westminster Abbey School

Sam Lee, Musician and Composer

Liz Lenten, Musician

Liza Lim, Composer

Julia Loucks, Violinist

Nehemiah Luckett, Composer and Musical Director

Anna Markova, Musician

Christian Mason, Composer

Samson Matthews, Pianist

Charles Mauleverer, Composer

Eliza McCarthy, Pianist

Andy McCluskey, Musician, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

Kenny McGeachin, Producer and Composer

Adam McLoughlin, Saxophonist

Christopher Quentin McMullen-Laird, Conductor

David Mears, Clarinettist and Composer

Sally Mears, Conductor, Composer and Teacher

John Metcalfe, Composer

Joe Millea, Percussionist

Cathy Milliken, Composer

Fay Milton, Drummer, Savages

Frederick Moehn, Ethnomusicologist

Anni Movsisyan, Musician

Lilit Movsisyan, Musician

Rosie Music, Musician, Activist and Poet

Aleksandra Myslek, Pianist

Ed Nesbit, Composer

Sarah Nicolls, Musician, Inventor, Director of Future Piano Ltd. and Academic

Nicholas O’Brien, Producer, Sound Engineer and Musician

Nigel Osborne, Composer

Rod Oughton, Drummer

Mark Padmore, Tenor

Asha Parkinson, Saxophonist and Composer

Tom Parkinson, Composer

Ruari Paterson-Achenbach, Composer

Joss Peach, Pianist and Composer

Tina Pearson, Composer, Media Artist and Facilitator

Blythe Pepino, Frontwoman and songwriter for Mesadorm, founder of BirthStrike

Jamie Perera, Composer

Maria Perevedentseva, Researcher, Goldsmiths, University of London

Lola Perrin, Composer Pianist and ClimateKeys founder

John Pickard, Professor of Composition & Applied Musicology, University of Bristol

Cam Pickering, Producer

Jenni Pinnock, Composer

Madeleine Read Clarke, Owner, Famous Times Recording Studio

Sean Reade, Musician and Producer

Tara Reece, Community Musician

Zachary Ritter, Composer

Owen Morgan Roberts, Composer and Orchestrator

Alex Roth, Composer, Producer and Guitarist

JaEun Claire Sable, Music Teacher

Jon Sack, Musician

Camilla Saunders, Composer and Performer

Matt Savage, Musician, Levellers

Amy Savino, Musician

Christopher Schlechte-Bond, Composer

Will Searle, Singer

Jon Sevink, Musician, Levellers

Omar Shahryah, Artistic Director, Opera Schmopera

Patrick Shand, Musician and Composer

Jeremy Shaverin, Drummer and Percussionist

David Cyril Shaw, Musician

Madeleine Shaw, Flautist and Educator

Miranda Shaw, Violinist

David Sheppard, Sound Designer

Lauren Spiceley, Musician and Cultural Events Organiser

Sarah Streatfeild, Violinist

Anneka Sutcliffe, Orchestra Manager & Leader, Insight Ensemble, Bristol Metropolitan Orchestra

Martin Swan, Musician, Vile Electrodes

Oscar Tabor, Violinist

Anna Tam, Composer and Performer

James Telford, Composer and Musician

Dylan Towney, Music Director and Composer

Henry Tozer, Singer, Multi-instrumentalist and Composer

Jane Trowell, Curator and Musician

Frederic Wake-Walker, Artistic Director, Mahogany Opera Group

Ruth Wall, Harpist

Joanna Ward, Composer

Marguerite Wassermann, Violinist

Norma Waterson, Musician

Mario Waxenegger, Guitarist

Val Welbanks, Ligeti Quartet

Mew Welch, Musician, Piroshka

Justin Welch, Musician, Piroshka

Emma Welton, Violinist and Composer

Boff Whalley, Composer and Musician

Alastair White, Composer and Writer

Howard Williams, Conductor

Ruth Willow Mariner, Director

Samuel Wilson, Lecturer at London Contemporary Dance School and Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Trevor Wishart, Electroacoustic Composer and Performer

Naomi Woo, Conductor and Musicologist

Ellie Wyatt, Songwriter and TV Composer

Barnaby Wynter, Singer

Gary Yershon, Composer

Tony Zilincik, Composer and Performer