The Royal Opera House (ROH) has renewed its partnership with BP for a further five years.
The relationship between the two companies, which began in 1989, will now continue until 2023.
The British Museum, National Portrait Gallery and Royal Shakespeare Company have also extended their partnerships with BP. The oil company will invest a total of around £7.5 million for a range of projects across the four partnerships over five years.
BP has sponsored the ROH’s Big Screens live relays for the last 16 years and has also funded a number of outreach and education projects.
The opera house’s relationship with BP – its longest corporate partnership – has subjected it to a great deal of criticism and a number of protests.
Dr Chris Garrard, a composer and member of Art Not Oil, which aims to end oil industry sponsorship of the arts, said: ‘Last year, the Royal Opera House’s chief executive signed a letter calling for a strong deal on climate change at the Paris Climate Conference – but just months later, it has signed a new five year sponsorship deal with one of the world’s most unethical fossil fuel companies and biggest corporate criminals.
‘At a time when we need to be rapidly shifting away from fossil fuels, the idea that Covent Garden will be partnered with an oil company into the 2020s is deeply irresponsible. Just last year, 75 composers, musicians and musicologists called on the Opera House to ditch BP. After this decision, the Opera House and the other institutions sponsored by BP should expect a chorus of disapproval from right across the cultural sector.’
BP or not BP announced that it intended ‘to challenge and overturn this terrible decision’, decrying it as ‘hugely unpopular’ and ‘wildly out of touch with the mood across the cultural sector.’
Referencing a recent report from Art Not Oil which revealed how the oil company has interfered in the running of cultural institutions with which it holds partnerships, it added: ‘To make this decision at a time when the Museums Association is considering whether its Code of Ethics has been breached shows that the commitment of these institutions to ethics and sustainability is not worth the paper it’s written on.’
ROH chief executive Alex Beard said: ‘BP has been and remains at the forefront of corporate investment in arts and culture in the UK and it’s wonderful for the Royal Opera House to have their commitment for a further five years.
‘One of the benefits of such long-term support is that you can really build and develop a partnership, and to have the BP Big Screen programme consistently providing opportunities for people up and down the country to access world-class ballet and opera for free is fantastic.’
More than 50 million people have engaged with BP supported arts and cultural activities since 1990, including more than 2 million in 2015.