Young climate strikers threaten boycott of RSC - The Stratford Observer
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7th Aug, 2022

Young climate strikers threaten boycott of RSC

A BOYCOTT of the RSC by young people is being called for in response to its sponsorship deal with oil giant BP.

The Youth Strike 4 Climate movement has written to the world famous Stratford-based company urging it to drop the sponsors of the theatre’s £5 ticket scheme for 16 to 25-year-olds.

It follows a similar letter from Stratford Climate Action, which gathered outside the theatre, alongside other organisations during last week’s world-wide climate strike, amid chants of ‘RSC drop BP’.

The letter – signed by 27 other representatives of the Youth Strike 4 Climate movement inspired by teen activist Greta Thunberg –

states: “We are the audiences of the future and we will not support theatre that accepts sponsorship from a company that is continuing to extract fossil fuels whilst our earth burns.

“We wish that the RSC would act on the ideas that they present in Matilda and not give in to the powerful oppressor. As said by Matilda herself – If it’s not right, you’ve got to put it right.”

Chloe Hawryluk – who set up the Stratford branch of the youth climate movement – was among those who signed the letter.

The 16-year-old KES pupil said: “As a pupil of the school that Shakespeare attended himself, I cannot begin to explain my displeasure in learning about BP’s recent sponsorship of the RSC’s 16-25 tickets. If I want to attend the theatre, I want to attend the theatre without supporting a company that is continuing to extract fossil fuels whilst the rest of the world knows we must transition away from them into more renewable energy sources.”

“I want to go into film production when I’m older, but I don’t want to go to the theatre to help my studying whilst also supporting a company (BP) whose chairman admitted himself that he was not aware that climate change was connected to human rights, as my future will be no more if they continue to use fossil fuels. I don’t want to support a company that is one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. I don’t want to support a company that is only doing this to distract us from the fact that they are ruining our planet.”

The school strikers pledge to boycott RSC productions and encourage their schools to do the same if the RSC continues with its BP sponsorship.

RSC executive director Catherine Mallyon and artistic director Gregory Doran said they welcomed the “conversation around this issue” and would respond once they had received the letter.

They added: “We recognise the importance for a continuing, robust and engaged debate, we acknowledge the climate emergency and recognise the strength of feeling especially amongst our young people. Our work with over 500,000 students annually means their feedback and opinions are very important to us.

“This subject is very much live at the RSC with our artists, staff, board and our audiences and we look forward to reviewing the contents of the letter.”

Its sponsorship deal with BP has already been the target of high-profile criticism including from Oscar-winning actor Sir Mark Rylance, who resigned as an associate artist with the RSC after 30 years, in protest against the ongoing deal.

Over 60,000 people have signed a petition calling on the RSC and other BP-sponsored cultural organisations – including the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery and Royal Opera House – to end associations with the company.

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