‘Anti-Israel activists will weaken support for cultural events’

Barclays bank was forced to withdraw sponsorship from a number of music festivals this summer


Barclays bank has said that anti-Israel activists will weaken support for cultural events in the UK (Photo: Getty Images)

Barclays has hit back at anti-Israel activists after the bank was asked to withdraw sponsorship from summer music festivals, following protests at their involvement.

Barclays was due to sponsor the remaining Live Nation festivals, including the Download Festival taking place in Leicester this weekend.

Several acts had announced that they would be pulling out of the festival due to sponsorship from the bank, which the Bands Boycott Barclays campaign had accused of “facilitating Israeli war crimes”.

In a statement, Barclays said it had been “asked and has agreed to suspend participation in the remaining Live Nation festivals in 2024”.

But it said that “[the] only thing that this small group of activists will achieve is to weaken essential support for cultural events enjoyed by millions. It is time that leaders across politics, business, academia and the arts stand united against this.”

In a comment piece in the Guardian, the bank’s chief executive, CS Venkatakrishnan, wrote: “The UK’s creative and cultural life is world-renowned and respected. Our literary and music festivals are the warp and weft of our cultural life and an important source of sales and exposure for artists. Rejecting funding only hurts their livelihood and our broader culture. Nobody benefits from reduced funding for the arts.”

Early last week, 20 of the company’s bank in different parts of the country were vandalised, with windows at the St John’s Wood branch in north-west London smashed and defaced with red paint.

Claiming responsibility, the groups Palestine Action and Shut the System demanded Barclays divest from “Israel’s weapon trade and fossil fuels”.

The bank said that “the protestors’ agenda was to have Barclays debank defence companies which is a sector we remain committed to as an essential part of keeping this country and our allies safe. They have resorted to intimidating our staff, repeated vandalism of our branches and online harassment.”

The bank explained that it provided “vital financial services to US, UK and European public companies that supply defence products to NATO and its allies. Barclays does not directly invest in these companies.”

The defence sector, the bank said, was “fundamental to our national security and the UK government has been clear that supporting defence companies is compatible with ESG considerations. Decisions on the implementation of arms embargos to other nations are the job of respective elected governments.”

A spokesperson for Live Nation, which also promotes the Latitude and Isle of Wight Festivals, told the Guardian: “Following discussion with artists, we have agreed with Barclays that they will step back from sponsorship of our festivals.”

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