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Download, Latitude and Isle of Wight festivals drop Barclays as sponsor following band boycott

Organised by the Bands Against Barclays group, the boycott has seen countless artists pull out of the festivals because of alleged ties between the bank and weapons companies in Israel.

By Will Richards

Download Festival
Download Festival 2023 (Picture: James Bridle)

Latitude, Download and Isle of Wight festivals have dropped Barclays as a sponsor following a mass boycott from bands.

The festivals all faced a slew of acts pulling out due to their sponsorship deals with Barclays and the bank’s financial ties with Israel. It comes after Brighton’s The Great Escape saw over 100 acts pull out in solidarity with the people of Palestine last month.

This week, Lankum and BEAK were among the acts to sign an open letter to Latitude asking the festival to drop their sponsorship deal, while artists including Enter Shikari did the same for Download – taking place this weekend – after the likes of Pest Control, Ithaca and Scowl pulled out of their sets.

Now, a spokesperson for the promoter Live Nation – responsible for all the festivals concerned – confirmed the move to the Guardian: “Following discussion with artists, we have agreed with Barclays that they will step back from sponsorship of our festivals.”

Latitude Festival. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

A spokesperson for Barclays told the outlet: “Barclays was asked and has agreed to suspend participation in the remaining Live Nation festivals in 2024. Barclays customers who hold tickets to these festivals are not affected and their tickets remain valid. The protesters’ agenda is 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 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.”

Bands Against Barclays – the organisation that spearheaded the boycott – said: “This is a victory for the Palestinian-led global BDS movement. As musicians, we were horrified that our music festivals were partnered with Barclays, who are complicit in the genocide in Gaza through investment, loans and underwriting of arms companies supplying the Israeli military. Hundreds of artists have taken action this summer to make it clear that this is morally reprehensible, and we are glad we have been heard.

“Our demand to Barclays is simple: divest from the genocide, or face further boycotts. Boycotting Barclays, also Europe’s primary funder of fossil fuels, is the minimum we can do to call for change.”

In a previous statement to Rolling Stone UK, Barclays said of its ties to arms companies in Israel: “First and most importantly, we recognise the profound human suffering caused by this conflict. This is an exceptionally complex and long-running conflict, and we urge governments and the international community to work together to find a lasting, peaceful solution.

“We have been asked why we invest in nine defence companies supplying Israel, but this mistakes what we do. We trade in shares of listed companies in response to client instruction or demand and that may result in us holding shares. We are not making investments for Barclays and Barclays is not a “shareholder” or “investor” in that sense in relation to these companies.”