Performers like Grace Campbell and Sophie Duker are boycotting Latitude Festival 2024, here’s why

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Jun 20, 2024 at 11:03 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

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Barclays has cut all its sponsorship ties with Live Nation festivals for 2024 after numerous performers began pulling out of events in protest. Specifically, entertainers have been taking to social media to share that the bank’s financial interests in Israel’s weapons trade are not something that they can ignore or turn a deaf ear to. This swift announcement comes just days after several Barclays branches were targeted by activist group Palestine Action.

Hey girlies, welcome back to Explained By a Blonde. This week, we’re tackling a semi-complicated topic, and one that I personally still slightly struggle to understand. But I have a fresh pair of gel nails on and I’m absolutely raring to go, so we’re going to walk through this one together. Today, we’re talking about the ongoing boycott of Barclays amid the ongoing war in Gaza, a devastating humanitarian crisis that has now claimed the lives of at least 1,139 Israelis and at least 37,372 Palestinians.

The boycott of Barclays is quite layered, and this recent sweep of headlines concerning the bank’s sponsorship of different festivals is only one chapter of the story. In this article, I’m going to try my best to break down exactly why activists are so heavily targeting Barclays, and indeed how exactly the British universal bank is involved in the war in Palestine.

Why is the BDS movement boycotting Barclays?

Throughout the war, one of the biggest advocates in expressing solidarity with Palestine has been the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS movement). One of its primary goals is to encourage as many people as possible to participate in economic sanctions in order to try and force change. Some of the companies listed by the BDS include Disney, McDonald’s, Puma, and Amazon.

Barclays specifically falls under the ‘divestment and exclusion’ targets, following accusations of having financial interests in both Israel’s weapons trade and fossil fuels. 

According to research by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, “Barclays bank now holds over £2 billion in shares, and provides £6.1 billion in loans and underwriting, to 9 companies whose weapons, components, and military technology are being used” in the Israel-Hamas war.

In a statement responding to these claims, Barclays shared: “We provide 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 is 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 embargoes to other nations are the job of respective elected governments,” the statement continued.

One of the ways activists have been trying to raise attention and awareness regarding the Barclays boycott has been by targeting specific branches across the UK. Palestine Action recently vandalised a total of 15 sites, smashing windows and throwing paint as a form of protest. The group also shared that in Edinburgh, rocks with the names of Palestinians killed in the conflict written on them were thrown through windows.

Why have performers been dropping out of Latitude Festival?

On Tuesday 11 June 2024, reports began circulating that a number of comedians had announced that they’d be dropping out of Latitude Festival, a music and arts festival due to take place in Suffolk at the end of July.

One of the first performers to announce their decision was comedian Sophie Duker. In a statement posted to her Instagram, after first acknowledging Barclays’ involvement in the war, the entertainer wrote: “I speak as a privileged ally from the relative safety of the UK. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that every time I personally speak publicly about Palestine, I’m scared. I have been censored, I and friends have lost work for being pro-Palestinian. Speaking up about my beliefs has gained me violent abuse, targeted pile-ons and death threats. It makes me feel like I should only engage when horror comes to my door.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by DUKER (@sophiedukebox)

“But I can’t. I believe that none of us are free until we are all free. I’m heartbroken by the trauma and grief of Palestinians, Jewish people & Israelis – of my friends, colleagues and strangers – both at the centre of the conflict and in the diaspora. I show up on behalf of Palestine because others show up for causes that on paper feel unconnected to them, most recently Ghana’s proposed anti-LGBTQ+ bill,” Duker continued.

Shortly after this, comedian Grace Campbell reposted Duker’s statement on her social media, sharing that she would also not be attending Latitude Festival this year.

It wasn’t long before an entire cohort of performers had dropped out:

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A post shared by cmat (@cmatbaby)

Only a week before this, Download Festival experienced a similar situation, with multiple bands pulling out over Barclaycard being used as its official payment partner, as reported by The Guardian.

As a result of these actions, Barclays decided to suspend its sponsorship of both Latitude Festival and the Isle of Wight festival. The bank later issued astatement to The Guardian: “Barclays was asked and has agreed to suspend participation in the remaining Live Nation festivals in 2024. 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.”

Okay, I think we made it through all of that alright. This is a complicated subject and the ongoing boycott movement growing across the UK is something that requires time and consideration, particularly when it comes to truly understanding the purpose of boycotting and indeed the legitimate impact it can have. Hope you girlies followed along with me.

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