On Saturday, halfway through the Glasgow COP26 climate conference, activist theatre group BP or not BP? returned to the British Museum along with the legendary New York performance activists Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir.
Their performance featured dozens of brightly-clothed people organised in a lattice across the courtyard, who highlighted the Global South’s calls for climate reparations – payments for loss and damage already caused by high carbon-emitting nations along with financial help to support poorer nations to transition away from dependence on fossil fuels.
A massive pair of banners unfurled across the steps of the museum read:
“Colonialism x Fossil Fuels = Climate Crisis”.
Performers shouted out names of objects in the museum along with disastrous climate events and BP oil spills and corruption, to illustrate the links between the colonialist theft of cultural treasures and current neo-colonial lack of appropriate response to the climate and ecological crisis. After each shout, performers pulled imaginary ropes, symbolically dragging stolen artefacts out from the museum.
The British Museum is one of the few remaining large cultural institutions still apparently OK with accepting sponsorship from fossil fuel giant BP, and as part of the performance activists also tore in half a large banner of the BP logo.
Reverend Billy is touring the UK at the moment including a visit to COP26 this week.