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Barclays steps back as sponsor of Download, Latitude and Isle of Wight festivals

A festival goer holds an inflatable guitar at the Isle of Wight Festival, Seaclose park, Newport, on the Isle of Wight (David Jensen/PA)
A festival goer holds an inflatable guitar at the Isle of Wight Festival, Seaclose park, Newport, on the Isle of Wight (David Jensen/PA)

Barclays has stepped back as a sponsor of all Live Nation festivals as bands boycott the events in protest of the bank’s ties to defence companies supplying Israel, and fossil fuel firms.

Barclaycard was removed from the websites of festivals like Download, Latitude and Isle of Wight in recent days as it suspended its sponsorship of the events.

It comes after several bands, including the bands Pest Control, Speed, Scowl, Zulu and Ithaca withdrew from Download, which starts on Friday in Leicestershire.

A spokesperson for Live Nation said: “Following discussion with artists, we have agreed with Barclays that they will step back from sponsorship of our festivals.”

In a statement on Instagram, Pest Control wrote: “We will not take part in an event whose sponsor profits from facilitating a genocide.”

Meanwhile, Ithaca wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “Whilst we hate letting anyone down, this moment of solidarity sends a powerful message to the organisers about where the younger generation of bands stand.”

Tom Morello, guitarist of Rage Against The Machine, which will play at Download, said: “The fact that the festival has listened to its musicians and cut ties with Barclays Bank is a testament to the power of artists taking collective action for human rights.

“I’ve been pushing hard for this behind the scenes and I salute all the artists like Zulu, Scowl and Speed who have taken a stand to help make this historic withdrawal happen.”

Campaign group Bands Boycott Barclays, which has been leading the protests, said 163 acts, four showcases and two venues previously pulled out of the Barclaycard-sponsored Great Escape festival in Brighton in May.

Following Live Nation’s announcement on Friday, the protest group wrote on Instagram: “This is a victory for the Palestinian-led global BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) 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.”

Barclays has been targeted by pro-Palestine campaigners in recent months, with protesters smashing windows and chucking paint over dozens of the bank’s branches across the UK earlier this week.

In a statement posted online, the bank said: “We trade in shares of listed companies in response to client instruction or demand and that may result in us holding shares.

“Whilst we provide financial services to these companies, we are not making investments for Barclays and Barclays is not a ‘shareholder’ or ‘investor’ in that sense in relation to these companies.”

Climate campaigners also welcomed the move to suspend the Barclaycard sponsorship.

Joanna Warrington at Fossil Free London said: “Barclays is a rotten bank: artists, brands, clients, and customers are all abandoning Barclays because of the billions Barclays is ploughing into fossil fuel companies like Shell and Israeli arms companies dropping bombs on innocent Palestinian children.

“This won’t stop until Barclays stops funding destruction.”

Greenpeace UK’s co-executive director Areeba Hamid said: “This bank is the biggest fossil fuel funder in Europe, bankrolling oil and gas to the tune of billions of pounds, and has now been linked to arms companies involved in the conflict in Gaza.

“By putting an end to the greenwashing, festival organisers are sending a clear signal to Barclays that it’s time they took responsibility for the destructive industries they fund.”

In an opinion piece published in The Guardian on Friday, Barclays chief executive CS Venkatakrishnan criticised the recent actions as a threat to colleagues and claimed the bank has faced a disinformation campaign over its defence financing in recent months.

“The crux of the allegation is that we finance defence manufacturers and invest in them. Let me be clear about what we do and don’t do,” he wrote.

Mr Venkatakrishnan added that a similar disinformation campaign has targeted the bank’s “support of cultural institutions”, claiming that writers and performers “are being pressured to withdraw from festivals because they receive funding from companies such as Barclays”.

PA has contacted Barclays for comment.