Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

December 19 2011

Galleries renew £10m BP deal despite environmental protests

The British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Opera House and Tate have renewed BP sponsorship deals

Four of the UK's biggest cultural organisations – the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House and Tate – have announced they are to renew sponsorship deals with BP worth £10m despite opposition from environmental campaigners.

The institutions have faced repeated protests in recent years for taking money from the oil giant. The leaders of all four gathered together in a show of solidarity and said the sponsorship would continue until 2017.

Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said there were protests every year at its BP-sponsored portrait prize. He said: "We absolutely respect the right of those who wish to protest and we would always think about any sponsorship very carefully." But he said BP's support over the years had been "extraordinary" and there had been "unanimous clarity" among the gallery's board of trustees in agreeing to renew the deal.

The Tate director, Nicholas Serota, said his organisation had thought very hard about the sponsorship and had looked at it again in 2010 and this year. "The board has thought very carefully about this and decided it was the right thing to do to continue with BP, who have been great supporters of the arts," he said.

Protests against BP's involvement intensified after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but Serota said: "The fact that they have one major incident in 2010 does not mean we should not take support from them."

BP's sponsorship of the arts has been longstanding and substantial and it said the future £10m over five years would be roughly equally divided between the four organisations.

Tate Britain has also been the target of protests including one outside its summer party last year, when protesters poured oil and feathers on the pavement. BP's support for its British art displays, which will undergo a major rehang in 2013, will continue.

At the Royal Opera House, BP will continue to support the Big Screen live relays of opera and ballet from Covent Garden to sites around the country. And at the British Museum BP has sponsored exhibitions such as Italian Renaissance Drawings and the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and will continue to give support over the next five years including sponsorship of a Vikings show in 2014.

The culture minister, Ed Vaizey, said: "BP's renewed commitment to four of Britain's great cultural institutions is extremely welcome. This is a significant investment, with £10m going directly towards staging world-class exhibitions and performances. For more than 20 years BP has led the way in business support for the arts and I am delighted that this will continue over the next five years."

Kevin Smith, of the art campaign group Platform, said: "By aligning themselves with BP, the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House and Tate Britain are legitimising the devastation of indigenous communities in Canada through tar sands extraction, the expansion of dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic, and the reckless business practices that lead to the deaths of 11 oil workers on the Deepwater Horizon. BP's involvement with these institutions represents a serious stain on the UK's cultural patrimony."

BP's managing director, Iain Conn, said the company felt it important "that we make a meaningful contribution to society here in the UK. Our work with these partner institutions is a major part of this – enabling people around the country and the world to connect through the experience of outstanding exhibitions and performances, promoting ideas and encouraging creativity."


guardian.co.uk © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


December 13 2011

Tate may not renew BP sponsorship after protests

Director of group that covers four galleries around UK says decision is due on partnership deal with BP, expiring next year

The Tate galleries are reviewing their 20-year partnership with BP, after demonstrations by green campaigners.

Tate's director, Sir Nicholas Serota, has said it will decide whether to renew the contract with BP "quite soon". This month he was presented with a petition from 8,000 Tate members and visitors organised by the pressure groups Platform, Liberate Tate and Art Not Oil. Serota said: "You'll not be surprised to learn that the whole question of the support from BP has exercised trustees quite seriously over the past two years. Both the trustees as a board, but also the trustees through their ethics committee, which was instituted about four years ago, have looked very carefully at the question." The trustees had decided that "the good that has been done through the money that has come from BP for the gallery, and for the gallery's public, has been very profound". The current three-year sponsorship runs out in 2012. Art Not Oil has also called for protest against BP's sponsorship of next year's Cultural Olympiad and Festival of London. It asks artists to submit work to a "BP-free Cultural Olympiad gallery" on its website. "The Olympics has presented the company with the perfect platform for some aggressive rebranding," it said.

The company's sponsorship of British arts institutions, including the National Gallery and the Royal Opera House, is worth more than £1m a year. It first attracted protests after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Two months later, five gallons of molasses were poured down Tate Britain's stairs at its summer party. Demonstrators also let off helium balloons in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall with dead fish attached which were shot down with air rifles by gallery staff.

Sponsorship is increasingly contentious as arts organisations make up the shortfall in government funding. Last week, two poets withdrew from the TS Eliot prize sponsored by investment management firm Aurum Funds; the Poetry Book Society struck the deal with Aurum after its arts council funding was withdrawn. On Thursday, the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said artists should support firms that donate; it is "is encouraging good behaviour by corporations", he told the New Culture Forum, a rightwing arts thinktank. Encouraging philanthropy, Hunt added, was his priority for the arts.

Arts Index, launched by the National Campaign for the Arts last week, calculates business contributions are down 17% from 2007-10, but Hunt said he hoped this coming year would show an increase of 6%.

BP said it remained "committed" to the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival. But a spokesman said it would not comment on the Tate sponsorship before talks on its renewal. The Cultural Olympiad said it valued BP's support.


guardian.co.uk © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


October 14 2011

Danish T-Pylon wins design contest

Bystrup design can be a real improvement on existing towers, says National Grid, but pylon fans dismiss it as 'just a pole'

A spare and quietly elegant Danish design has been announced as the winner of a competition to create the next generation of electricity pylons.

National Grid engineers will now work closely with the Copenhagen-based practice Bystrup to develop the design into a production model, and the T-Pylon – or something close to the competition entry – will soon enough be stepping politely across the hills, dales, sunlit uplands and rain-drenched lowlands of Britain.

"In the T-Pylon we have a design that has the potential to be a real improvement on the steel-lattice tower", said Nick Winser, National Grid executive director. "It's shorter, lighter and the simplicity of the design means it would fit into the landscape more easily. In addition, the design of the electrical components is genuinely innovative and exciting."

It might be preferable to bury electric cables and to do away with the need for pylons as far as possible, but this is unlikely to happen even in the long-term future due to the high costs involved. The T-Pylon, however, has been designed as far as possible to be little more than a wraith in the landscape. It will be two-thirds the height and weight of existing 50-metre, 30-tonne pylons, the design of which dates from the late 1920s.

The original National Grid steel-lattice pylon was also designed by a non-British firm, the American Milliken Brothers, although with guidance from Sir Reginald Blomfield, a late-flowering classical architect, who ensured that the structure was well proportioned as well as functional and enduring. Pylons will always be loved or loathed, yet there was something inherently brilliant in a design that could be tucked away in woods or stretched to cross the widest reaches of the river Thames.

The competition, with a £5,000 prize, was organised by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the National Grid and the Royal Institute of British Architects. The energy minister, Chris Huhne, said: "We are going to need a lot more pylons over the next few years to connect new energy to our homes and businesses and it is important that we do this in the most beautiful way possible."

There are more than 88,000 pylons in Britain, including the 22,000 carrying the National Grid's main transmission network across England and Wales.

National Grid has also expressed an interest in working with the designers of the two second-place competition entries, Ian Ritchie Associates, a London firm (with consulting engineers Jane Wernick Associates), and New Town Studio, an architectural practice based in Harlow.

The competition attracted 250 entries. The designs of the six finalists were put on show at the Victoria & Albert Museum during last month's London design festival. Bystrup's design was unanimously recognised by the judges as being the simplest and least demanding in terms of the effect it would have on the landscape. The Danish architects have designed a number of prototype pylons since 2000 aiming, as Erik Bystrup has said, to "turn eyesores into art".

The membership of Britain's Pylon Appreciation Society might disagree, although there is little fear that the Milliken pylons will be replaced in the near or distant future. "The winning design is OK," said Flash Wilson Bristow, founder of the society, "but it's a pole and not a pylon. Pylons are latticed structures. They frame views of the landscape. They're special, but a pole is just a pole."


guardian.co.uk © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


June 22 2010

BP's beleaguered Tony Hayward disappears from view

Whether he was really seen on a yacht at Cowes is debated – but there was no sign of him on dry land as oil bosses met at a London congress

After Saturday's ill-advised attendance at a sailing event at Cowes, complete with disputed photographs that may or may not have shown him on board his yacht, Tony Hayward might be excused for resolving to keep his head down.

But the beleaguered BP chief executive's position came under renewed pressure tonight after he failed to show up at a gathering of the oil industry, having also ceded day-to-day control of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Shares in BP touched a new 13-year low after Hayward delegated a keynote speech to his chief of staff, Steve Westwell. He also cancelled a scheduled appearance at the National Portrait Gallery in London tonight where he was due to open an awards ceremony.

By dodging the World National Oil Companies Congress in London, Hayward avoided coming face-to-face with several Greenpeace protesters.

They guaranteed more bad publicity for BP by briefly halting Westwell's speech to urge an audience of oil experts and energy ministers to break their oil dependency.

"Assembled guests – because BP is incapable of telling you the truth, I'm going to tell you what you need to know," Greenpeace's Emma Gibson said, shortly after Westwell had begun by apologising for Hayward's absence.

"We need to speed up progress and make a push to end the oil age," Gibson added, before she and fellow activist Katie Swan were removed from the stage by security, along with a banner which read "Go Beyond Petroleum".

BP blamed Hayward's no-show on his busy schedule. But the company refused to discuss his whereabouts, which added to speculation that he might already be meeting with the Kremlin to discuss BP's future. Its Russian joint venture, TNK-BP, is responsible for a quarter of its production.

Amid the uncertainty BP shares fell to 328p, virtually half the value when the Deepwater rig caught fire and sank.

Security had appeared tight at The Grange St Paul's hotel today but Greenpeace managed to reach the conference room by the simple, if expensive, tactic of buying tickets, and went ahead with the protest even though Hayward was not present.

"We wanted to use the opportunity to speak to BP and push it to change things. BP shouldn't be drilling in deep water and it shouldn't extract oil from the Canadian tar sands," Swan told the Guardian after she and Gibson were released by hotel security staff.

Swan ,said she was concerned about the environmental and economic damage caused by the spill. "It looks like irreparable damage has been done. People's lives will have been changed forever," she said.

Gibson said BP was in "severe trouble" because it had not listened to activists, and had instead pushed on with increasingly risky projects.

"If they had heeded our advice over many years about the need to deliver genuine renewable energy sources, they would not be facing a $40bn (£24bn) disaster today," Swan said.

Even before the conference began today, the environmental movement was taking the opportunity to lobby Big Oil. About 200 Climate Camp activists marched to the hotel complete with a samba band on Monday night and held a mock trial of the industry for its actions around the world.

Shares in BP ended the day down 4.3% at 334.2p, their lowest close since the crisis began.

Hayward, whose PR gaffes have added to the recent criticism of BP, has now given control of the Gulf clean-up to Bob Dudley, BP's American director. City analysts are speculating over how long Hayward can continue as chief executive. "He will remain at the helm for the near term but ultimately, this fiasco might prove career-shortening for him," a fund manager from one of BP's top 20 investors told Reuters.

Westwell said Hayward was "genuinely sorry" to miss the event, before insisting that BP was committed to fixing the disaster. "When the media have left the Gulf coast, we'll still be there helping the community recover. When the headlines are focused elsewhere, we'll still be cleaning up and dealing with claims for economic losses."

He signed off with a line from Abraham Lincoln which may yet serve as Hayward's epitaph. "I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end."

With or without Hayward, BP will remain under the shadow of huge compensation payments and fines – and possible prosecution.

Meanwhile, tonight, the oil companies congress is holding its gala dinner, with the promise of "fine wine, exquisite food and the company of some of the greatest minds in the energy business". For the oil industry, even with a temporary halt on new deepwater drilling, it remains business as usual.

Tony's travels

Where's Hayward been?

The BP chief executive flew to America shortly after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on 20 April, with the loss of 11 lives. He returned to the UK for a flying visit in May to celebrate his birthday, and came back to the UK again last week following his savaging by Congress on Thursday. Spending Saturday yachting at Cowes proved the latest in a series of blunders.

Where's he now?

BP refuses to say, arguing that it never reveals its chief executive's location – even when he has abandoned a keynote speech at the last minute.

Where should he be?

In Russia, for a meeting with president Dmitry Medvedev, who has admitted he fears that BP could be destroyed by this crisis.

Reassuring the City about the company's long-term prospects would also be wise, as they face up to a dividend freeze.


guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.
Get rid of the ads (sfw)

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl