Multiple bands pull out of Download festival over Barclays’ Israel ties

Multiple bands pull out of Download festival over Barclays’ Israel ties

Multiple bands have pulled out of Download festival over Barclaycard being used as its official payment partner, in protest against Barclays providing financial services to defence companies supplying Israel.

Download, the UK’s biggest rock, metal and punk festival which takes place from 14 to 16 June, lists Barclaycard as one of its official sponsors alongside Liquid Death, Red Bull and others.

Leeds band Pest Control wrote: “We cannot sacrifice the principles held by this band and by the scene we come from and represent, just for personal gain.”

As a result of their boycott, punk bands Speed, Scowl and Zulu also pulled out of the festival over the Barclays sponsorship, criticising the bank for the financial services it provides.

British metalcore band Ithaca joined the boycott on Tuesday evening. “Once we were made aware of Barclays’ involvement in Download we knew we could no longer participate,” the band said in a statement to the Guardian. “This moment of solidarity is an opportunity for festival organisers to reflect carefully on who they take money from and see that the younger generation of bands will no longer be silent.”

Download festival has not commented on the boycott. The Guardian has contacted organisers for comment.

The bands’ decisions follow a widespread boycott of Brighton’s Barclaycard-sponsored Great Escape festival in May, with more than 100 acts pulling out of that event.

While it is not part of the core group of eight companies and product areas targeted for boycott by the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Barclays has drawn ire from other pro-Palestine campaigners.

This week members of activist group Palestine Action vandalised about 20 branches of Barclays across the UK, including smashing windows and daubing them with red paint; in Edinburgh, rocks inscribed with the names of dead Palestinians were thrown at a bank branch.

A Barclays branch in St John’s Wood, London, after being targeted by Palestine Action this week.View image in fullscreen

The actions were undertaken with climate activists Shut the System, with Palestine Action saying they “demand the bank divests from Israel’s weapons trade and fossil fuels”.

The UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign calls for a boycott of the bank over its “grave complicity in Israel’s attacks on Palestinians”, alleging Barclays “now holds over £2bn in shares, and provides £6.1bn in loans and underwriting” to companies providing weapons systems to Israel.

In a statement posted online, Barclays addresses the criticism. “We have been asked why we invest in nine defence companies supplying Israel, but this mistakes what we do,” the company wrote. “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.”

Specifically regarding Israeli defence company Elbit, Barclays stated: “We may hold shares in relation to client driven transactions, which is why we appear on the share register, but we are not investors.”

The statement adds: “The UK government said that supporting high-quality, well-run defence companies is compatible with ESG [Environmental, Social and Governance] considerations. It is the role of government to decide foreign policy and laws which restrict the delivery of weapons to any one country.”

Barclays also condemned the actions by Palestine Action this week, saying: “While we support the right to protest, we ask that campaigners do so in a way which respects our customers, colleagues and property.”

When contacted by the Guardian for comment, Barclays provided a condensed version of the above statements, and said it had supported the UK music and arts sector with £112m over the past 20 years.

Pepsi Max is also listed as a Download sponsor. Its manufacturer PepsiCo is the owner of carbonated drink company SodaStream and co-owner of food manufacturer Sabra, two of the eight companies or product groups targeted for boycott by BDS. The bands boycotting Download have not mentioned Pepsi Max in their statements.

Other music festivals sponsored by Barclays this summer include Latitude and Isle of Wight. In May, the activist group Bands Boycott Barclays told the Guardian it would approach the festivals’ organisers “in good faith” to voice their concern about links with the bank.