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Kneecap explain their decision to play The Great Escape over boycott: “You can’t de-platform yourself”

Kneecap have discussed their reasons for not participating in the boycott of The Great Escape last month.

Over 100 artists pulled out of the Brighton festival over its sponsorship by Barclays, which has been accused of financial ties to companies arming Israel. However, the bank claims it is “trading in shares of listed companies in response to client instruction or demand”.

The Irish rap trio’s decision was caused some controversy online given that they have always taken a stand against what they call Israel’s “occupation and genocide” of Gaza.

They helped to raise nearly £100,000 for a volunteer gym in the Aida Refugee Camp in Palestine and spoken publicly about it via social media and a message shared after a high-profile appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. They have also made headlines for ignoring Irish public broadcaster RTÉ’s requests to not wear pro-Palestine badges.

Kneecap did participate in the boycott of SXSW (after the UK government withdrew arts funding to get them to get there; resulting in a legal battle) after discovering the US military was supporting the festival. Eventually, every Irish act pulled out.

Now, Kneecap have commented on why they still participated in The Great Escape in the latest edition of NME’s The Cover.

Kneecap on The Cover of NME. Credit: Joseph Bishop for NME

“If your income depends on this life and you’re a touring band, then everything’s connected to one of these companies in some way,” said member Móglaí Bap. “Ideally, if we had the money, we’d just boycott everything and sit in the house and tweet all day.”

Meanwhile, bandmate Mo Chara argued that “SXSW was obviously a completely different thing”, adding: “That was the army sponsoring it, do you know what I mean?”

Elaborating on their decision to play The Great Escape, Chara said: “We’ve met Palestinians as well who have said that they don’t think it’s fair that the burden is on the artist either. They completely agree: you go, you make your money, you say what you can. Would you rather be a martyr with no cause? No one’s gonna give a fuck if you pull out of this festival, lose money and de-platform yourself.”

Meanwhile, a similar boycott has been building surrounding Latitude Festival, which is also sponsored by Barclays. So far, Mui Zyu, Georgia Ruth, CMAT and Pillow Queens have all confirmed they are dropping out.

Elsewhere in the cover interview, Kneecap also discussed their mission to keep the Irish language alive through music, causing outrage and often being misunderstood, what to expect from their debut album, and the making of their self-titled biopic starring Michael Fassbender. Check out the full interview here, and check out their exclusive playlist for NME here.

The trailer for the film dropped yesterday ahead of its official UK premiere in London. The trio will preview Kneecap at Glastonbury Festival’s cinema tent, Pilton Palais, this month and participate in a Q&A session at the screening. They’ll also perform live in the Woodsies tent at this year’s event, in addition to a set on the Peace Stage.

Kneecap release debut album ‘Fine Art’ on Friday June 14 via Heavenly Recordings. They’re touring the US, Europe and the UK throughout 2024. Visit here for tickets and more information.

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