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Over 100 acts have now dropped out of The Great Escape 2024 in Gaza boycott, with support from Massive Attack

Over 100 acts have now dropped out of this year’s Great Escape Festival in solidarity with Palestine, with Massive Attack also speaking out in support of the boycott.

The 2024 edition of the event – which showcases new and rising artists – is due to take place across various music venues in Brighton from tomorrow (May 15) until Saturday (18).

  • READ MORE: The 10 best new acts we saw at The Great Escape 2023

The Great Escape is sponsored by Barclays, which has been a source of controversy amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza because of the bank’s financial investment in companies that supply arms to Israel.

The issue was first highlighted in a petition started by the promoter How To Catch A Pig and the band The Menstrual Cramps – which has since been signed by musicians including Kneecap, Lambrini Girls, Alfie Templeman, Lip Critic, Wunderhorse and Mary In The Junkyard.

Last month, Cherym pulled out of The Great Escape as a result of the festival’s connection to Barclays, before record labels Alcopop and Big Scary Monsters joined the boycott and withdrew from the event.

Dozens more acts soon followed suit, with over half the line-up demanding that The Great Escape drop its sponsorship deal with Barclays.

Speaking about their decision not to play the festival, Lambrini Girls said: “We will not be appearing at The Great Escape festival this year. This is a targeted approach of a cultural boycott, considering Barclays sponsorship.

“Barclays provide financial services of over £1BN pounds to companies supplying military technology and weapons to the IDF, perpetuating the horrors unfolding in Gaza.”

Now, 106 artists have cancelled their scheduled appearances at The Great Escape 2024 in total – constituting approximately a quarter of the full programme. They cite the festival’s partnership with Barclays “bankrolling genocide” as their reason for withdrawing, per a press release.

The latest names to have pulled out include Alfie Templeman, Avije, Beetlebug, Bo Milli, BODUR, Bug Teeth, C Turtle, Cryalot, Delilah Bon, Delilah Holliday, Graft, Hang Linton, Jianbo, Kerensa, Lewis G Burton, Message From The Ravens, Pem, Pop Vulture, Projector, Smoke Filled Room, Sophia Ryalls, Steven Bamidele, Sunday Club, The Halfway Kid and Tony Njoku. See the full list here.

Writing on X/Twitter, Templeman explained: “I am no longer performing at The Great Escape festival this year due to their ongoing partnership with Barclays, who are actively
funding the Israeli military and therefore being complicit in genocide. My morals cannot and will not align with the amalgamation of entertainment and human suffering.

“Solidarity to everyone else on the lineup that has dropped out and used their platform to direct attention to the boycott. I really hope that together our absence from the festival will make other festivals and events around the world prioritise being ethical when choosing their partners.”

Delilah Bon said: “Seeing the horrors happening currently in Gaza, Palestinian solidarity should be at the forefront. I’m shocked that The Great Escape festival have not responded to calls to drop their partner Barclays, who are actively funding genocide, forcing artists like myself to pick between ‘business’ and my own ethics.

“I stand with the BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] movement and Palestinian solidarity and will sadly no longer be performing at the festival.”

Hang Linton commented: “I will be pulling out of my showcase in solidarity with the boycott. I can only urge us all, as grassroots musicians and organisations, to collectively remove our labour. Performing at The Great Escape this year will not define our careers.

“Without us there will be no festival, we have the power to say no. Free Palestine and boycott Barclays.”

Kerensa commented: “I will not indirectly support genocide as it doesn’t align with my ethics and am joining the call from Bands Boycott Barclays. Support Palestine, they need our help no matter how much or little we can do.”

Additionally, Massive Attack – who’ve previously spoken out on their boycott of gigs in Israel – have expressed their support for the mass walkout.

“We’ve endless, special respect for younger artists or artists at earlier stages of their careers who choose to take a stand against corporate support for apartheid and now genocide in Palestine,” they wrote.

“It’s extraordinary to think that in 2024, promoters and festivals still don’t understand that as artists, our music is for sale but our humanity and morality is not. The truth is, while the boycott of events sponsored by toxic corporations like Barclays is courageous, the motives behind it are totally uncontroversial: everyone can see what’s happening in Gaza and no one should accept it.”

Massive Attack added: “Whether it’s apartheid and genocide in Gaza, or the funding of new fossil fuel extraction worldwide, Barclays has repeatedly proven it is without conscience. Barclays therefore has no place in any music festival or any cultural event. Solidarity with and total respect to all musicians who’ve taken this stand.”

In a statement, a spokesperson from the Bands Boycott Barclays group said: “Barclays is bankrolling the genocide in Gaza and then laundering its reputation at home by partnering with music festivals.

“As musicians, we want no part of it. There is no festival without the artists and we stand unconditionally in solidarity with Palestinians in refusing to allow our music to be used as cultural cover for a bank that supports genocide.”

They continued: “We started this campaign five weeks ago and asked the festival to cut ties with Barclays. They thought they could ignore artists, but they got it wrong. Now they’ve lost a quarter of the programme. It’s astounding they’d rather put a bank before their bands.”

Over half the acts on The Great Escape’s lineup have signed an open statement coordinated by Bands Boycott Barclays calling on the festival to drop its partnership with Barclays, which is on the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) list. The statement is supported by a further 1,000 musicians and industry professionals.

The festival has not responded to the statement. NME has reached out to The Great Escape Festival and Barclays for comment.

Earlier this month, the Musicians’ Union (MU) issued a statement “in solidarity with members and non-members who are boycotting this year’s Great Escape Festival” over concerns regarding its sponsorship.

“The boycott is an act of solidarity with the people of Palestine, and one of the few instruments that freelance musicians have to call attention to practices that they disagree with,” it read.

Elsewhere, Nick Cave shared his advice with an artist who had reached out to say they had considered pulling out of The Great Escape 2024 “due to the sponsorship of Barclays”. In response, the Bad Seeds frontman simply wrote: “Play. Love, Nick.”

The stance from Cave to not boycott the event came after he courted controversy in 2017 when the Bad Seeds went ahead with their shows in Tel Aviv, despite pressure for them to withdraw from the likes of Roger Waters and Thurston Moore.

In a move similar to the Great Escape walkout, many artists refused to play at SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas in March because of the event’s connections to the US Army and weapons companies amid the Israel-Gaza conflict. These included Gruff Rhys, Kneecap, Sprints, Lambrini Girls, Gel, Rachel Chinouriri, Cardinals and NewDad.

SXSW responded to the cancellations in a statement: “We are an organisation that welcomes diverse viewpoints. Music is the soul of SXSW, and it has long been our legacy. We fully respect the decision these artists made to exercise their right to free speech.”

Explaining its sponsorship with the US Army, SXSW wrote: “The defence industry has historically been a proving ground for many of the systems we rely on today. These institutions are often leaders in emerging technologies, and we believe it’s better to understand how their approach will impact our lives.”

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