Climate Fascists are closing down our theatres

Mao made a bonfire of China's opera houses. His followers here are doing the same

From 1982 The RSC at the Barbican made Shakespeare a real presence in London. The theatre was easy to get to with a new tube station, it had a thousand comfortable seats and air-con. The first RSC shows, directed by Trevor Nunn, starred Patrick Stewart, Timothy Dalton and Harriet Walter. That was all made possible by the generosity of the City of London Corporation who funded it with millions of pounds. In 1991 the RSC left London and that culture has never been replaced.

That was the result of an action based on high principles, by then artistic director Adrian Noble who decided that the company might be good enough for Dame Judi Dench and Ralph Fiennes but it needed American stars to make it sexy, and he worried that it was too ‘elitist,’ only seen by a select group who really liked Shakespeare.

‘We want to put on Shakespeare in the heart of the West End,’ Noble explained. ‘In larger venues where more people can see them.’ The trouble was, the move to ‘theatreland,’ saw Shakespeare turned into cultural fodder for tourists who slept through most performances, ticket prices escalated and most theatres preferred the security of putting on musicals. Adrian Noble was perhaps the first example of extreme arts posturing in the face of reality, and that may be his legacy as now as it seems everyone in the arts is doing it.

Last year The Science Museum Group faced an open letter from nearly fifty scientists objecting to its partnerships with companies involved in the fossil-fuel industry. The Science Museum in Manchester lost three major exhibitors from their Science Festival in protest at their sponsorship from Shell Oil. In March the National Portrait Gallery had to refuse a £1 million donation from the wealthy US Sackler family after their pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma LP was linked in news reports to the addictive opioid painkiller OxyContin.

Jess Worth, co-director of the pious sounding pressure group, ‘Culture Unstained,’ said: ‘This raises the question of whether the gallery will now apply the same standards to its BP sponsorship in the midst of a climate crisis. BP sponsorship now, like the Sackler donation, looks ethically untenable.’

She was right. In June anti-oil activists blocked the NPG’s entrance to protest against BP sponsorship. In July seventy eight artists including Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor signed a letter demanding that the gallery drop its contact with BP, which spends £7.5 million per year on arts and has sponsored their Portrait Award for thirty years.

At the same time, the group Extinction Rebellion staged die-ins at the Tate Modern and the Natural History Museum. ‘Culture Unstained’ lobbied the British and Science museum to end oil sponsorship and published research linking BP to Russia and human rights abuses abroad. They are also part of the Art Not Oil coalition, which includes groups like ‘Liberate Tate,’ a collective of activists who ‘explore  the role of creative intervention in social change.’

Now the RSC is after the zeitgeist again, deciding to end its links with BP. Rylance.** The reason given is that school children have threatened to boycott them. Children had written them a letter calling their link with BP, ‘A stain.’ That word again.

‘Young people are telling us that BP sponsorship is putting a barrier between them and their wish to engage with the RSC,’ said a spokesperson. The pomposity of this might be funny if it weren’t that BP has subsidised their £5 ticket scheme for 16 to 25-year-olds for eight years, allowing 80,000 young people to see RSC performances at reduced rates.

It seems that we now live in a bizarre world where children not only refuse to go to the theatre but threaten to close them down if they don’t like their accounts. Major global companies bow down before them, and leading directors are intimidated by abusive Tweets.

Children, tiresome celebs and virtue signalling ‘artists’, are feeding into a new culture of  virtue-signalling ‘environmentalism’ which is fast becoming part of a broader anti-capitalism movement, crossing from peaceful protest into civil disobedience, and perhaps soon into a new form of terrorism.

These movements are not just about protecting the ice-cap. Last year, a third of the artists featured in an exhibition of political protest at London’s Design Museum pulled out because the museum had hosted an event for an Italian company specialising in aerospace, defence and security. Several artists and performers dropped out of the Great Exhibition of the North, in Newcastle-Gateshead, after BAE Systems was named as a main partner. Like the Greenham Women, they don’t think the West should defend itself.

It should also be pointed out that the Sackler family have been tried in the court of public opinion, as Jewish plutocrats they have been targeted in this intensifying ideological war. They have denied allegations in lawsuits that they contributed to the US opioid crisis, pointing out heroin as more significant than prescription painkillers.

Sir David Attenborough recently said that it’s not possible ‘to be radical enough.’  Does he really want to be represented by humourless little girls and green hardliners who are really anti-capitalists in disguise ? At its recent conference Labour promised to  ‘fix the planet,’ if it gets into power.

No one (apart from Ken Clarke) would want to take money from a cigarette company, but while no one is forced to smoke, take heroin or to go to the theatre, and we all still rely on gas and oil. Like the need for bums on seats in the theatre, that is the reality. The answer surely lies not in striking poses but in laborious international agreements about reducing fossil fuel and working on better technology and cutting down waste; each one of us can stage an individual revolution in our own lives; giving up our reckless use of water, petrol, mobile phones, wood-burners, meat, including cat food, cheap clothing and all those little extras like patio heaters and air-tickets. Let’s hope we can make these changes quietly, without turning into ruthlessly self-righteous, posturing puritans.

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5 Comments on Climate Fascists are closing down our theatres

  1. I note and agree that these childish attacks on the arts are unnecessary, but I reckon that the cure will not be found in international agreements, but in the liberal employment of water cannon.

  2. The blame lies with the cowardly half-wits who permit this idiocy to affect policy.
    Children will always be children, and fools always fools.

    The so-called scientists – weather forecasters and mediocrities – show no haste to divest themselves of all the pleasures and comforts that sin, as they imagine it, has brought them. Even if these absurd anti-empirical claims were correct that the ‘planet’ is being harmed by BP et al, that is not a reason for refusing their money.

    By the same logic one would decline to converse with the child of a criminal or an enemy. Infantile stupidity.

  3. In our glorious broadcast media, that great national forum, we hear scarcely a word of criticism of the “eco-warriors”. Where are the much needed investigative documentaries giving us insight into the motives, financing and main players behind this eco-hysteria? All the main news and current affairs outlets are in lockstep. Eco-warriors are, it seems, on the side of the angels and only token criticism is needed. How easy it is in a land of free speech to simply side-line dissent.

    How can such a small group of people gain so much power and influence? Probably because the political/academic/media class surrendered the moral high ground to them without a fight. Urged on by their celebrity cheerleaders they are free to berate us for not living up to ethical and environmnental ideals which should long since have been called into question.

    Greta Thunberg’s hysterical rant to the UN provided a good illustration of how low the debate has sunk. More important than any reasoned argument is an emotional display of how strongly you feel about your cause. In our increasingly feminised culture the strength of your feelings is taken as a measure of the rightness of your cause. The only facts to be considered are those that support your argument. Counter arguments can be dismissed as shameful lies not worth considering.

    • I wouldn’t say it was feminised. What strikes me is just how similar the arguments are to fascist/socialist justifications. Mao sacrificed millions for a future utopia. The death squads in WW2 Europe justified killing Jews and others as preparing the way for a greater German race, indeed, as one man said (in Browning’s Ordinary men) we are doing this for all Europe. The religious fanatics of c16 Europe were just the same, as the Islamists of our own time.
      There’s something irremediably nasty about homo sapiens and once our grip on it loosens all hell opens.

      • Thank you for your reply Mr McManus. I normally avoid getting into extended online debates as they rarely, if ever, persuade anyone to change a viewpoint as originally asserted and often degenerate into ad hominem attacks as participants become frustrated at their arguments being misunderstood or rejected.

        That being said I will defend my assertion that our culture is becoming increasingly feminised. The fascist/socialist actions you mention were essentially concerned with taking territory. Seeking to expand your realm is, in my view, a characteristic of the domineering male. The same might be said of those muslims who seek to expand the world of Islam until mankind has surrendered to the will of Allah.

        The c16 fear of witches and heretics is somewhat different. The power of established Christianity crushed dissent by condemning it as a dangerous evil thus justifying the most draconian punishments. If there were a modern parallel in the eco-activism issue then we would see state power used to crush the activists. This is not happening. Major institutions are failing to seriously question the scientific assertions of the activists. We are encouraged by the strength of their conviction and the depth of their distress to examine our “social conscience” and confess to how we are failing future generations. The activists have been allowed to win the moral argument with barely a struggle. I am aware of the risks in saying this but I believe that giving emotional sensitivity priority over cold clear analysis is a feminine characteristic which is making increasing gains in the public sphere.

        Perhaps a more appropriate historical comparison (albeit on a quite different scale) might be the Mao’s cultural revolution. The young and idealistic were encouraged bring down an establishment made up of their elders who they were led to believe had grown corrupt, complacent and counter-revolutionary. As such they deserved to be removed/punished in the most brutal way with scant concern for the analytical machinery of justice but with an awful lot of moral outrage.

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