Brian Eno and the Baltic Sea Philharmonic Orchestra. (Photo by Christoph Soeder/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Brian Eno has shared a statement in response to those who have been boycotting this year’s edition of The Great Escape.

The 2024 edition of the event – which showcases new and rising artists – is currently taking place across various music venues in Brighton until Saturday (May 18).

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 KneecapLambrini GirlsAlfie TemplemanLip CriticWunderhorse and Mary In The Junkyard.

Eno recently shared an exclusive statement to the Instagram account Bands Boycott Barclays in support of the acts who have chosen to pull out of the festival in support of Palestine. “I want to thank all the young people speaking up for Palestine. The young people who are always being told that everything is ‘Too complicated’ for them to understand, and that they should leave serious matters to ‘responsible adults’,” began his message.

He continued: “Please, I beg you, don’t listen. Follow your instincts. The ‘responsible adults’ have lost the plot. It’s not complicated to understand.

“We – the English, the Americans, the EU – are supplying weapons, support and political cover for a bunch of fascist thugs. We’re helping Israel in its live-streamed genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, destroying homes, schools hospitals and – worst of all – whole families with the complicity of our states, corporations, and institutions. They are burying alive a whole society under concrete slabs. It’s not complicated at all. It’s how fascism works and has always worked.”

Eno then went on to mention how both societies and nations go through dreadful phases, citing Mao’s cultural revolution, Brazil in the years of the generals and adds the current ongoing carnage happening in Gaza.

“It’s going through an overtly genocidal phase, led by the far-right leaders who are determined to ethically cleanse the country of those who have inhabited it for many generations,” he said.

The musician adds that many do not want the war to end, adding that “it’s keeping Benjamin Netanyahu [The prime minister of Israel] out of prison” and that “we’re shrinking in fear of backlash if we dare to critisise Israel in any way.”

He concluded his statement by saying: “Please, those of you in the encampments and on the demos, keep on. Civilisation and humanity are counting on you. Boycotting works. This is the lesson we took from the fight against apartheid in South Africa.

“Israeli leaders need recognise the impact of Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) moment has had. Although I understand the special cultural significance of The Great Escape Festival, I want to salute the courageous artists who passed up a chance to play there in support of the people in Gaza.”

Eno has been very vocal about his support for Gaza. Back in 2014, He wrote a strongly-worded letter about the current conflict between Israel and Palestine, with it being publsihed on David Byrne’s website with a note from Byrne explaining why he decided to put it online. You can read the full letter here.

In 2016, the musician offered his support to Independent Label Market, a London-founded record market that recently refused an invite to Tel Aviv, Israel, citing a cultural boycott.

Nick Cave shared his thoughts on Eno’s Israel stance on his back in 2018.

The ‘Red Right Hand’ singer went on to say that Eno had “emailed me in the hope of persuading me to reconsider [the shows in Tel Aviv he was playing with The Bad Seeds]” after they were announced.

Within the message to Eno, Cave labels the boycott as “cowardly and shameful”, while defending his decision to perform in Israel as a “principled stand against those who wish to bully, shame and silence musicians”.

Elsewhere, Over 100 artists have dropped out of this year’s edition of the festival in solidarity with Palestine. Most recently, Soft Play – FKA Slaves – were the latest band to announce that they will not be performing at the fest.

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.

Now, A third of the artists who were set to perform have cancelled their scheduled appearances at The Great Escape 2024 in total. 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.

Massive Attack – who’ve previously spoken out on their boycott of gigs in Israel – have recently 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.”

Over 1,200 artists including IDLESSquid and Massive Attack have also signed an open letter addressed to The Great Escape, asking them to remove Barclays as a sponsor. “Israel continues to defy international law, ignore the United Nations calls for a ceasefire and block aid from reaching Palestinians in Gaza, including by killing aid workers. We cannot be silent. We will not be complicit in The Great Escape being a branding opportunity for Barclays,” it read.

Speaking to NME about the festival’s boycott, The Menstrual Cramps’ Emilia Elfrida said: “We just want The Great Escape to do the right thing.” According to Elfrida, despite several phone calls, the festival refused to drop Barclays so The Menstrual Cramps cancelled their appearance and encouraged others to do the same.

“To be associating our label with Barclays doesn’t sit right with our ethical standpoint, and if we can do anything to help raise awareness, and ultimately highlight the corporate greed at the heart of this horrendous genocide in Gaza, we will,” said a joint statement from labels Alcopop and Big Scary Monsters that confirmed they too wouldn’t be taking part in this year’s festival.

“Honestly, for us it was an easy decision,” Big Scary Monsters founder Kevin Douch told NME. “We spoke to our bands and explained our position, asked them what they wanted to do and it was unanimous that we’d all pull out. It’s been awesome seeing so many people getting behind this. There are enough voices now to make Livenation listen and hopefully remove Barclays as a sponsor.”

The Great Escape has yet to comment on the Bands Boycott Barclays movement, while Barclays have directed criticisms to a response made during a recent Q&A session. “We have been asked why we invest in nine defence companies supplying Israel, but this mistakes what we do,” said Barclays. “As a bank, our job is to provide financial services to thousands of business clients and that includes those in the defence sector.”

Elsewhere, the Big Special have shared a statement explaining why they will be performing at The Great Escape.

The duo went on to say that boycotting this event and would make them feel “dishonest” if they then do not boycott every event that is connected to “dirty money”, adding that if they were to do that, then they would be absent from the music industry completely.

They shared that they support those bands that “chose to play and speak out and encourage others speak up on injustice, encourage people to contact government to demand application of sanctions and end arms sales to Israel and to swap their accounts from Barclays to another bank (there are no good banks, but targeting Barclays like this for now is the best way to negatively affect them.) People at the festival should make space to support protests and spread information.”

They continued adding that they don’t want to “see infighting on the same side” and explained that they understand that it is a confusing time in which everyone is trying to do the right thing.

The Big Special added that along with playing their planned set at The Great Escape this week, they will be donating their fee to PCRF (Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund), and that their label will match the fee as well.

The post Brian Eno on The Great Escape boycott: “I want to salute the courageous artists who passed up a chance to play in support of the people of Gaza” appeared first on NME.


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