Guest blog: Fighting the cuts & corporate power


This is a guest blog post by Danny Chivers, who is part of both the Reclaim Shakespeare Company and UK Uncut

Fighting the cuts and corporate power: a double-whammy weekend of action coming up!

There are two exciting direct action callouts for the weekend of June 14th/15th: a day of UK Uncut actions targeting Vodafone’s tax-dodging on Saturday 14th, and a “Viking flash-horde” at the British Museum in protest at BP sponsorship on Sunday 15th, organised by theatrical activists the Reclaim Shakespeare Company.

These may seem like quite separate issues, but in fact they are deeply interlinked, and I’d recommend that anyone thinking of attending one should include the other as well and make a proper action-packed weekend of it.

Why? Well, beyond the initial fact that both offer the chance to do something inspiring and effective to shake off the post-EU-election blues, these two actions are tackling different parts of the same problem. They are linked by the Government’s brutal cuts agenda, and also by the growing problem of unaccountable corporations.

The #VodaHome action will highlight the cuts to social housing that are forcing more people into poverty, temporary accommodation and homelessness, and link this to the billions of pounds that the Government allows the likes of Vodafone to avoid in tax. The British Museum action, meanwhile, is part of a wider movement against fossil fuel sponsorship of the arts. Funding arts and culture gives the likes of BP and Shell a cheap veneer of responsibility that helps to distract from their real, destructive activities; not just their drilling and spilling, but their ferocious lobbying to block clean energy projects all over the world, keeping us trapped on a fossil-fuelled path to climate meltdown.

While fossil fuel companies have been giving money to some of our cultural institutions for many years, until now their contribution has been relatively small. For example, BP provides less than 1% of the annual income of the Tate, the Royal Opera House and the British Museum (although you wouldn’t know it from the huge amount of branding the company gets in return). Government cuts to public funding of galleries, theatres and museums mean that there is now a major risk that these institutions could drastically increase their reliance on corporate funding, locking them in as PR partners to dirty industries. Increases in fossil fuel sponsorship would also make it much harder to produce art that exposes these companies’ true nature; many artists are already afraid to speak out against their sponsors for fear of losing their livelihoods.

It doesn’t have to be like this. The weekend of June 14th and 15th gives us all a brilliant opportunity to challenge two different corporations who are benefiting from (and behind the scenes no doubt cheering on) the Government’s strategy of letting the rich off their taxes while hammering everyone else. These two days of action will highlight some of the terrible consequences of the cuts (a lack of affordable housing with all the misery and tragedy that entails, cheap unearned PR for climate-trashing industries and the corporate capture of the arts) while also putting forward the solutions (tax justice leading to decent public funding for social housing, the arts and everything else we’d expect in a decent society). Plus we’ll get to turn Vodafone stores into temporary housing and give BP a flashmob Viking funeral. How perfect a weekend is that?

To join the #Vodahome action, check UK Uncut’s actions page to find an action near you, or see the step-by-step guide on how you can organise one yourself. To join the BP Vikings flash-horde, sign up to the Facebook event or send an email to info@bp-or-not-bp.org and you’ll receive instructions!