Press Release

Press Release: Queer activists thrown out of Student Pride event for topless protest over BP sponsorship

What: A creative protest of National Student Pride event by queer activists over BP sponsorship – accusing BP of ‘pinkwashing’ its appalling environmental and human rights record

When: National Student Pride, 27th February

Where: Launch event for National Student Pride weekend (27-29th), Heaven nightclub and G.A.Y bar, London.

A group of self-identified queer activists were ejected from Heaven, one of London’s largest LGBT venues, after staging a creative protest inside the launch event of National Student Pride, criticising the involvement of controversial oil company BP. Posing as BP representatives, the group snuck into G-A-Y Late bar wearing suits and ties to ask the pride goers how best to exploit the queer student community with a mock survey – questions included Q: ‘What does the term Pink Wash mean to you? a) A laundry setting for you hot pink underwear b) When a corporation uses the queer community to clean their unethical reputation c) A lesbian hair do[1]

Later that evening, the group stripped to the waist in Heaven nightclub and donned pink shower caps and pink rubber gloves as they rubbed pink shower gel over each other and scrubbed their bodies with pink sponges. The group say that the public wash symbolised BPs attempts to use LGBTQIA events as a means of sanitising their tarred reputation, a practice known as ‘pinkwashing’. During the pink wash a crowd chanted ‘No Pride in BP’ and some of the students that the group had been speaking to grabbed sponges and joined the topless demonstration. Eventually the group were ejected from the venue by security.

BP sponsorship has become an increasingly controversial issue in recent years. Institutions like the Tate Modern and the British Museum have been the scene of a series of environmental protests over their sponsorship deals with BP. Tate recently lost a three year legal battle over its refusal to disclose how much money it was receiving from BP.

Critics argue that BP’s sponsorship programme enables it to gain a level of social legitimacy that it does not deserve given that it has been responsible for a series of environmental catastrophes like the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The fossil fuel industry’s business model recklessly relies on burning more oil, coal and gas than is safe to burn if we are to avoid catastrophic climate. Archbishop Desmond Tutu recently called for an ‘anti-apartheid style boycott’ of the institutions that are taking sponsorship money from BP.

The protesters have also set up a spoof website where they will be sharing information about BP’s sponsorship programme alongside its climate, environmental and human rights impacts.

Naomi Wilkins, a student at the University of Manchester who took part in the protest said: “As a queer person, it makes me feel shame, not pride that a company like BP that is so heavily involved in trashing the climate, and with such an appalling environmental and human rights record, could be associated with such a positive and important event like Student Pride.  Queer rights and visibility should be promoted in a way that isn’t compromised through the involvement of one of the most despicable companies out there.”

For more information or interview, contact @noprideinbp on Twitter

[1] Please find the mock survey attached for full list of questions