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Extinction Rebellion against sponsorship of the arts

On Sunday 18th October, the local branch of Extinction Rebellion in Dundee held a protest in front of the V&A – a design museum that stands to be the pride and joy of the city.

Protesting Barclays funding of the new Mary Quant exhibition at the V&A, the local Dundee rebels portrayed a shocking and powerful scene. 

They had a volunteer dressed as the symbol of Barclays with an oil can spilling ‘dirty oil’ on to girls who were dressed in outfits inspired by Mary Quant and her revolutionary ideas. Heads drooping, they stood still – like broken dolls with bags of money either in their hands or littered at their feet.

The scene that they depicted sent a clear message to its audience: by letting Barclays fund the exhibition, they were tarnishing the memory of Mary Quant. 

Sally Kilmister, one of the ‘rebels’ participating that day, remarked, “We wanted to draw attention to the way in which there is a terrible contradiction here with the beauty of Mary Quant’s designs and what that represented for people, and the utter contamination and catastrophe which is being created by the climate crisis funded by banks like Barclays.”

Extinction Rebellion is a non-violent global environmental protection movement and the Scottish sect including Dundee, is just one piece of a much larger group. They were formed in 2018 and hold protests all over the world demanding action to be taken by governments against climate change.

This protest is just one of many, but not one that will easily be forgotten. According to the rebels who were there that day, these issues are not just one of great significance to Dundee but to the future of our planet.

When asked about where they got the idea for it, Sally continued with her response. “We had in mind a previous protest that took place in London at the National Portrait Gallery in the campaign against the BP sponsorship of that institution as well as other protests held in Britain and elsewhere that highlight the problem of sponsorship of the arts.”

Martha Smart, one of the other rebels present, had this to say about the issue: “The environmental destruction that is taking place under their money, under our money and now it’s sponsoring our art, our history. Mary Quant was revolutionary, part of the ’60s liberation movement and all of that is completely tarnished by this sponsorship. The V&A needs to do better.”

The issues that need to be considered are endless and there are those who do not agree with their message. Oil is, nevertheless, a huge part of Scotland and affects many of the people who live there. North Sea oil is still an influential part in many Scottish citizens’ lives and is still a part of the revenue for Scotland’s economy.

There is also the issue that art and exhibitions not being funded by companies such as Barclays means that museums like the V&A will be having more difficulty in procuring the funds needed to do so. 

Nevertheless, Dundee Extinction Rebellion’s demands are clear: they want the truth and they want governments to allow citizens to make the choices when it comes to the survival of the planet.

They represent 650 groups in 45 different countries who have all lost faith in their government’s ability to handle such a cataclysmic issue for the world at large. They want change and they want it now.

Image: Ece Kucuk

By Ece Kucuk

Ece Kucuk served as President of The Student in 2021/22 and is currently a regular contributor to the paper. She was previously Head Editor-in-Chief and Features Editor, she has also been a writer at The Student for over two years. She is going into her Fourth Year of a Master of Arts with Honours in English Language and Literature and plans to do her Postgraduate in Education and Child Development. She has written for every section of the paper as well as written for The Rattlecap and other publications. Some of her favourite works include her reflection on being the child of an immigrant, her piece on introducing ice hockey, as well as her interview with children’s author Mariam James.