Arms manufacturer pulls Great Exhibition of the North sponsorship, government minister slams ‘subsidy addicted artists’

The arms manufacturer BAE Systems has pulled its sponsorship of the British government-backed Great Exhibition of the North after widespread condemnation of their involvement. The 11-week festival, which opens in June, features events across the arts in the north of England, including exhibitions by Michael Dean at the Baltic in Gateshead and Glenn Brown at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle.

It is believed the festival's participants, including Lubaina Himid, Ryan Gander, Jane and Louise Wilson and Tim Etchells, had already agreed to contribute before the name of the lead sponsor was announced.

The musician Nadine Shah, who was due to perform, had withdrawn from the festival noting on Twitter, 'I will no longer be playing the @getnorth2018 festival now that I have discovered BAE Systems are a sponsor. I am disgusted to hear of their involvement and refuse to be in any way associated with them. I encourage all artists involved to follow suit.' A petition against the sponsorship deal had received over 3,000 signatures.

The festival will now seek a new lead sponsor.

Update: Jake Berry, the government minister responsible for the 'northern powerhouse' initiative and MP for Rossendale and Darwen, where BAE Systems is based, has condemned the protests against the firm. On Thursday he tweeted: 'This is an absolute disgrace. What these subsidy addicted artists need to realise is that it is the 18000 BAE workers in the North who pay the taxes that support them.'

8 March 2017