(Bloomberg) -- Barclays Plc has stepped back as sponsor of some of the UK’s biggest music festivals, after various acts dropped out in protest at the bank’s perceived ties to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The bank has suspended its sponsorship of Live Nation Entertainment Inc. festivals including Latitude, Download and the Isle of Wight, according to a statement Friday. It comes after some comedians and musicians said they wouldn’t perform, prompted by protests by pro-Palestine campaigners, who are calling for the lender to sever ties with arms companies that sell to Israel. 

“Barclays was asked and has agreed to suspend participation in the remaining Live Nation festivals in 2024,” a spokesperson for the bank said in a statement. “The protestors’ agenda is to have Barclays debank defence companies, which is a sector we remain committed to as an essential part of keeping this country and our allies safe.” 

Protest Targets

The lender has become a focal point for campaigners protesting financial support for Israel. Barclays has a “corporate banking” relationship with Israeli military-technology company Elbit Systems Ltd., Chairman Nigel Higgins said at the bank’s annual meeting in May, which was repeatedly interrupted by pro-Palestine and climate related protests.

The bank’s branches have already been targeted. More than 15 Barclays sites in England and Scotland were covered in red paint and had windows smashed as part of a joint protest by Palestine Action and newly-formed climate change group called Shut The System. More protests are expected outside various Barclays sites in the coming days.

As well as several artists pulling out of festivals, more bands signed an open letter calling for events to cut ties to the bank.

Barclays said on Friday that its customers who hold tickets to these festivals aren’t affected and their tickets remain valid. 

The UK lender isn’t the only boycott target: the literature-focused Hay Festival last month suspended its sponsorship deal with investment firm Baillie Gifford. The firm has since pulled its sponsorship of all literary festivals.

Live Nation is one of the UK’s biggest music events firms. Download, a heavy metal festival taking place at Donington Park this weekend, was attended by as many as 130,000 people last year, its organizers have previously said. Latitude and the Isle of Wight attract tens of thousands of music and comedy fans.

Globally, Live Nation reaches even further, saying in its annual report it’s the second-biggest operator of music venues in the world and the producer of 146 festivals last year. Its sponsorship and advertising business generated $1.1 billion, or 5% of total revenue, during 2023. The firm has relationships with brands including Citibank, O2, American Express and Red Bull.

Cultural Support

Barclays has previously issued a statement on its defense funding, noting the bank doesn’t invest in Elbit but rather holds “shares in relation to client driven transactions.”

Its retreat is the most high-profile victory yet for the pro-Palestine campaigners, prompting some to question the viability of cultural events across the UK that often depend on corporate sponsors. Author Richard Osman said this week that the Baillie Gifford row would spell the end of book festivals.

Barclays offered a similar critique in its statement.

“The only thing that this small group of activists will achieve is to weaken essential support for cultural events enjoyed by millions,” Barclays said. “It is time that leaders across politics, business, academia and the arts stand united against this.”

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