The Shell Out! campaign was launched after it was announced that Shell would be sponsoring the Electricity exhibition at the Manchester Science Museum. Carbon Co-op joined the campaign as we had been involved with the Manchester Science Festival event for a number of years, organising a series of energy themed events to engage festival goers with energy transition issues and we were due to take part in the 2018 event.
We continue to be supportive of the museum as a cultural institution – we don’t want to endanger their long term sustainability or further erode confidence in the organisation. We campaigned privately and were one of a number of notable signatories to a private letter to try and influence this decision before we went public. We very much regret that a public campaign became necessary.
We feel there is a need to support educational and cultural institutions, in particular if we are to build the knowledge, expertise and societal support required to meet the challenges of climate change.
But there is naturally always a line in terms of which funders are considered to be ethically acceptable. For example, no one would consider taking money for an African cultural exhibition from a company associated with slave diamond mining or for a health exhibition from a tobacco company, so why is it acceptable to use money from a fossil fuel company about an exhibition on energy?
If we are to take our responsibility to tackling climate change seriously and to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need to appropriately fund cultural institutions to help communicate the associated science and cultural issues to the general public. Without this we’ll never be adequately prepared for the challenges ahead.
Our campaign aims to highlight the level of public resistance felt around big oil companies being given space to promote their brand within the arts and culture sector organisations. Museums and galleries have an important role to play in inspiring the next generation to find solutions to today’s energy challenges. Big oil has no role in that future and should not be treated as so. We believe that the Science Museum Group should listen to the call from the 58,000 that signed the Shell Out! public petition and change their policy to ensure that no fossil fuel companies are given sponsorship opportunities in any of their exhibitions.
Over the past six months the Shell Out! campaign has organised a series of actions to draw attention to our cause including a petition hand-in, encouraging other Science Festival partners to withdraw their support for the Shell sponsored event, a spoof Shell brand promoters action on the festivals launch night and targeted social media action. For a taste check out this video from the main action.
We’ve been overwhelmed by the public support this campaign with our online petition blowing up online and gaining a number of high profile supporters to put their name to the campaign. It has also received coverage in the Guardian, Independent and the Canary helping to build public awareness.
The exhibition will be moving on from Manchester Science and Industry Museum at the end of April 2019, so the campaign will be using next few more months to build up pressure for the campaign and demand a Science Group wide commitment for ending all future fossil fuel sponsorship. Shell Out! are also interested in encouraging other Greater Manchester arts and culture organisation to sign the Oil Free Sponsorship Commitment to gain a wider sectoral commitment to our cause.