Artists Are Pulling Out of the Great Exhibition of the North Over a Weapons Dealer's Sponsorship

The Great Exhibition the North is getting slammed by artists.

The Great Exhibition the North is one the most anticipated events in North England.  The two-month exhibition traverses art, culture, and design.  Billed as the biggest event in the country, the Exhibition aims to attract three million people in Newcastle-Gateshead this summer.

Unfortunately, there is trouble brewing ahead.  Arms manufacturer BAE Systems is one the three biggest sponsors the event, and that’s ruffling some feathers.  The massive arms and military equipment company has been accused “priteering from the deaths innocent children.”

It also happens to be one the largest employers in the region.  And accordingly, a big supporter an event in its home turf.

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Gary Verity, Chair the Great Exhibition the North, spoke about the partnership last month.  He said he was “thrilled” about the agreement and described BAE Systems as a “perfect fit” for the Exhibition.  BAE Systems further explained that it has more than 18,000 employees based in the region.  The company also said it was “very proud” to be part the Exhibition.

BAE Systems is one three Premier Partners for the exhibition, together with Virgin Trains East Coast and management consultancy Accenture.

Not everyone is happy with the partnership, however.  A few musicians and other artists have already pulled out playing at the event. That includes the Leeds-based Commoners Choir and musician Nadine Shah.

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Ceramic artist Emily Hesse is also jumping ship.  “There is no way I would have been involved had I known about the sponsorship. I imagine many artists are struggling with this,” Hesse told The Art Newspaper.

More are certain to follow.

That has started a snowball effect.  Now, there’s a petition launched to refuse BAE Systems’ sponsorship the Great Exhibition the North.

The petition calls on Sarah Stewart, CEO the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, to refuse BAE systems sponsorship.  “British arms companies including BAE have made more than £6bn from sales to Saudi Arabia during the ongoing war in Yemen,” the petition reads.  “The international humanitarian law prohibits attacks against civilians, yet the British armed Saudi-led coalition has bombed schools, markets, hospitals, and health centers.”

“The conflict has killed or injured more than 5,000 children, while survivors face malnutrition and disease with the collapse infrastructure. Unicef warns that ‘nearly every child in Yemen’ is in need humanitarian assistance.  The Great Exhibition the North claims to fer ‘family-friendly fun’.

“This is totally at odds with its association with BAE Systems.”


More as this develops.