Artists Force Arms Monopoly to
Withdraw from the "Great Exhibition of the North 2018"
April 7 2018
On March 7, musicians,
artists and the Arts Not Arms campaign forced the "Great Exhibition of
the North 2018" to end its partnership with weapons manufacturer BAE
The Exhibition, which will take place between June 22 to September 9
across Newcastle and Gateshead, was initiated by former Chancellor
George Osborne to showcase the achievements of the region dubbed the
"Northern Powerhouse". The organisers claim the Exhibition is expected
to reach an audience of three million people, including more than one
million visitors from across Britain and overseas, making it the
biggest event in England this year.
It is sponsored by £5 million from the government, but the onus is on
host councils to raise an equivalent sum from northern business and
organisations. The organisers had secured BAE Systems as a "premier
partner" alongside Virgin Trains, Accenture, Arts Council England,
Heritage Lottery Fund, VisitEngland, Innovate UK and other corporate
Arms monopoly BAE Systems is the largest manufacturer in the North of
England, employing 18,000 people. It is also the largest manufacturer
in Britain and third-largest weapons manufacturer in the world. Its
biggest operations are in Britain and the United States, where its BAE
Systems Inc. subsidiary is one of the six largest suppliers to the US
Department of Defence. It is involved in the production of fighter
aircraft, tanks, armoured vehicles, guns, munitions, bombs and other
weapons systems that were used in the invasion and occupation of
Afghanistan and Iraq. They were also used in the bombing of Libya in
2011 and are presently being used in the bombing of Iraq, Syria, Yemen
and in Anglo-US wars and interventions throughout the world. These wars
have resulted in a massive death toll and forced people to flee for
their lives as refugees in their millions as their countries have been
destroyed. It was reported that last year, the chairman of BAE Systems,
Sir Roger Carr, refused to confirm or deny whether the firm's staff in
Saudi Arabia are loading bombs and missiles onto fighter jets involved
in the bombardment of Yemen. The arms manufacturer has 6,200 staff in
Saudi Arabia and is part of the war machine that is bombing Yemen.
Nadine Shah, a singer-songwriter from Whitburn, South Tyneside, who was
due to perform in the cultural programme, withdrew from the event on
March 2. "I will no longer be playing the @getnorth2018 festival now
that I have discovered BAE Systems are a sponsor," she said in a Tweet.
"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." Other booked artists also started to withdraw, including the
Leeds-based Commoners Choir and ceramic artist Emily Hesse.
A petition launched by Arts Not Arms on March 1 had reached 2,232
signatures by the time BAE Systems was forced to withdraw from the
Exhibition a week later on March 7. The petition called on the CEO of
the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative to refuse BAE Systems' sponsorship.
The petition pointed out that: "BAE Systems is a 'premier partner' of
the Great Exhibition of the North though the charity War Child UK has
accused BAE of 'profiteering from the deaths of innocent children'.
British arms companies including BAE have made more than £6 billion
from sales to Saudi Arabia during the ongoing war in Yemen.
International humanitarian law prohibits attacks against civilians, yet
the British-armed Saudi-led coalition has bombed schools, markets,
hospitals, and health centres. The conflict has killed or injured more
than 5,000 children, while survivors face malnutrition and disease with
the collapse of infrastructure. UNICEF warns that 'nearly every child
in Yemen' is in need of humanitarian assistance. The Great Exhibition
of the North claims to offer 'family-friendly fun'. This is totally at
odds with association with BAE systems."
In a report in the Newcastle Chronicle, Nadine Shah thanked everyone
who has shown their support and solidarity and added: "I'm so happy we
can once again be a part of this festival and look forward to
performing for you all." She explained that her last album had been
focused mainly on the refugee crisis in the Middle East. "I was
thinking about Syria at the time," she said. "The context has changed
but unfortunately every year there's a new disaster, a new civil war
and people having to leave their country because of conflict. So for me
to have to step on a stage and have an association with a company which
has direct links to the suffering in Yemen right now would seem so
hypocritical and wrong on my part." Art Not Arms also welcomed the
withdrawal, but expressed concern at how BAE Systems came to be a
"premier partner" and "will be concerned in the future as arms
companies attempt to sponsor education and other arts events."
This stand of the artists is just and shows how hard it is in Britain
for the ruling elite to justify their crimes against peace. It
represents the striving of the people for peace against attempts by the
arms monopolies to militarise cultural events with the aim of
furthering Britain's wars abroad and war production at home. The
concern of the artists is the concern of all. However, the working
class needs to take up its leading role in this fight based on its own
internationalism to fight for a future without war. It is not in the
interests of the working class that the economy is based on
militarisation and left in the hands of these war industries and
warmongering governments. The necessity is for the workers to fight to
empower themselves to give an anti-war direction to government, the
economy, culture and education.
 Digital Music News,