Why Team Seagull have joined The Great Escape boycott

Amber Cronin explains why Team Seagull will not be covering The Great Escape this year.

Why Team Seagull have joined The Great Escape boycott
Source: Natasa Leoni

Dear Team TGE,

In solidarity with the ongoing boycott of Barclays due to its position on the BDS list, The Brighton Seagull will not be covering The Great Escape this year. This doesn’t reflect our feelings about the festival, and should its sponsorship change, we will be among the first to take up our press passes again.

Members of Team Seagull have attended and covered the festival for the last seven years; we have discovered upcoming talent that we continue to love, we have made industry connections that have been vital to the success of our publication, and The Great Escape festival remains one of the highlights of Team Seagull's calendar—to the extent that we have turned down other opportunities in order to ensure our coverage of the festival was as complete as possible.

The Seagull is a publication that prides itself on supporting marginalised identities; especially those who find themselves persecuted by mainstream media outlets. We cannot be a publication that encourages people to educate themselves to be more civically engaged if we ourselves do not uphold these values. To cover The Great Escape amid a political boycott would break the trust we work so hard to cultivate amongst our readership—and violate our code of ethics.

This statement will be published on our website on Monday 13th May, and we invite a response from The Great Escape, which we will publish alongside it.

Team Seagull

The Brighton Seagull has joined the boycott of The Great Escape, and will not be covering the festival this year. The above email, sent to the press team at the festival on Thursday 9th May, outlines the reasoning from Team Seagull as to why we have chosen to do so.

The festival is sponsored by Barclays Bank, who are a divestment target of the BDS Movement (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions)—a Palestinian-led nonprofit organisation and political movement that aims to put pressure on the Israeli state to end its oppression of Palestinians. BDS claims that Barclays "holds more than £1 billion in shares of, and provides more than £3bn in loans and underwriting" to defence companies whose technology is used by the Israeli Defence Force. Barclays is just one of the companies that has made its way onto the BDS list, but it also finds itself amidst wider boycott calls—including from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who have published a report on Barclays' investments that uncovers the scope of the bank's involvement in funding defence firms - and those firms' links to Israel.

This makes the bank, and everything it sponsors, a target for boycotts. As reported in our Weekly Briefing on the 26th April, Trans Liberation Front Brighton (TLF) and Brighton Queers for Palestine (BQP) began boycott calls against the festival due to the sponsorship. Barclays are targeting festivalgoers as part of their Barclaycard perks programme, which this year gives discounts to cardholders and early access to ticket sales. The bank's sponsorship of the festival has led to multiple artists pulling out; half of the signed artists for the festival have signed an open letter calling for Barclays to be dropped as a sponsor, with many refusing to play their sets. TLF and BQP have said that Barclays "should have no place at a music festival".

The boycott of The Great Escape is just one of the movements in solidarity with Palestinians taking place in the city. In March, a peace camp was set up on Lewes Road, on the route to the L3Harris factory in Moulsecoomb. L3Harris, a defence contractor, builds bomb-release mechanisms used in Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning fighter jets—used by the Israeli Air Force. Protestors have also blocked the road leading to the factory. Brighton and Hove City Council declared the peace camp an "unauthorised encampment" and have said it will be removed. L3Harris intends to apply for planning permission for its temporary building extension, which was constructed in 2018, to make the extension permanent. However, in what protestors are hailing as a win—Paxton Access, L3Harris' landlord, has confirmed that it will not be renewing L3Harris lease when it ends in 2027.

Make Music Matter are running an alternative to The Great Escape called The Great Boycott, which they describe as "3 days of band rebellion", taking place at the Gladstone pub and Brighton Electric Studios on Lewes Road. The events will feature guest speakers giving talks on boycotts along with music from independent artists.

Thus far, the festival has not responded to requests for comment.