Charlotte Church pulls out of Israel-linked Hay Festival amid wider boycott over Gaza war

Charlotte Church pulls out of Israel-linked Hay Festival amid wider boycott over Gaza war
The campaign by Fossil Free Books to boycott the Hay Festival has gathered at least 700 signatures from writers and members of the publishing industry.
3 min read
24 May, 2024
Charlotte Church has been known for previous support for the Palestinian cause [Getty]

Welsh singer Charlotte Church has announced on Thursday that she is pulling out of he Hay Festival, joining several other speakers who have already withdrawn from the event over the festival's ties to an Israel-linked investment firm. 

In a statement released on Thursday, Church said her decision was "in solidarity with the people of Palestine and in protest of the artwashing and greenwashing that is apparent in this sponsorship".

Church's withdrawal from the event comes as Fossil Free Books (FFB) launched a campaign to boycott the Hay Festival due to its sponsorship by Edinburgh-based investment firm Baillie Gifford, which continues to invest in Israeli-linked companies amid Israel's devastating war on Gaza. 

Alongside FFB's campaign to boycott the festival over association to Israel-linked investments, the campaign also highlights Baillie Gifford for its fossil fuel investments.

The Hay Festival's platforming of environmentalist authors and activists whilst taking fossil fuel industry-linked money was labelled as "rank hypocrisy" by Church.

The campaign has garnered over 700 signatures, including from Naomi Klein, Grace Blakeley and George Monbiot, along with comedian Nish Kumar who also announced his withdrawal from the event on Thursday. 

Kumar said on X that he was pulling out of the festival and joining the campaign by FFB, saying: "Love the festival and the people that work in it, but this was the right decision for me."

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"This is not a game of checks and balances. Your art festival is not more important than the lives of Palestinian children and the future of healthy ecosystems on earth," Church said.

"If the art world continues to take this dirty money, we all become complicit," she added. 

In a statement, CEO of Hay Festival Global Julie Finch said that there is financial insecurity in the arts and that in all sponsorship agreements the festival maintains financial independence.

She added that following the accusations against Baillie Gifford, the festival has requested information from the firm and is continuing its work to safeguard the event to ensure the free exchange of ideas.

Baillie Gifford said that it was misleading to claim the firm is investing in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Baillie Gifford has previously told The New Arab that its investments in tech include Nvidia, Meta and Amazon, companies whose services most consumers use and most investors invest in.

It added that it has engaged with Airbnb, and Cemex, where it has smaller investments, since the outbreak of the conflict and that it has made progress with the companies on the issue.

The campaign comes amid a number of campaign actions in the arts, including the boycotting of London's Phoenix Cinema, which lost Ken Loach and Mike Leigh as patrons over its screening of 'Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre' as part of the Israeli state-sponsored Seret Film Festival on Thursday.

Loach told The Guardian, "My resignation as a patron of the Phoenix shows what I think of their decision. It is simply unacceptable."

In addition to Ken Loach and Mike Leigh's resignations, the cinema garnered a wave of criticism from staff members and pro-Palestinian solidarity groups due to the festival's links to the Israeli Culture Ministry and Israeli Embassy.

Overnight on Wednesday, the cinema had been covered in red graffiti reading "say no to artwashing".

In a statement issued to The Guardian, the Phoenix board of trustees said following a meeting on the issue, "the board's conclusion is that for all private hires, including this one, the Phoenix should not aim to censor or veto the content of screenings, provided they are legal and, in this instance, unless we are advised by the police that it would be unsafe to proceed".