Tropical Fuck Storm have announced their withdrawal from this year’s Sydney Festival lineup, citing organisers’ controversial decision to accept $20,000 in funding from the Israeli Embassy.
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After word of the funding was made public last month, the Artists Against Apartheid organisation called for punters and performers alike to support the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and demand that Sydney Festival divest from the funding partnership.
The Board of Sydney Festival shared a statement on the controversy earlier this week, saying that while it was “conscious” of the public outcry, it would not take any action. “All funding agreements for the current Festival – including for [the Sydney Dance Company’s production of Decadance, which received the Israeli Embassy’s funding] – will be honoured, and the performances will proceed”.
In a press release sent out today (January 6), Tropical Fuck Storm stated they’d been communicating with Sydney Festival’s organisers “about the possibility of them refunding and ending their partnership” with the Israeli Embassy (who they described as “2022’s star sponsor”).
“Rather than immediately announce online that we’d jump ship,” the band wrote, “we thought we’d actually try to do something in the real world for everyone involved and try to encourage Sydney Festival to do the right thing and fix the problem they created.”
The band went on to point out how Sydney Festival’s partnership with the Israeli Embassy “would inevitably mean that hundreds of unwitting artists (who are having a rough enough time with the pandemic as it is) would become the targets of online harassment, bullying, smear campaigns, ridiculous accusations, misrepresentations and abuse from total strangers who have no idea what’s actually going on behind the scenes, what any artist’s position is or even what they’re talking about.”
“At the time of posting,” they continued, “Sydney Festival has stated they have no intention to refund the money or sever the sponsorship relationship, even though the shit sandwich they’ve landed every billed artist in is blatantly obvious to them. Due to this complete lack of respect and integrity towards the artists billed from Sydney Festival and its partners, we have decided to cancel our two appearances.”
According to an Instagram page chronicling the artists and performers boycotting this year’s Sydney Festival, at least 30 other names have dropped out in solidarity with the BDS.
Hip-hop artist Barkaa was among the first to join the boycott in late December, noting that she “stand[s] with Palestine, always”. She was joined by the likes of experimental artist Marcus Whale, indie duo Good Morning, rapper Nooky, pop artist Hope D and funk/soul band Karate Boogaloo. “Boycotts and divestments have a strong track record of holding governments and corporations accountable for their actions,” the latter said in their own statement.