London Indymedia

A Week Of Resistance to BP And Big Oil

information | 16.06.2004 06:44 | Ecology | Free Spaces | Globalisation | London

A week long Exhibition of Resistance to BP and Big Oil, and the corporate hijacking of the arts is now under way on in London. A space has been squatted specially for the event [Photos]. The address is 50 Chalk Farm Road, Camden.

Update Tuesday 22nd: Another protest was called on Monday night during the BP sponsored awards ceremony at the Portrait Gallery. As protestors were gathering at around 7pm, four London Rising Tide activists chained themselves across the front door effectively shutting down the National Portrait Gallery. It was also announced that the alternative exhibition has been extended for a week, and it is now likely to be open until Saturday 26th June in the squatted gallery.

On Wednesday 16th climate change activists and artists held a 'Greenwash or US' Street Party outside BP HQ, many carrying artworks revealing a true portrait of an oil company. The street party then marched to the private view of the BP sponsored National Portrait Gallery Awards. When protesters tried to move towards the entrance of the National Gallery, police rapidly moved in and pushed people back. In the resulting scuffles one person got arrested for "not moving" [video of the arrest] The party then continued for several hours without any more incidents, and later in the evening it was followed by the opening of the art exhibition at the squatted venue [Report | Photos of street party].

Over the weekend, there will be daily workshops and events in the exhibition space as well as on the streets. These will include speakers from West Papua and Colombia, a Jam Night, film night, and lots of other fun stuff such as painting, subvertising, guerilla cinema, radio, food and discussion. See Programme of Events.

London Rising Tide | Burning Planet

'Exhibition of Resistance to Big Oil and the Corporate Hijacking of 'the Arts': street protest & gallery report, Wednesday June 16th 2004

London Rising Tide and friends were on hand on Wednesday night to greet visitors to a (very) private view of finalists of the BP-sponsored National Portrait Award. Earlier they had made their way from BP HQ in St. James' Square, many carrying artworks revealing a true portrait of an oil company. There most set up across the street (after one arrest outside the gallery and strong police orders to cross over), leafleted passers-by and checked out the live sounds of David Rovics and the Rub through the renewably-powered bike sound system and enjoyed the early evening smog.

As the great, the good and the occasionally struggling queued to pass security and pass into the hallowed National Portrait Gallery portals to hang with the exhibits and quaff fine wines, they were assailed by an intimidating array of NPG guestlist handlers, NPG security, BP security, sub-contracted-to-BP-security and sub-contracted-to-BP Met Police. Dodging between all that lot handing out thought-provoking, non-judgemental (to poor artists) leaflets were various art-not-oil folk. One joker in pinstrip suit, polka dot tie, end-of-the-world explosive red shirt, BP baseball cap and face painted to reflect the 2 faces of BP (ie. greenwashed vs. actual) was wearing a picture frame around his face, handing out leaflets, entertaining and/or infuriating the authorities and having his picture taken by bemused Singaporean and Californian tourists. He invited these last to take his picture with the conveniently on-hand police photographer, who grinned thinly and bore the imposition while sadly refusing to trade his 'police photographer' cap with the joker's own prized BP cap.

At least three potential private view schmoozers were so impressed by the anti-BP arguments that they refused to cross the climate chaos picket line and spent the evening instead at the newly squatted and fitted with oily-and-other-art gallery at 50 Chalk Farm Road, NW1. Others visited afterwards. This space was filled with art-with-attitude, activist types as well as passing punters answering the call of 'come get your free culture' from a 5 year old lad sitting on the shoulders of a 6 foot friend. Others were intrigued by the bright yellow 'oil fuels war' banner set up outside, (opposite a Safeway petrol station as it is, with Texaco up the road (where sympathetic Sri Lankans work) and Esso just a few yards in the opposite direction.

Speaking of local support, it's been excellent, with the Turkish kebab shop telling us more about their country after we mentioned the plight of Ferhat Kaya, a campaigner arrested and tortured there for mobilising opposition to BP's Baku-Ceyhan pipeline ( We've also had free food and leaflets displayed in local caffs and local youth dropping in and contributing drawings on the walls between the images already stuck there. Another local guy wants passionately to put all the stuff online for all to see. We have an original work by Peter Kennard, whose work was banned by Orange at Christmas last year, with a Banksy piece on the way. And the FT plugged a beautiful portrait of BP-boss Lord Browne revealing his darker side to the world, which is hanging on the ground floor.

The Wednesday night 'this is not a private view' started at our space after festivities outside the NPG drew to a close and it was time to chill out and celebrate our own alternative visions not just rail at the sterile landscape BP has in store for us. The party went on loud and late with artworks being created, impassioned debates firing up, mad cackling laughter and the occasional glass of ale.

And there's another week left to come and check things out so you can tell your grandchildren you were there...

Upcoming events in the space include:
17th: affected communities night, (inc. Colombia, West Papua, Scotland & Nigeria).
18th, 7pm: carbon web workshop followed by live music night for players of all musicalities to join
21st: NPA winner announced - expect surprises



Hide the following 7 comments

Its all good!

16.06.2004 12:39

I love this idea- its diversity - the environmental and humanitarian issues it is trying to highlight and the inclusive, open and active way it is being put together.Can't wait to finally see the space (and learn about other outdoor projects) get creative and involved.


We are all oil companies

16.06.2004 12:46

Sounds like an interesting exhibition just wanted to say though that we are all 'oil companies' and have to take responsibility for our own individual consumption and dependance on oil -if there was no demand there would be no supply - change has to come from the bottom up as well as the top down!


Supply and demand

18.06.2004 15:58

I think it a totally reasonably, and infact essential, to demand that people take responsibility for their own role in the consequences of the oil industry. However, it is not true to say that if there was no demand there would be no supply. Such elementary school economic theory does not fit into the real world of capitalism, and certainly doesn't fit the history of the oil industry.

Oil exploitation is a classic example of a situation in which a market had to be created to provide a market for the supply. The early decades of the oil industry in the USA was marked by massive oversupply and plumeting prices. There were a number of occasions during which oil prices dropped so much that people thought it made better economic sense to dump it in rivers rather than spend money on containers. Markets had to be made, and new products that required oil in various forms were developed to fit the availability of the oil that was being extracted in every greater quanity. The oil industry was characterised by greed, waste and short sighted thinking that was only bought under some control as Standard Oil formed it's incredible monopoly and all elements of production and distribution.

Capitalism thrives on creating demands for stuff where none has previously existed and as long as there is the profit motive involved, almost anything which can be exploited will be marketed and sold regardless of needs, wants or demands.

Demands are desires and are easy to create and manipulate. There will be no end of oil production as long as there remains oil in the ground which can be extracted.


Why do even leftie/progressive activists PROTECT Big Oil?

20.06.2004 00:26

Yes...just about everyone is very nice to Big Oil in one very enormous way. Big Oil is graciously allowed to evade prosecution, liabilities and even questioning or criticism about its many tobacco pesticide residues in typical (VERY non-organic) cigarettes.
Of COURSE smokers (of typical cigs) are dropping like flies...their tobacco is contaminated with some of the most deadly industral things on earth, most notably chlorine, source of DIOXIN...the worst of the worst Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) recently condemned and slated for global phase-out as per the Stockholm Convention.

Why is it still allowed in cigarette smoke...w/out a WORD of warning to anyone? It would be a PR and economic disaster for poor Big Oil...and Big Pharma, another supplier of tobacco pesticides.

This is grim light of the fact that most so-called "smoking related" diseases CANNOT be caused by any natural plant, even "evil" tobacco. BUT..they are already well known to be effects of dioxin exposure. Case closed? Case not even opened.

If Big Oil can be rightly linked to what even the Gov't says is the "worst health problem", well....that would put big oil against the ropes.

We are talking (or SHOULD be...) about Shell and Exxon and the ilk...not about a socially unacceptable natural plant.
Check this for starters:


Well I don't smoke...

21.06.2004 09:23

and I make my own fuel from used vegetable oil from the local kebab van!

I don't create a demand for either of these products :o)

Don't try and change the world. Change yourself and the world will follow.


John Kerry - focussed on reducing America's dependance on oil

21.06.2004 10:21

I hate politics but one thing that might make the world a better place is John Kerry's desire to reduce America's dependance on oil.

The US is responsible for 1/2 half od all world oil export consumption, the next country is Japan at 5%. The sooner that US fat cats stop using all of the worlds energy the better!!

The bastards must be frying their burgers in it.

Kent Thomas
mail e-mail:

More photos!!!

21.06.2004 14:32






More fun photos from the friendly space in chalk farm



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