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Scowl, Speed and Zulu drop out of Download Festival over Barclays sponsorship

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Scowl, Speed and Zulu have become the latest bands to pull out of Download 2024 over its partnership with Barclays and the bank’s ties to Israel.

The news follows a similar move from Leeds hardcore band Pest Control who announced they would be pulling out earlier today (June 10), saying that they would not “take part in an event whose sponsor profits from facilitating a genocide.”

In a statement posted to their social media, Scowl wrote: “We will not be playing Download fest this year due to Barclays Bank sponsorship of the event and Barclays’ connection to Israel and the genocide Israel is committing in Palestine.

“Free Palestine!”

They directed fans to the Bands Boycott Barclays campaign for more information and thanked Pest Control “for bringing this to our attention”.

Meanwhile, Speed wrote on their social media accounts: “SPEED will no longer be playing Download Festival this Friday June 14 due to the recent news of Barclays Banks sponsorship of the event and their involvement in the war in Gaza.”

Zulu announced they would be dropping out shortly after. In their statement, they said: “We will not be playing Download Festival as we just got word about Barclays Bank and their sponsorship of the fest. Barclays Bank is involved with Israel and the genocide they are ACTIVELY committing against Palestine.

“It’s FREE PALESTINE y’all don’t get it twisted.”

Scowl previously dropped out of Welcome To Rockville and SXSW due to both festivals’ ties to the US Army and weapons companies amid the Israel-Gaza conflict. These included Gruff RhysKneecap, SprintsLambrini GirlsGelRachel ChinouririCardinals and NewDad.

SXSW responded to the cancellations in a statement: “We are an organisation that welcomes diverse viewpoints. Music is the soul of SXSW, and it has long been our legacy. We fully respect the decision these artists made to exercise their right to free speech.”

Explaining its sponsorship with the US Army, SXSW wrote: “The defence industry has historically been a proving ground for many of the systems we rely on today. These institutions are often leaders in emerging technologies, and we believe it’s better to understand how their approach will impact our lives.”

The news of Pest Control and Scowl pulling out of Download comes after many acts – including CMATPillow QueensMui Zyu and Georgia Ruth announced that they would be boycotting this year’s edition of Latitude over Barclays’ sponsorship.

The announcements also come after the major boycott of The Great Escape in Brighton last month, also due to its ties with Barclays. Over 100 acts dropped out of this year’s Great Escape Festival in solidarity with Palestine – constituting approximately a quarter of the full programme.

A Barclays spokesperson shared a statement that read: “We provide vital financial services to US, UK and European public companies that supply defence products to NATO and its allies. Barclays does not directly invest in these companies.​ The defence sector is fundamental to our national security and the UK government has been clear that supporting defence companies is compatible with ESG considerations. Decisions on the implementation of arms embargos to other nations are the job of respective elected governments.”

When previously approached about The Great Escape, a Barclays spokesperson pointed to their online Q&A ahead of their upcoming AGM and said that they would not be making further comment.

“Barclays has been the subject of criticism in relation to Gaza based on two arguments: that Barclays is an investor in these businesses, and that we provide a range of financial services to clients which produce equipment used by the Israeli Defence Force,” the Q&A read.

“We have been asked why we invest in nine defence companies supplying Israel, but this mistakes what we do. We trade in shares of listed companies in response to client instruction or demand and that may result in us holding shares. We are not making investments for Barclays and Barclays is not a ‘shareholder’ or ‘investor’ in that sense in relation to these companies.”

Barclays continued: “An associated claim is that we invest in Elbit, an Israeli defence manufacturer which also supplies the UK armed forces with equipment and training. For the reasons mentioned, it is not true that we have made a decision to invest in Elbit. We may hold shares in relation to client driven transactions, which is why we appear on the share register, but we are not investors. We note also that Elbit is highlighted because campaigners claim it makes cluster bombs. We would cease any relationship with any business where we saw evidence that it manufactures cluster bombs or components.

“As a bank, our job is to provide financial services to thousands of business clients and that includes those in the defence sector. Clients in this sector include US, UK or European companies which supply defence products to NATO and other allies including Ukraine.”

NME has reached out to Download for a comment.

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