An altered poster in a bus stop shows a mermaid surrounded by the words "Isle of Wight don't let your festival cost the Earth"

An artful protest on festival fossil fuel funding on the Isle of Wight (guest blog)

Thanks to Julie Hutchison for this guest blog on how she took action to call out a major funder of the Isle of Wight Festival using art to reclaim public spaces on the island.

The Isle of Wight is where I live, home of the Isle of Wight Festival, a fat, now commercialised bastion of middle-of-the-road music. In 2019, Barclaycard became official payment sponsors of the Isle of Wight Festival. I did not like this. Barclays are the worst funders of fossil fuel companies in Europe since 2016.

I first did something about it in 2021. With the help of my friend, I made a cardboard Fender Stratocaster (based on Jimi Hendrix’s guitar) and hid a water balloon filled with molasses in the back. Donning my pink wig, DMs and fishnets, I walked up to Barclays during the Festival weekend, with Hendrix blasting, and smashed the guitar against the bank wall. The fake oil splattered against the white wall. I gave a short speech and went home. The Festival never responded. 

I carried on. 

Last year I hand-embroidered some brooches in the hope that a particular band would wear them as a silent protest against Barclays sponsorship on stage at the festival. The brooches were based on the classic Rolling Stones ‘Hot Lips’ rock icon that was in itself based on the goddess Kali, but then hyper-sexualised. I personally feel that what Barclays are doing is a horror story, and, knowing the power of the silent protest brooch, hand-embroidered Shelley Duvall’s screaming mouth from The Shining as seen when Johnny’s destroying the door with an axe. 

The band didn’t want to know, didn’t respond. 

I carried on.

So this year, I thought I need to make more noise, ramp it up to an 11 á la Spinal Tap.

Reaching out to The Subversive Stitcher we formed a group of 5 embroiderers, calling  ourselves The Rainy Day Women (a nod to the Bob Dylan track). It was Bob Dylan who put the IW Festival on the global map in 1969, Rainy Day Women was the last track he played. Great tune.

The psychedelic Rock poster movement of the 1960s San Fransisco dances is something I have long been inspired by. Isle of Wight Festival posters used to have great artwork, of recent years it’s gone downhill. It seemed logical to me to put the sponsorship, posters and embroidery into one big thing. And it seemed even more logical to have our artwork displayed all over the Island, since people come down for the Festival and stay all over the place. There is barely any public art on the Island. I’d much rather see artwork whilst waiting for a bus than an advert for an estate agents, or a pretty job advert to go and work at Parkhurst Prison. That’s what we’re used to seeing. 

We each hand-embroidered Isle of Wight Festival posters with the tag line ‘Stitched up by Barclays’. The Isle of Wight Festival has put out press releases saying they’re sustainable, but our point is that they will never be sustainable whilst their sponsors are conducting business with fossil fuel companies. We got the embroideries photographed and printed, the giant posters were put into every single bus stop poster on the Isle of Wight on Friday 16th June. Because the photos had been enlarged, the weave of the fabric was very apparent so it was clear they were embroideries. 

Were the bus stop posters enough? Hell No. They were also printed onto fabric and we did a banner drop over one of the main walking routes into the Festival. We also gave out leaflets and had many of conversations.

It has started conversations. People aren’t happy with banks who fund the extraction of fossil fuels. People want banks to be more ethical, and are now more likely to to switch banks which makes sense – when your business is going to an ethical bank, they in turn are able to do more ethical things. The climate crisis is all about money, banks have had more than enough time to change their lethal practices they just choose not to. It’s up to We the People to force changes we want. 

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