Darwin Festival Cops It Over ‘Gag Clause’ Preventing Artists From Criticising Big Oil Company Sponsor

Controversy is brewing over at the 2022 Darwin Festival, thanks to a clause that’s been worked into this year’s artist contracts.

According to The Guardian, the contracts contain a “gag clause” imposing heavy restrictions on what artists and event producers are allowed to say publicly about the involvement of big oil and gas company Santos as a corporate sponsor.

As outlined by the paper, all participating artists have been required to sign a legal guarantee that they will not “make statements or representations, or otherwise communicate, directly or indirectly, in writing, orally, or otherwise, or take any action which may, directly or indirectly, disparage the festival and/or its corporate sponsors or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates or their respective officers, directors, employees, advisers, businesses or reputations”.

Essentially, they can’t talk shit on Santos if they want to keep their spot on the festival.

It comes after 3,500 people signed a petition earlier this month calling on the fest to dump Santos as its sponsor, describing the company’s involvement as “artswashing”.

A recent meeting between First Nations reps, environmental advocates and the Darwin festival board also reportedly failed to resolve the issue. The festival board said the contracts were “standard”, while opponents reckon the so-called “gag clause” flies in the face of the festival’s principles of “free exchange of ideas, artistic expression and free speech”.

As for Santos, they’ve defended their involvement, arguing that they’ve supported the Darwin festival for more than 25 years and claiming to be “a corporate leader in climate action with a clear climate transition action plan and a target of net zero scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2040”.

We’ll bring you more on this story as it develops.

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