Benjamin Law resigns from Sydney Festival board amid Israeli sponsorship review

He took to social media on Saturday, saying his resignation was his act alone and that he regretted the position artists were put in.

“Although I cannot speak for the board or the festival, I am personally sorry to the artists and arts workers at the Sydney festival for putting you in a position where you may have had to choose between your work and your values, or engage in conversations for that you may not have felt prepared,” Law said in a lengthy statement.

“Many of you were faced with a lose-lose proposition. On the one hand: take action and be criticized for apparently siding with a foreign government whose money you never touched. On the other: retiring and losing a vital job in a period that has been devastating for you and the entire art community.”

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Image to read more article 'Artists have been boycotting this month's Sydney Festival.  This is why

Artist Khaled Sabsabi, dance ensemble Bindi Bosses, rapper Barkaa, comedians Nazeem Hussain and Tom Ballard, journalist Amy McQuire and author Yumi Stynes ​​are among those who have cut ties with the festival in recent weeks. .

Law said he had mediated meetings between the festival board and protesters and hoped those meetings would continue.

“In all of this, I have done my best to serve the festival, champion the artists, and help facilitate difficult but necessary conversations,” she wrote.

“However, this has come at a personal cost. I recognize that I am one of many. The artists involved in the Sydney Festival, all of whom have seen work and income wiped out by COVID-19, were understandably frustrated at why they were put in a situation they did not create. As an artist who has done work for the Sydney Festival, I feel that frustration.”

In a statement released by the festival on Friday, board chairman David Kirk said “the festival has faced unprecedented challenges this year.”

“This has put significantly more pressure on all board members, staff and most importantly the artists.”

He said the festival would conduct a review of how artists came to be in a position where they felt engaged.

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Image to read more article 'The Israeli-Palestinian conflict explained'

“They feel compromised, a lot of them, and a lot of them are being pressured to withdraw their performances from the festival,” Kirk told ABC on Thursday.

“And we’re so sorry. That’s something we never wanted to do and never want to happen again.”

Law said the Sydney Festival board will commission an independent review of the festival’s funding and existing practices.

“This will resume immediately after the completion of the 2022 Sydney Festival. Findings and recommendations will be ready in a few months,” he tweeted.

“Artists – your experiences will be at the heart of this review. You will hear more about the festival in due course. Like you, I look forward to your findings.”

On Friday, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance released a statement saying they had been contacted by several of its members who worked at the festival “who have chosen to express their solidarity with the boycott movement by reducing shifts or, when this is not possible, wear badges or other items that express your personal opinion”.

“Arts workers often express their support and solidarity with causes that align with their values. MEAA supports the right of our members to express their personal views in this way in the course of their employment. This is part of the rich mix of expression and exchange in a vibrant creative community.

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