Press releases

PRESS RELEASE: THURSDAY 08.09.21


Young people demand placard is removed from Shell-sponsored Science Museum exhibition


  • Owner of a placard from the London youth strikes currently displayed in the Science Museum has formally requested it be removed

  • Young people who donated placards were not informed they would be in an exhibition sponsored by fossil fuel giant Shell

  • Museum accused of hypocrisy over celebrating youth climate action in its display then calling the police on the same young activists when they protested at the museum

  • Museum asked to guarantee it will never again display youth strike placards in a fossil-fuel-sponsored space


For more information and quotes, contact: UKSCN London ukscn.london@protonmail.com or Culture Unstained info@cultureunstained.org


Young climate campaigners from UKSCN London have today written to the Science Museum formally requesting that one of the placards it has on display be removed. The ‘Keep it cool’ placard, created by 20-year-old Bella May for the London youth climate strikes in 2019, was put in the ‘Our Future Planet’ exhibition without Bella being informed that the exhibition was going to be sponsored by Shell. Given one of the targets of the youth strike protests was the exploitation and destruction caused by fossil fuel companies, Bella now wants her placard removed. She plans to go to the museum to collect it later this month and donate it to the Climate Museum UK instead. UKSCN London’s letter also asks for ‘a formal commitment from the Science Museum that none of these placards will ever be displayed in a fossil fuel sponsored space again.’


Bella says:


‘I was at the protest in Parliament Square with a placard that me and my friend Sophie Godbold had painted together. One of the ladies from the Science Museum approached us, and we said ‘Of course our poster can go to the Science Museum!’ She presented it as a really cool thing, that it’s going to be in an exhibition and the national archives, and I was really excited. So I handed it over and she gave me some papers to sign, but I wasn’t aware the exhibition was going to be sponsored by Shell. I was really shocked when I found out from UKSCN London. I feel let down because I thought I was being involved in something beneficial for people who were going to come to the exhibition. I’m disappointed that an institution such as the Science Museum would lie like that to the public, and I’d like the museum to come clean about how they’re actually part of the problem. Both Sophie and I would like our placard out of there as soon as possible.’


Since Shell was announced as the sponsor of the Science Museum’s ‘Our Future Planet’ exhibition on climate solutions in April, a major backlash has unfolded with scientists, exhibition contributors, Greta Thunberg and the wider public speaking out through protests, petitions and a youth-led boycott of the exhibition. Last month it was revealed by Channel 4 News, based on an investigation by Culture Unstained, that the museum had signed a ‘gagging clause’ with Shell committing not to “damage the goodwill or reputation” of Shell, despite major controversy surrounding sponsor’s climate impacts. Museum Director Ian Blatchford was also revealed as having courted a group of 12 major oil giants to sponsor the exhibition.


UKSCN London, who co-organised the massive London youth climate strikes in 2019, were shocked to discover that the museum had included placards within the Shell-sponsored exhibition from the strikes without the strike organisers’ knowledge or consent. They initially launched an open letter from the group to the Science Museum demanding that it drops Shell sponsorship, which was signed by 200 young activists, scientists, organisations and frontline groups, and then launched a boycott of the exhibition, which has logged nearly 6000 boycott pledges. In June, the museum shut down an overnight protest and 24-hour livestream broadcast led by the group. Thirty police officers entered the museum and proceeded to threaten the group of teenage activists and scientists with arrest, despite other museums such as Tate Modern and the British Museum facilitating larger overnight protests against oil sponsorship.


Izzy Warren (17) from UKSCN London, said:


‘There is no justification for the Science Museum taking a movement that was built by the energy, time and effort of young people fighting for our future and fighting against fossil fuel companies and using it to greenwash and legitimise Shell. It’s hypocritical, because they’re holding up these placards from the youth climate protests as an inspirational thing, but when the same young people come and protest at their museum they call the police to have us removed. When Ian Blatchford makes these statements saying he welcomes collaboration with oil companies in the midst of a climate crisis, there’s a disconnect between him and reality. Anything else that the museum says about wanting to become carbon neutral by 2033 or educating the public on climate is redundant and irrelevant as long as they’re still providing fossil fuel companies with a social license to operate.’

Both UKSCN London and Scientists for XR held protests during the opening week of the exhibition, with the scientists locking themselves to the Shell-sponsored exhibit for several hours. A petition started by the group BP or not BP? calling for the sponsorship to be dropped was signed by over 57,000 people. Over the August Bank Holiday weekend Extinction Rebellion held a 70-strong overnight occupation of the museum.


Shell is facing intense scrutiny over its current business plans, which allow it to continue exploring for and extracting oil and gas when the International Energy Agency - and the climate science - says that to hit the Paris target of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C there can be no new investment in oil and gas exploration. Instead, Shell is relying on tree planting and unproven future technology such as carbon capture and storage as a ‘get out of jail free’ card to keep polluting. In the last few months it has faced a significant shareholder rebellion over the weakness of its climate plans, a landmark ruling from a Dutch Court that the firm must curb its emissions by 45% by 2030 to be in line with Paris targets - which Shell is appealing against, and criticism over its 30% stake in the new Cambo oil and gas field off the coast of Shetland, which the UK government is controversially considering approving in the run-up to the COP26 Climate Summit.


Full text of the letter is here.

UPDATE: Over 30 police officers force school strikers and scientists out of Science Museum in response to Shell sponsorship protest


This evening around 20 peaceful protesters - including a dozen youth climate strikers, the youngest of whom was 15 - were intimidated and threatened with arrest by over 30 police officers during a protest calling on the Museum to drop Shell sponsorship of their climate exhibition.


In a shocking and disproportionate use of power, the Science Museum made the decision to call in an excessive number of police who marched into the museum’s iconic main hall to remove the group of mostly young climate strikers and scientists.


Izzy Warren, a member of UKSCN London said:


“The Science Museum had no hesitation in kicking us, a group of young, peaceful climate strikers and scientists out with excessive numbers of police. But when people call on them to kick out a major climate criminal, they stand by them and do nothing.”


Initially the Science Museum’s security had been willing to facilitate the peaceful protest. However, at around 8.15pm they were informed that the museum had sufficient police resources to remove them and within 10 minutes the protesters were surrounded by over 30 police officers and told they would have “no hesitation in arresting [them]”. Following this, the young protesters decided to peacefully exit the Museum, singing together “whose side are you on?”, a song popularised by the Sunrise Movement.


The protesters, from UK Student Climate Network’s London group, have called a protest outside the museum at 1pm on Sunday 20th June in response.


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Photos from the action and police eviction here

UKSCN Press Release on Science Museum occupation



Science Museum occupied overnight by young people and scientists protesting Shell sponsorship


  • Youth strike organisers UKSCN London and Scientists for Extinction Rebellion vow to stay 24 hours in Science Museum in protest at Shell sponsorship

  • 24-hour livestream features speakers from around the world

  • Protest marks significant escalation in opposition to oil giant’s sponsorship of museum’s flagship climate exhibition


For more information, or to interview a young person or scientist currently occupying the museum, call 07858913920 or email media.ukscnlondon@gmail.com. To watch the livestream, go to https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQdMw1hYavXW1jpJ44OLKlA and follow @ukscn_london on Twitter for latest updates. Photos are being uploaded here: https://350org.widencollective.com/c/vhkhkbg3


More than 20 young people and scientists from UKSCN London and Scientists for Extinction Rebellion have announced they plan to occupy the Science Museum overnight, in protest at oil firm Shell’s sponsorship of its climate exhibition ‘Our Future Planet’. They have been protesting in the museum since 1pm when they set up in front of the Shell-sponsored exhibition and began a 24-hour livestream which will feature nearly 40 speakers. At 5.30pm the group moved into the iconic main hall of the museum, unfurled two massive banners with the words “Drop Shell Sponsorship” and “Stop Taking Oil Money” from a balcony above and informed museum security that they would stay throughout the night.


The young people and scientists have joined forces to “reclaim” the Science Museum from Shell sponsorship. The 24-hour livestream - a direct response to the museum’s own series of ‘climate talks’ - is instead featuring a diverse array of speakers including frontline activists from around the world, international climate campaigners and scientists, as well as contributors to the exhibition who are unhappy that they were not informed about Shell’s involvement. The full lineup can be found here. Over the course of the overnight occupation, the group will make and display new placards that protest the inclusion of placards within the Shell-sponsored exhibition from the London youth strikes in March 2019 that were put on display without the strike organisers’ knowledge or consent.


The group have smuggled sleeping bags, supplies and even a composting toilet into the museum, where they are now setting up camp. They’ve issued a call for people to join them in protest at the museum at 1pm tomorrow when they will process from the museum as their occupation ends.


Izzy Warren, a 17 year old member of UKSCN London said:


“We’ve tried to engage with the museum through letters, petitions and boycotts and they’ve repeatedly ignored us, choosing instead to continue to justify Shell’s involvement, even in light of a damning Dutch court ruling regarding Shell’s commitment to decarbonisation which said the oil company must slash their emissions if they are to be aligned with the Paris Agreement. This occupation is our way of saying that we won’t stand by and let the Science Museum greenwash Shell’s reputation.”


Abi Perrin, a microbiologist and member of XR Scientists, said:


“The Science Museum is doing important work in communicating the climate and ecological crises, but this is undermined by its partnership with Shell, a company whose activities have already had a devastating impact on our climate, ecosystems and communities. Rather than cleaning up their mess, Shell continue to pour the vast majority of their extensive resources into fossil fuels, which the science is clear will have disastrous consequences.”


Willow Coningham, 16, who has been hosting the livestream and did work experience in the museum during year 10, said:


“I adore the Science Museum - ever since I was a child I have seen it as a beacon of learning and inspiration, and through volunteering there I have seen the positive impact it has on so many children. To me, the Science Museum has always represented the future in cutting-edge innovation and invention, yet in accepting Shell sponsorship they betray that vision and betray the very children they exist to inspire and educate.”


The protesters are targeting Shell’s sponsorship of the Science Museum’s new exhibition on climate change and carbon capture, ‘Our Future Planet’, which they believe is giving the company the opportunity to present itself as embracing climate solutions, when in reality it plans to continue extracting oil and gas way beyond safe climate limits. The International Energy Agency recently said that no investment in new oil and gas is possible if global heating is to stay below 1.5C, the goal set out in the Paris Climate Agreement.


The action follows an open letter from UKSCN London to the Science Museum demanding that it drops Shell sponsorship, which was signed by 200 young activists, scientists, organisations and frontline groups and the launch of a boycott of the exhibition, which has already logged over 5800 boycott pledges. Both UKSCN and Scientists for XR held protests in the opening week of the exhibition, with the scientists locking themselves to the Shell-sponsored exhibit for several hours. A petition started by BP or not BP? and signed by over 57,000 people was also handed in to the Science Museum.


Shell is facing intense scrutiny over its current business plans, which allow it to continue exploring for and extracting oil and gas when the science says that to hit the Paris target of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C there needs to be no new oil and gas exploration, and existing production needs to be nearly halved over the next decade. Instead, Shell is relying on tree planting and unproven future technology such as carbon capture and storage as a ‘get out of jail free’ card to keep polluting. In the last month it has faced both a significant shareholder rebellion over the weakness of its climate plans, and a landmark ruling from a Dutch Court that the firm must curb its emissions much further.


The museum Director Ian Blatchford responded in an internal message to staff by defending its partnership with Shell and lashing out at its critics. Pressure is now on the museum to end all its oil sponsorship deals: not only is Shell the sponsor of the current climate exhibition, but Equinor sponsors the children’s gallery and BP sponsors STEM education work. Even before the Shell sponsorship was announced, several speakers had pulled out of the museum’s series of ‘Climate Talks’ over its oil company links.