Benjamin Law resigns from Sydney Festival board over Israeli Embassy sponsorship | Sydney Party 2022
Sydney festival board member Benjamin Law has resigned over the festival’s refusal to end a $20,000 sponsorship deal with the Israeli Embassy.
In a statement released by the festival on Friday afternoon, author and screenwriter Law said:
“Today’s decision to step down from the board is mine alone. I’m only comfortable leaving now because I have full confidence in the other directors on the board for the process ahead, and I remain a strong fan and supporter of Olivia Ansell’s vision of a Sydney reactivated and dynamic.
Law is expected to release a full statement at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The festival’s announcement of Law’s departure was signed by chairman of the board, David Kirk, who acknowledged that the festival had “faced unprecedented challenges this year”, particularly from Covid-19 and the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.
“This has significantly increased the pressure on all board members, staff and, most importantly, the artists,” Kirk’s statement read.
Dozens of performers pulled out of the 2022 Sydney Festival thanks to the Israeli Embassy’s $20,000 sponsorship of the Sydney Dance Company’s production of Decadance, a work designed by Tel Aviv choreographer Ohad Naharin.
Kirk admitted in an interview with the Guardian on Thursday that the board was unaware of the sponsorship deal, brokered by festival management in July last year, until the program of the festival be published at the end of November with the logo of the Embassy of Israel.
“It was just a failure,” he told the Guardian, adding that he regretted the distress for artists caused by the sponsorship decision.
Kirk ruled out the suggestion that he or festival director Olivia Ansell should resign over the issue, which has subjected many artists to pressure on social media either because they decided to join the boycott or because that they had decided to go ahead with their planned performance.
Kirk said normal processes were followed, but those processes would be independently reviewed following the controversy.
On Friday, Kirk thanked Law for his service, describing him as “an insightful and highly valued member” of the board since joining in 2020.
“As we worked through the complexities of this year’s festival, he was a thoughtful and consistent voice as we collectively arrived at our position,” Kirk said.