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BAE Systems pulls sponsorship of Great Exhibition of the North after backlash

The Great Exhibition of the North will be held from June to September.
The Great Exhibition of the North will be held from June to September.

A defence company has pulled its sponsorship of the Great Exhibition of the North after artists raised concerns over its involvement in the family-friendly celebrations.

Whitburn singer songwriter Nadine Shah and former Chumbawamba member Boff Whalley's Commoners' Choir were lined up to perform, but withdrew over concerns about the defence, security and aerospace company's backing of the festival.

Nadine issued call for other artists to follow suit and asked her fans to put pressure on the exhibition's leaders to drop the firm as a sponsor.

Sunderland-born broadcaster Lauren Laverne, who is leading the Great Northern Soundtrack events at the Sage Gateshead, had also said she was working with the organisers to look at a way to move forward so the gigs she is helping to plan could go ahead.

She had not been aware of the arms manufacturer's involvement until after the official launch of the exhibition.

A petition calling for the exhibition to refuse the sponsorship attracted more than 2,300 names.

Nadine Shah was among those who raised concerns about BAE System's involvement in the Great Exhibition of the North. Photo by James Anastasi.

Nadine Shah was among those who raised concerns about BAE System's involvement in the Great Exhibition of the North. Photo by James Anastasi.

Now BAE Systems has confirmed it has "decided to redirect" its support elsewhere.

Nadine has this morning tweeted to say she is happy she can once again get involved with the event and is looking forward to performing.

The Sage's website states tickets for her gig, on June 24, will be on sale soon.

It's full statement from the company, which employs 18,000 people across the north of the UK, said: "With our significant presence in the North of England, BAE Systems is a strong supporter of the Northern Powerhouse, which recognises the important contribution that the region makes to the UK.

Lauren Laverne said she was working with organisers to try and resolve concerns about the involvement sponsor BAE Systems ahead of its withdrawal from the event.

Lauren Laverne said she was working with organisers to try and resolve concerns about the involvement sponsor BAE Systems ahead of its withdrawal from the event.

"As a world leader in advanced engineering and technology, BAE Systems also plays an important role in ensuring that we address the UK skills gap, encouraging more young people to study critical STEM subjects and supporting their career development.

"While BAE Systems remains supportive of the aims of the Great Exhibition we have decided to redirect our support to other initiatives better suited to both our skills and innovation objectives and in support of the industrial strategy of the North of England."

A spokesman for the Great Exhibition of the North said: “We accept and respect BAE Systems’ decision.

"Working with all of our partners, funders, supporters and contributors, we remain focussed on delivering a successful event which will shine a spotlight on the North’s great art and culture, design and innovation.

"It’s a significant opportunity to raise the profile of the North, change outdated perceptions and drive future growth and we are absolutely committed to achieving this success for the benefit of all of us who live, work and do business here.”