Download Festival bands withdraw in protest against sponsor and give a concert in Birmingham instead

At least four bands have pulled out of this weekend's Download Festival, citing problems with the event's connection with Barclaycard, the festival's official payment partner. The groups – Scowl, Speed, ZULU and Pest Control – have accused the bank of increasing its investments in arms companies that do business with Israel during the Gaza conflict.

As a show of solidarity, these four bands – possibly with others – will join forces for an impromptu benefit concert in aid of Palestine at Birmingham's Centrala on Friday (June 14). Leeds-based thrash metal band Pest Control expressed their stance on social media: “We cannot take part in an event whose sponsor profits from enabling genocide.”

The US hardcore punk ensemble Scowl also made their position clear: “We will not be playing at Download Fest this year because Barclays Bank is sponsoring the event and Barclays has a connection to Israel and the genocide that Israel is committing in Palestine. Free Palestine.”

Read more: 30 things you are not allowed to take to the Download Festival

An estimated 75,000 fans are expected to flock to Donington Park from Friday to Sunday for the annual Download Festival, which will feature headliners such as Queens of the Stone Age, Fall Out Boy and Avenged Sevenfold.

Meanwhile, over 15 Barclays Bank branches in England and Scotland have been targeted by activists from Palestine Action. The campaign group has smashed windows and thrown paint at the bank branches as part of demonstrations calling on the financial institution to cut its business ties with arms manufacturers that supply Israel and companies involved in the fossil fuel industry, Leicestershire Live reports.

Palestine Action activists attacked Barclays branches across the country, including Birmingham and Solihull. The group's actions included smashing windows, pouring red paint on buildings and sticking messages on facades.

Barclays responded to the vandalism with a spokesman saying: “We provide essential financial services to US, UK and European public companies that supply defence products to NATO and their allies. Barclays does not invest directly in these companies.”

They added: “The defence sector is vital to our national security and the UK government has made it clear that supporting defence companies is consistent with ESG (environmental, social and governance) considerations. Decisions on implementing arms embargoes against other countries are a matter for their respective elected governments.”

Israel denies allegations that its military operation in Gaza amounts to genocide. The operation, which began after Hamas launched attacks on Israel on October 7, left about 1,200 people dead and resulted in the capture of 251 hostages who were returned to Gaza.

According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, more than 37,000 Palestinians died in Gaza in the following months.