Turner Prize sponsor Stagecoach dropped after anti-LGBT row

A woman views a video piece by artist Forensic Architecture during the Turner Prize 2018.

The Turner Prize 2019 will no longer be sponsored by Stagecoach, whose chairman Sir Brian Souter has previously campaigned against gay rights.

It was announced on Wednesday (May 1) that Stagecoach South East (a subsidiary of the main group) would sponsor this year’s edition of the prestigious prize, a move which sparked fierce criticism within the art and LGBT+ communities.

Souter is a vocal critic of gay marriage, which he once warned would turn the UK into “a Babylonian-Greek society where sex is primarily a recreational activity.”

In 2000, he donated more than £1 million to keep Section 28 in Scottish law.

On Thursday (May 2), Turner Contemporary in Margate—which will host this year’s prize exhibition—announced that that they would not move forward with the sponsorship “by mutual agreement.”

“Turner Contemporary and Tate’s highest priority is to show and celebrate artists and their work,” Turner Contemporary, Tate Britain and Stagecoach said in a statement released on Thursday (May 2).

“The Turner Prize celebrates the creative freedoms of the visual arts community and our wider society. By mutual agreement, we will not proceed with Stagecoach South East’s sponsorship of this year’s prize.”

“The Turner Prize celebrates the creative freedoms of our wider society.”

—Turner Contemporary, Tate & Stagecoach


Alex Farquharson, director of Tate Britain, avoided questions about the sponsorship at a press conference on Wednesday (May 1). He said that the decision to enlist Stagecoach had been made solely by Turner Contemporary.

Turner Prize winners opposed Stagecoach

Artists including former Turner winners had been preparing a letter stating their objecting to Souter’s involvement before the statement was released, The Guardian reported.

Peter Tatchell was also among those who spoke out against Stagecoach.

He told The Telegraph: “I am surprised and disappointed that sponsorship has been accepted from Stagecoach, given Brian Souter’s history of backing the anti-gay law Section 28.

“Surely there must be other less tainted potential sponsors? The arts is an LGBT-friendly profession and should not be colluding with companies whose leaders support homophobic discrimination.”

Stagecoach founder Brian Souter.

Stagecoach chairman Brian Souter. (Carl Court/AFP/Getty)

Stonewall told PinkNews it could not yet comment directly on the short-lived sponsorship, but a spokesperson said: “Brian Souter’s previous comments about LGBT+ people are just one example of how much work is still left to do to combat discrimination.

“Faith is often used to justify anti-LGBT+ views and attitudes. This is wrong and perpetuates a myth that faith and LGBT+ inclusion cannot coexist. Our work continues to end the use of hateful language against lesbian, gay, bi and trans people.”

In a statement, Stagecoach said that it “does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind based on disability, gender, gender re-assignment, sexual orientation, religion, belief, age, nationality, race or ethnic origin.”

The 2018 Turner Prize was won by queer artist Charlotte Prodger. It also featured an entry by the visual research group Forensic Architecture, which recently identified a new suspect in the murder of Zak Kostopoulos.