A delegation of First Nations people are expected to join a collective of artists and creative producers on Thursday to protest a controversial sponsorship deal between the Darwin festival and gas and oil company Santos.

The call to dump the longstanding fossil fuel sponsorship was included in an open letter sent on Tuesday to the festival’s board, chaired by former Northern Territory Airports chief executive Ian Kew, along with a petition of about 200 signatures. The protest coincides with the launch the festival’s 2022 program, running from 4 to 21 August.

The open letter said Santos’s ongoing involvement with the festival, including naming rights to the event’s opening night free concert at Darwin’s Amphitheatre, was adversely affecting the festival’s cultural integrity and amounts to “artswashing” – the same allegation levelled at Woodside last year over the energy company’s sponsorship of Perth’s fringe festival.

The open letter made comparisons to the tobacco industry’s marketing model of previous decades.

“In the same way that once the science on tobacco smoking harm became clear its promotion has been widely abandoned from public life, so too fossil fuel sponsorship and messages promoting its expansion has no place in our arts, culture and public institutions now that the world is all too aware of its catastrophic consequences,” the letter said.

The campaign highlighted the push by Santos to establish fracking practices in the NT despite opposition from some First Nations people – traditional owners from Larrakia (Darwin and surrounds), Tiwi Islands and the Beetaloo Basin, who are also involved in the sponsorship protest.

Japan’s largest oil and gas company, Inpex, is also a festival sponsor. Campaign organisers have demanded the festival board “take a leading role in climate action and abandon all promotional partnerships with fossil fuel companies”.

“We don’t think [dropping Santos sponsorship] is

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