EDINBURGH’S International Festival and oil giant BP have ended their sponsorship deal after 34 years.

The news came as the festival’s director launched the summer event’s 2016 programme. BP’s sponsorship deals with cultural organisations have come in for much criticism of late.

Earlier this week, Emma Thompson and Mark Ruffalo were among 100 prominent actors, writers and scientists who wrote to the new director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, urging him to end that institution’s commercial arrangement with the firm.

That letter said: “As the impacts of climate change are being felt more forcefully around the world, it is vital that prominent public institutions like the British Museum play their part in minimising the environmental impacts of their activities.”

Tate also recently ended their partnership with the oil company.

Ric Lander, from Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Edinburgh International Festival should be congratulated on freeing itself from fossil fuel sponsorship. We know that most fossil fuel reserves must be kept in the ground if we want to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. We need to urgently move away from extracting and burning fossil fuels and companies like BP, who continue to profit from the destruction of our environment, have no place in our treasured cultural events or institutions.”

A spokesman for the Festival said: “BP has not renewed its support of the International Festival this year. We are grateful to them for their long-term support of the Festival, but all sponsorship arrangements end eventually.”

Festival bosses will be hopeful the news does not overshadow the new programme for the three-week mix of high art, world-class productions and never-to-be-repeated shows.

Highlights include a 20-night cabaret show from Hollywood actor Alan Cumming in Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs!

Barry Humphries, better known as Dame Edna Everage, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli and Mogwai will all make their first performances during the event.

Bartoli is starring in a new production of Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma.

The 42 classical concerts and recitals will be swelled by a number of contemporary artists, including Sigur Ros, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Karine Polwart and Young Fathers.

There’s also a heavy Shakespearean influence. Thomas Ostermeier returns to the festival with a reworking of Richard III in a production from Berlin’s Schaubuhne Theatre, while Cheek by Jowl offers a production of Measure for Measure that draws parallels with modern Russia.

British-born director Dan Jemmett and his French-based company Eat a Crocodile bring Shake, a five-piece re-working of Twelfth Night.

The whole festival will be started off with Deep Time a free outdoor event on Sunday, August 7, involving digitally animated artwork that will using Edinburgh Castle and Castle Rock as the canvas for projections and illuminations.

Festival director Fergus Linehan said: “The International Festival is an invitation from the people of Scotland to people from all over the world to join us in an unparalleled celebration of creativity, virtuosity and originality.

“The calibre, ambition and passion of the artists and ensembles in this year’s programme, combined with Edinburgh’s electric festival atmosphere, will make for an unforgettable experience for newcomers and international festival veterans alike.”

The Edinburgh International Festival is the first of the August festivals to launch their programme. Details are still to come from the other five festivals that happen in the capital every summer, including the Fringe.