Barbican Guide
December 2020

© Harry Cory Wright. First reproduced in Barbican Centre (Pocket Photo Books series) by Harry Cory Wright, published by Thames & Hudson in 2019.

© Harry Cory Wright. First reproduced in Barbican Centre (Pocket Photo Books series) by Harry Cory Wright, published by Thames & Hudson in 2019.


Well, what a year it’s been. It was certainly very difficult for us to have to close the Centre. But what’s been heartening through all of it is the fantastic support we’ve had from all of you. From avidly watching live streams of concerts, to delving into our Cinema on Demand with gusto, discovering long reads online, and the generosity of donations, it’s lovely to see how you’ve continued to stay in touch with us throughout.

Now, as we’re re-opening again, we have lots going on, from a wonderful online family adventure, to a gripping and innovative production we’ve been wanting to bring to London for some time. It’s pretty much your last chance to see our exhibition dedicated to ground-breaking choreographer Michael Clark, while our friends at the Australian Chamber Orchestra will be joining us virtually for their residency this year. Whatever you decide to see, thank you for your support this year, Merry Christmas, and we look forward to seeing much more of you in 2021.

Pencils and paints at the ready for online adventure

Prepare to see the world differently, as an innovative new production for families beams into your home.

We Cover the Universe creates the joy of an interactive theatre experience, from the comfort of your sofa. Presented over Zoom, the 30-minute online adventure for under fives and their families follows the story of Dot. Dot lives in a small grey room and feels very isolated (many of us can relate to that at the moment) until one day, she finds a way to venture beyond her confined space into a world of vibrant colour.

‘The aim is to give people something magical in this strange time,’ says Rachel Lincoln, co-founder with Anna Beecher of Akin, which is behind the production.

The show is based on Beecher’s poetry. As the tale unfolds, Lincoln creates illustrations in real time, and families can take part in arts activities alongside her.

‘We’ll be building a world together,’ says Beecher. ‘As a company all our work is about taking audiences into a fantastical universe. In theatres we create a sensory environment involving smells and things to feel; this time we’ll be helping people create that experience in their own homes – or wherever they are.’

Lincoln adds, ‘We encourage people to use what’s in their own home and to look at, and play with them in a different way; it’s also for adults to explore space in a new way. Although people are looking at a screen, we want them to engage with the space they’re in, so they can take that magical feeling with them after the show for the weeks and months to follow.’

‘The screen is the gateway and the home is where the show happens,’ says Beecher.

‘When you’re in a theatre, you’re in a space that’s different to your home. We’re excited about being able to create that experience in people’s homes,’ says Lincoln.

Akin‘s Lincoln and Beecher during a performance of Nest. Photo © Victor Frankowski

Akin‘s Lincoln and Beecher during a performance of Nest. Photo © Victor Frankowski

As with all Akin shows, people who want to share what they’re doing will be welcome to do so: ‘We are excited about having moments when people can show the group what they’re creating,’ says Lincoln. ‘But no-one will be forced to. If you just want to sit there with the camera off, that’s also fine.’

This is the first time the pair have created a show over Zoom, but they’re very familiar with online video calls. With Beecher frequently in the USA, the two often develop shows using this technology.
Akin’s productions are developed to work with adults in mind too. ‘Anna’s poetry works on two levels: it’s playful for the children, but there’s a deeper meaning that adults will understand,’ says Lincoln. ‘It’s important to us not to patronise grown-ups with the storytelling.’

‘Ultimately, we want everyone to feel better when they come out of one of our shows than when they went in,’ adds Beecher.
And who couldn’t do with that after this year?

Creating a digital community

Our Community Views usually draw hundreds to our Art Gallery. Then the lockdown looked set to put a stop to them – what would the solution be?

Our Community View programme saw us work with civic and charity organisations to arrange free visits to the Art Gallery exhibitions, take part in activities, and hear from others on how we can make the arts more accessible for everyone.

‘For the Masculinities: Liberation through Photography Community View we had a huge amount of interest, with more than 500 people booked in,’ says Community Engagement Manager, Jess Hodge. ‘So having to cancel the in-person events was very disappointing. However, we worked with the artists and participants to create the experience online instead.’

‘It quickly became apparent that the lockdown disproportionately affected some people – particularly those who had to shield longer, or were dealing with additional challenges such as poor mental health or isolation. So we wanted to focus on those people, and offer them opportunities to be creative at home.’

The result was an online private view including images from the exhibition and seven activities, such as free-writing in response to images, a photography challenge, and 15 live workshops over Zoom. More than 1,500 people visited the website, with 150 taking part in the live workshops, and 500 people receiving physical creative packs.

‘I loved it,’ said one of the users from brain injury charity, Headway. ‘It was one of the best things I’ve seen online during the lockdown.’ And a representative of East London Cares said, ‘It’s not been easy to keep our programme fresh and exciting over Zoom so opportunities like this are so, so important.’

‘The responses have been fantastic,’ says Hodge. ‘We also found we were able to reach even more people – particularly those who wouldn’t have been able to come to the Centre even before Covid for health or other reasons.’
The coronavirus pandemic has forced many people to rethink how they live and work – and this was no exception, concludes Hodge. But in this case, there’s been a good outcome: ‘It’s helped us realise that there’s a demand for digital Community View events, and we’re intending to continue them in the future.’

We are delighted to be able to share some of the amazing creative responses to the Masculinities Online Community View in an anthology of artwork, created by people from their homes across the city.

The success and reach of this digital approach means that we’re running another, for the Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer exhibition currently showing in the Art Gallery.
Creative Learning curator Josie Dick says among the activities on offer will be a series of movement ideas from Michael Clark Company associate director (and long-time dancer) Kate Coyne. ‘We’ll invite people to film themselves and share their responses to the movement prompts. Our aim is to edit all the footage together to make a film.’ We’re expecting it to be live from January, so you can see the results then.

Find out more about our work with community groups.

Photo by Williamz

Photo by Williamz

Photo by Williamz

Photo by Williamz

Mitchel from Accumulate. Photo by Williamz

Mitchel from Accumulate. Photo by Williamz

Mitchel from Accumulate. Photo by Williamz

Mitchel from Accumulate. Photo by Williamz

Barbican Membership is the gift that gives all year-round

If someone you love is passionate about the arts, give them a Barbican Membership this Christmas.

Members get unlimited free entry to all Art Gallery exhibitions, the chance to book before events go on sale to the public, plus great discounts in the Shop, on Music, Theatre and Cinema tickets – whether Cinema On Demand or in-person screenings – and special offers in our restaurants and cafes.

We also organise exclusive Members events, such as workshops, talks, and classes – most of which are currently online only.
Plus, at this time when arts organisations are under considerable financial pressure, you’ll know that giving a Barbican Membership helps support our work.

From the lab to the screen

Two unique cinema events, curated by people selected for our Emerging Film Curators’ programme, share perspectives rarely seen on the big screen.

We want to present the widest possible range of perspectives across our Cinema programme, and we love hearing from new curatorial talent about their ideas. So this year we ran a lab for film curators who had limited programming experience and an enthusiasm for developing socially-engaged films, with the aim of enabling them to bring their ideas to our big screen.

Following two screenings by emerging curators in October, we’ll be showing two more exciting and unique events in December.

Freelance film programmer and writer Grace Barber-Plentie has curated a series of shorts, called Reframing the Fat Body, which ‘show that there is no one way to be fat, and there’s no one way to portray fatness’.

Barber-Plentie says she is particularly interested in works that focus on women of colour, in particular queer women, and looking at representations of the fat body. ‘As a fat film programmer, I’m keen to highlight bodies that look like mine on screen,’ she says.
Among the films she’s selected are: Aquaporko!, the story of Melbourne’s fat femme synchronized swim team, directed by activist Kelli Jean Drinkwater; Dangerous Curves, a documentary about plus-size pole dancer Roz Mays, who’ll also be sharing a pole dancing performance recorded exclusively for the Barbican; Bye Bye Body, in which a woman makes a deal with the devil when she fails to hit her goal weight in the final week of weight-loss camp; and which sees a butch lesbian tell the story of her queer body with the help of her mother and the Aztec goddess Coyolxauhqui.

‘The films in this programme are from around the world, from filmmakers of different genders, sexualities and ethnicities,’ says Barber-Plentie. ‘The one thing that they have in common is fatness, but these films are so wildly different. Together, I like to think that they create a kind of fat utopia.

‘I hope that these shorts destroy stereotypes of fatness for people who may not be fat, and change their ways of thinking of fatness. And for fat viewers, I hope it serves as a reminder of how damn cool and special we are.’

Maria Paradinas and Emma Bouraba chose to screen I Still Hide to Smoke, Rayhana Obermeyer’s warm film set in the Algerian civil war, about a hammam masseuse (Hiam Abbass) who hides a pregnant girl to protect her from her violent, fundamentalist brother and his companions.

Paradinas and Bouraba say they are interested in ‘showcasing marginalised perspectives, platforming the stories of women, people of colour, and queer people’.

Still from 'I Still Hide to Smoke'

Still from 'I Still Hide to Smoke'

‘We are particularly interested in approaching film in socially- and critically-engaged ways, and believe in the power of cinema as a compelling communicative tool to challenge mainstream narratives, immerse ourselves in other worlds and explore the multiplicity and depth of our emotions,’ says Paradinas.

Bouraba says, ‘We chose I Still Hide to Smoke because of its tender and deft portrayal of female sociality in Algiers during the Algerian civil war [1991–2002]. Spanning all social classes and generations, the hammam, where the film is set, becomes a space where societal norms can become tangled or even upturned. We are very interested in the politics of space, so were moved by the film’s ability to explore this in such an elegant way.’

This film is currently banned in Algeria, and following its cinema screening it will be available exclusively on Cinema on Demand. Bouraba and Paradinas say they hope to bring the issues it deals with and its ‘brave, urgent and profound message’ to a new audiences across the UK.

Featuring an exclusive recorded introduction by the filmmaker and a panel discussion including Roisin Tapponi (Habibi Collective) and Dr Anissa Daoudi, the pair hope this event ‘will offer a new analysis of the film through the prism of site-specific North African feminisms and gestures of resistance’.

All three say they found the Emerging Curators Lab a very rewarding experience. Barber-Plentie says: ‘I went into the Lab with a small kernel of an idea – I want to do a programme of some sort about fatness – and emerged with a fully formed idea that was nurtured by the team at the Barbican.’

Bourabas and Paradinas were working collaboratively from London and Paris. ‘Exchanging and developing ideas virtually was definitely a new challenge for us,’ they say. ‘Ultimately, it made us reflect more on our goals as programmers, clarifying the purpose of the screening and therefore shaping a more impactful and critical event.’

Immerse yourself in a cinema for the ears

Discover exciting experimental audio works that’ll cause you to think more deeply about the medium of podcasts and radio.

With people spending more time at home this year, many have found they’re listening to more podcasts and radio programmes.
If that sounds familiar, this year’s Soundhouse is for you. Conceived as a ‘cinema for the ears’, it’s online for free, featuring three audio loops of material to listen to. Each strand is curated by a guest: audio producer Arlie Adlington; multimedia artist and radio maker Ariana Martinez; and award- winning sound designer Axel Kacoutié.

Alongside the listening, there are essays to read and opportunities for discovering more audio content by delving into producers’ back catalogues or recommendations.

‘Rather than letting people listen to programmes on demand, we’ve adopted a “live listening” approach,’ says Eleanor McDowall (Falling Tree Productions) who’s co-produced the project with Nina Garthwaite (In The Dark). ‘That means whenever you tune-in, from wherever in the world, you’ll be having a communal listening experience.

‘Being online instead of in a building, also enables us to reach more audiences, and incorporate accessibility options, such as transcripts.’

New perspectives

The foliage, creeping from underneath a sheet of glass in our Conservatory was photographed by Clare Lyons (@clare__lyons), who shared it on Instagram. ‘I enjoy knowing that within the brutalist surroundings of the Barbican there is urban oasis full of vitality and life, happy and content in its confines,’ she says. We love seeing your photos of the Centre – tag us @barbicancentre and we’ll share some of our favourites.

Support the Barbican

We rely on ticket sales and your enduring support and generosity to be able to present and share our programme with you and thousands of others. We’re all finding ourselves in completely new territory, which presents a real financial challenge for us and for those we work with. So, if you’re able, please consider donating to us so we can keep investing in the artists and organisations that help make this place what it is. Please also consider donating to our artistic residents and associates to support them through these difficult times.

Michael Clark – dancing to his own beat

Two current artists tell us how renowned choreographer Michael Clark has inspired their own creative practice.

Adam Linder’s Service No.5: Dare to Keep Kids Off Naturalism, 2017. Pictured at Kunsthalle Basel.

Adam Linder’s Service No.5: Dare to Keep Kids Off Naturalism, 2017. Pictured at Kunsthalle Basel.

A defining cultural figure, choreographer Michael Clark has been at the forefront of innovation in dance since the 1980s. Renowned for rigorous technique and collaboration across the fields of music, art, film, fashion, and graphic design, his work wins plaudits worldwide.

His ground-breaking approach is also inspiring some of today’s exciting young creatives.

London-based dance artist and choreographer Fernanda Muñoz-Newsome works with composers, visual artists, music producers, pop/ punk bands and others, and takes her work into galleries and alternative performance contexts.

She first encountered Clark’s work at the Theatre Royal in Bath 1998 where she saw current/SEE. ‘My main memory as a ballet obsessed, highly-disciplined, passionate thirteen year-old dancer was of Michael on the floor for very long periods of time, half on- half off-stage and a bass guitarist playing long slow repetitive resounding deep tones that rearranged time and reality,’ she recalls. ‘It really stayed with me as an image sensation and stirred something different inside me, something I did not expect to encounter in a theatre as “dance”. I began contemporary dance classes that same year.’

Adam Linder was a member of the Royal Ballet when he first saw Clark’s work OH MY GODDESS (2003) at Sadler’s Wells.

Fernanda Muñoz-Newsome in TENDER INTERVAL. Photo © Anne Tetzlaff

Fernanda Muñoz-Newsome in TENDER INTERVAL. Photo © Anne Tetzlaff

‘What appealed to me was this sense that he had thought about every little detail in the production – the gesamtkunstwerk approach to the work, from the font in the programme to the detail on the dancers’ tights. It was very striking to me. I felt all the elements pulsating together.’

A few years after leaving the Royal Ballet, Linder successfully auditioned for Michael Clark Company. He danced with the company on and off for three years from 2005.

‘It was a really exciting time for the company and for me,’ says Linder from his home in Los Angeles. ‘Michael’s work is so potent, rich and sharp, not only in what it does with dance but how it branches out into other spheres. He isn’t a choreographer that exists “in the dance world”; he’s in the dance world, but also in art, music, fashion, and that’s what had one of the strongest effects on me.’

Although he feels that his work is ‘formally very different’ to Clark’s, Linder says ‘the ability to have dance breach its context is something that’s been influential for me, and is something I hold close as a core value’. He adds, ‘The sharpness of his vision, that is across all the elements of sound, visuals, staging and social milieu is also very important to me.’

Muñoz-Newsome says: ‘Experiencing what Michael made through collaborating with artists, musicians, bands and fashion designers, was very inspiring to me as a younger dancer. It connected with me and has been part of my own adventure.
‘He was pushing boundaries of dance and art outside the dance world, bringing a presence of pop and punk culture into dance which was exciting as there was not much of that energy inside dance training. This energy is something that still fuels my making.’

Experience this energy for yourself at the first major exhibition dedicated to Clark, in our Art Gallery. Exploring his unique combination of classical and contemporary culture, it’s a portrait of the choreographer as seen through the eyes of legendary collaborators and world-renowned artists.

A Christmas collection

Try to put 2020 behind you with our festive range in the Shop.

Well, we can all agree it’s been a long year – and probably hasn’t turned out quite as anyone hoped. So, now the nights have drawn in and the air is distinctly chillier, it’s time for some well-earned relaxation and some hygge – the Nordic word for the feeling of cosiness. We’ve got a comforting selection of items that would work as festive gifts to loved ones – or to treat yourself (you definitely deserve it).

Earl of East candles

Hand poured into dark amber apothecary jars in their east London studio, these candles combine jasmine, gardenia and rose geranium to create a beautiful and traditional scent. Light one of these, let the fragrance fill the room and put your feet up on the sofa, for a real ‘ahhh’ moment.

FERM Living hand-painted ornaments and glassware

These glistening glass baubles in white, or golden brass leaf decorations can hang from the tree to add a richness and depth to your festive decorations. And the matte brass star will sit on top of the tree or on your dining table. Or why not bring a sophisticated touch to the table with these smoke ripple glasses?

The individually-shaped geometric forms were made by mouth-blown glass, and make an eye-catching talking point. And there’s always a classic bar tool – updated to make a sleek tipping measure and bottle opener.

Society of Lifestyle Chappra bowl

When you fill this smooth-exterior bowl with sweets, the more you eat the more you reveal the intricately designed interior. As if you need another excuse.

Accordion Light by Gingko

Masquerading as a laser-cut wooden ornament when closed, this light transforms into a sculpture that can change from cool to warm, bringing that hygge glow to your living room.

Find these items and other Christmas gift ideas in our Shop on Level G, or in our online shop.
Members get 20% discount on items in our Shop, among many other benefits. Membership would also make a great Christmas present for someone.

My Barbican: Richard Tognetti

As well as leading the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Tognetti is a keen photographer, and here shares some of his favourite spots around the Centre. Although the orchestra can’t physically join us this year, it’ll be performing a ‘virtual residency’ online.

Milton Court

‘I took this last year – I’d been walking around the area with [composer and Radiohead guitarist] Jonny Greenwood before heading to the concert pre-rehearsal. We’d been remarking how this part of London has such a rich history – you find all these nooks and corners, and the cityscape is all jumbled on top of itself, as you can see in the reflection. And of course, this is Milton Court concert hall.’

On stage, just before a concert

‘I caught [Violinist] Ilya Isakovich as he sets up his music stand during our residency in 2017. He looks really pensive and intense because I’ve interrupted his private space just before a concert – it’s a time when we musicians prepare physically and mentally.’

Sculpture Court

‘Being from sunny Australia, I love this picture of the Sculpture Court. When we come to London in October, it’s usually 11°C and raining. In this shot, I really like the mix of Brutalist architecture and on the right you have the palm trees.’

Photo by Richard Tognetti

Photo by Richard Tognetti

Photo by Richard Tognetti

Photo by Richard Tognetti

Photo by Richard Tognetti

Photo by Richard Tognetti

What's On

With thanks

The City of London Corporation, founder and principal funder

Centre Partner
Christie Digital

Major Supporters
Arts Council England; Esmeé Fairbairn Foundation; Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement; The National Lottery Heritage Fund; Terra Foundation for American Art; UBS; Wellcome

Corporate Supporters
Aberdeen Standard Investments; Allford Hall Monaghan Morris; Audible; Bank of America; Bloomberg; Calvin Klein; CMS; DLA Piper; Howden M&A Limited; Leigh Day; Linklaters LLP; National Australia Bank; Natrium Capital Limited; Newgate Communications; Pinsent Masons; Slaughter and May; Sotheby's; Taittinger Champagne; tp bennett; UBS

Trusts & Foundations
The 29th May 1961 Charitable Trust; The John S Cohen Foundation; SHM Foundation; Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Research Grant from the Art Fund; Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

We also want to thank Barbican Patrons, donors to Name a Seat, Members, and everyone who has supported the Barbican by making a donation.

To find out more, visit or email [email protected]

The Barbican Centre Trust, registered charity no. 294282