Barbican Review
2017 / 18

We share some of the headlines and highlights from the last year across our programme and beyond.

Every year at the Barbican has something distinctive, stimulating and provocative to offer audiences, but 2017/18 has been exceptional.

We look back through some of the headlines and highlights from our 2017/18 programme including Basquiat: Boom For Real, Sir Simon Rattle’s first season as Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra, Walthamstow Garden Party, the launch of Culture Mile and our 2018 annual theme, The Art of Change.

A Record-Breaking Year

Surpassing previous audience records with more than 1.3 million attendees

Walthamstow Garden Party 2017 © Gar Powell-Evans

Walthamstow Garden Party 2017 © Gar Powell-Evans

Our hit show Basquiat: Boom for Real brought record numbers of new visitors to Barbican Art Gallery, while Sound Unbound, the Barbican Classical Weekender, brought new audiences to classical music with more than 60 concerts programmed across all our venues in one weekend. Our free Level G commissions continue to extend the artistic programme throughout the Barbican’s spaces with monumental sculptures, choreographic residencies and large-scale projected installations.

For the first time, our OpenFest weekend expanded into numerous venues across London’s Culture Mile and brought people of all ages to both free and ticketed exhibitions, music, dance, open rehearsals, showcases and workshops in and beyond the Centre.

We also hosted our first-ever outdoor, on-site cinema, showing classic science fiction films in the Barbican’s Sculpture Court to complement Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction.

Through Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning, we continue to bring arts education and career development to people of all ages and across every art form. Last year almost 16,000 people – including children, students, teachers and artists – participated in our immersive Creative Learning programmes.

Walthamstow Garden Party, in partnership with Waltham Forest Council and Create London, welcomed more than 30,000 people from across London for free concerts, performances, crafts, food and family activities.

Obsession, led by Olivier and Tony Award-winning director Ivo van Hove and starring Jude Law, was broadcast live from the Barbican Theatre to cinemas around the world in partnership with NT Live.

Barbican Artistic Associate Boy Blue’s hip-hop production Emancipation of Expressionism was filmed in the Barbican Theatre by Danny Boyle and broadcast on BBC Two, and was selected to become part of the GCSE dance syllabus. And Michael Clark Company’s critically acclaimed to a simple, rock 'n' roll . . . song. was filmed for the BBC Four Dance Season and is now touring internationally.

Borrowed Light © Troika

Borrowed Light © Troika

Michael Clark Company, to a simple, rock ‘n’ roll . . . song. © Hugo Glendinning

Michael Clark Company, to a simple, rock ‘n’ roll . . . song. © Hugo Glendinning

The Art of Change

Our 2018 season exploring how the arts respond to, reflect and potentially effect change in the social and political landscape.

Still from 'In My Dreams I See Volcanoes', directed by Lexi Kiddo

Still from 'In My Dreams I See Volcanoes', directed by Lexi Kiddo

Louise Jeffreys, the Barbican’s Artistic Director, reflects on the Barbican’s 2018 annual theme.

Can the arts change the world?

That’s what we set out to explore this year when we launched our 2018 cross-arts season, The Art of Change. As an international arts centre, we felt well placed to explore the role that the arts play in politics and society, particularly as we’re living in a time of such national and international uncertainty.

So we programmed an entire season – across theatre, music, film, visual art, dance, spoken word, talks and more – that explores changing societal attitudes, power dynamics, relationships and the treatment of individuals and groups considered to be outside the mainstream.

Highlights included Jazz at Lincoln Center’s recreation of the famous Benny Goodman concert in 1938 – the first interracial concert at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall; Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins in Barbican Art Gallery, an incredibly moving exhibition that addressed difficult questions about what it means to exist on the margins and our film season Nevertheless She Persisted: Suffrage, Cinema and Beyond that showed feature films and documentaries that highlight women’s fight for equality and influence.

Some of the most exciting moments of The Art of Change have come through our Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning programmes. Tuning into Change, for example, brought together 42 young creatives from Bristol, Gateshead, London, Los Angeles and parts of Scotland over six months to create a youth manifesto for the future of the arts. We’ve also launched an online film series, where each month an emerging film-maker produces a short piece inspired by The Art of Change. Helen Plumb’s A Prickly Subject, exploring the topic of female body hair, has now had more than 1 million views across YouTube and Facebook, making it one of our most watched videos ever.

The Art of Change season has also triggered internal conversations as we explore the responsibilities of the arts, and arts centres, in responding to the challenges of the future. We’re looking at our role as a civic space, and as a platform for ideas to be debated and discussed. And we’re engaging more with our audiences as we seek their input on these issues.

If The Art of Change enables someone – including ourselves – to better understand the perspective of another, then we will have succeeded.

View this post on Instagram

Comment below with your answer 👇 #TheArtOfChange

A post shared by Barbican Centre (@barbicancentre) on

Helen Plumb responds to the theme of 'Feminism' in 'A Prickly Subject'

Helen Plumb responds to the theme of 'Feminism' in 'A Prickly Subject'

The Basquiat Boom

Basquiat: Boom For Real installation view, Barbican Art Gallery 21 September 2017 – 28 January 2018, © Tristan Fewings / Getty Images, Artworks: © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar.

Basquiat: Boom For Real installation view, Barbican Art Gallery 21 September 2017 – 28 January 2018, © Tristan Fewings / Getty Images, Artworks: © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar.

In autumn 2017, Basquiat mania overtook London. Basquiat: Boom for Real was the first large-scale UK exhibition of the work of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose meteoric rise in the 1980s New York art scene left an indelible mark on contemporary art and pop culture. This unprecedented collection of more than 100 works became our most-visited exhibition ever.

Young audiences were especially captivated by the provocative and political spirit of Basquiat’s work and attended the exhibition in record numbers. During the exhibition’s run, the average number of weekly sign ups to our Young Barbican membership scheme more than doubled.

Through the new Community Views offer, we were able to bring a number of community groups to see the exhibition for free, including refugee and homeless groups, BAME community groups and individuals in drug and alcohol recovery – 90 per cent of whom had never visited Barbican Art Gallery before.

The impact of the exhibition extended far beyond the walls of the Barbican. Boom for Real inspired a BAFTA-winning, feature-length BBC documentary as well as two new Banksy artworks in the Beech Street tunnel, and resulted in media coverage across 58 countries.

Bringing the World to London

We welcomed artists from 48 nations and audience bookings from 101 different countries

Ninagawa Company, Macbeth, Masachika Ichimura, image credit Takahiro Watanabe

Ninagawa Company, Macbeth, Masachika Ichimura, image credit Takahiro Watanabe

Our international arts programme is at the heart of what we do. The Barbican’s relationships with outstanding companies from across the globe enable us to present an arts programme that engages, enthrals and sometimes challenges audiences with new ideas, perspectives and artistic approaches.

Supporting our programme

The Barbican’s world-class arts and learning programme is made possible by the generous support of our donors and the success of our commercial activity.

In the 2017/18 financial year we raised:

  • More than £1.7 million through donations and business partnerships
  • Nearly £100,000 from our audiences via donation points across the Barbican and while purchasing tickets
  • £480,000 received from Arts Council England to engage new audiences and local communities

We also secured our first ever grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in support of a year-long residency in one of Britain’s largest secondary schools, Sydney Russell School in Barking and Dagenham.

The Barbican’s commercial activities also continued to generate essential income to support our artistic programme. Our Business Events team:

  • Managed by 352 events
  • Hosted 143,000 delegates
  • Won a 'COOL Venue Award' from Prestige Events and 'Venue Team of the Year' from the Hire Space Awards.

The Barbican Shop also continues to expand, this year curating the successful Make! season in partnership with Crafts Magazine to deliver a programme of events including workshops in embroidery, book-binding, ring carving and weaving.

The Barbican and the Barbican Centre Trust would once again like to thank all of our supporters, clients and customers who continue to make our work possible.

Photo: Barbican Shop during OpenFest 2018 © Gar Powell-Evans

Barbican productions, programming and exhibitions toured to sixteen different countries across five continents.

Two BIE exhibitions: Into the Unknown toured to Athens and Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics was the first BIE show conceived to launch at a partner venue, premiering in Rome in autumn 2017.

After a six-year international tour, Designing 007 completed its final run in Dubai. Game On travelled to three venues in Italy and Brazil before embarking on a fifteen-month, three-city run in China in summer 2018. Digital Revolution was also shown in Beijing

Five Barbican Art Gallery shows toured across UK and Europe including Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers in the Manchester Art Gallery, The World of Charles and Ray Eames in Belgium and Germany and The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined in Belgium and Austria John Akomfrah’s Purple, an immersive six-channel video installation addressing climate change, travelled to Madrid after being commissioned for The Curve, and Basquiat: Boom for Real toured to Frankfurt.

Following its premiere at the Barbican, The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise with tenor Ian Bostridge toured to Perth International Arts Festival in Australia, as well as to Lincoln Center in New York City. Obsession, starring Jude Law and directed by Ivo van Hove, toured to Vienna, Amsterdam and Luxembourg.

Sir Simon Rattle became Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra, our Resident Orchestra since 1982

This is Rattle was a ten-day celebration of Rattle’s arrival in London, featuring the best of British music and welcoming both loyal and new audiences to venues across London’s Culture Mile.

His inaugural concert as LSO Music Director – featuring a world premiere by Helen Grime – was the first in an annual series that will see new works commissioned by the Barbican from British composers for Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO, and which will open each of their upcoming seasons.

In May 2018, This is Rattle won the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award for Concert Series and Festivals.

Bringing the RSC’s productions to the Barbican Theatre

Since 2013 the Barbican and Royal Shakespeare Company have collaborated to bring the RSC’s work from its Stratford-upon-Avon home to our London stage, now its regular base in the capital.

Last summer saw the London transfer of RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran’s ground-breaking The Tempest, in collaboration with Intel and in association with The Imaginarium Studios, starring Simon Russell Beale as Prospero. In the autumn, the RSC brought its ROME MMXVII season, which gave audiences a rare opportunity to see four of Shakespeare’s most gripping plays – Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, Antony & Cleopatra and Titus Andronicus – over three months. The plays were also screened live from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in our cinemas prior to their arrival here as part of the RSC’s Live from Stratford-upon-Avon initiative.

Photos: Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra, This is Rattle, Barbican Hall, September 2017 © Mark Allan; Royal Shakespeare Company, Antony & Cleopatra, Josette Simon © Helen Maybanks

A New Era for The Pit

A place where anything can – and does – happen.

The Pit is an intimate theatre space that is perfectly sized for experimental work. Recently the programme has expanded to include Open Labs and research and development sessions for artists to evolve and test out new work, as well as our new Pit Party concept, pioneered in 2016 by theatre collective nitroBEAT. These one- or two-day devised theatrical events are presented and curated by a guest artist or producer and bring a diverse range of new voices to our venue.

Three artists and curators who have worked in The Pit over the last year share their experiences.

‘Pit Parties have provided a playground to experiment with contemporary music and theatre and to nurture new talent and ideas for future development … This feeling goes beyond technical flexibility; it’s about the culture and the team’
Diane Morgan, Artistic Director of nitroBEAT
‘For an organisation like S3A to have our practice recognised and commissioned to show at the Barbican was enormously empowering. We’ve got so much to say and smaller organisations with engagement at the heart rarely get such a high-profile opportunity to tell our stories … It’s fired us up to keep advocating for working class people’
Liza Vallance, Artistic Director, Studio 3 Arts
‘Each time I return [to The Pit] I remember how far I have come and how much my work has changed and grown. What's special is the energy of the people that surround the experience … They support your vision and drive you to be the best artist you can be. It's pretty magical’
Rhiannon Faith, creator of 'Smack That: A Conversation'

Photo: Rhiannon Faith, Smack That (a conversation) © Foteini Christofilopoulou

Subject to Change

As part of The Art of Change season, we invited twelve Barbican Young Poets wrote poems inspired by topical issues, releasing a film every month throughout 2018.

‘When I found poetry, I felt for the first time like I had found a home in my own voice … Poetry is a way to be heard, to communicate and debate. Change starts with people using their voice – we then have to follow it through with action’
Laurie Ogden

Laurie Ogden’s poem, Hunger Strike, was inspired by the treatment of women detained at Yarl’s Wood. Ogden’s poem uses the ‘gramof&s’ form devised by Terrance Hayes.

‘I know if I begin and end my day with writing, just the process aligns my perspective, shakes off all distractions so I can focus on the important … I tried other things before but this obsession was the one for me. I also stammer, have done for twenty years now, but when I’m reading poems in public it disappears. I really appreciate having a space where I can say what I want without having to compromise for the easier thing to say’
Kareem Parkins-Brown

Kareem Parkins-Brown’s poem, Did You Pack Your Own Bags?, was inspired by the Cambridge Analytica files and the nature of privacy.

Watch all the videos in the Subject to Change series on YouTube.

Barbican Young Poets from the Subject to Change project © Suzanne Zhang

Barbican Young Poets from the Subject to Change project © Suzanne Zhang

Laurie Ogden © Suzanne Zhang

Laurie Ogden © Suzanne Zhang

Kareem Parkins-Brown © Suzanne Zhang

Kareem Parkins-Brown © Suzanne Zhang

We now have more than 60,000 Young Barbican members who can get discounted tickets for themselves and a friend

Members also enjoy access to explore and expand their talents through creative programmes such as Barbican Young Poets,Programmers, Photographers and Visual Artists.

Young Programmers at Chronic Youth Film Festival, March 2018 © Matthew Kaltenborn

Young Programmers at Chronic Youth Film Festival, March 2018 © Matthew Kaltenborn

Community Matters

Working with creatives beyond the Barbican

This year we launched a Creative Citizen Fellowship programme to support eight individuals from the local arts and community sector in Walthamstow to foster their own creativity while helping them to develop opportunities for others to be creative as part of Walthamstow Garden Party. Delyth Taylor, a freelance artist and current Creative Citizen Fellow, tells us more.

'I am an artist and my work is rooted in communities and spaces, focusing on engagement, participation and co-creation. I have lived in Walthamstow for nine years, and the Creative Citizen Fellowship has been a great opportunity to root some of my work in the communities where I live. I have been a visitor to and performer at the Walthamstow Garden Party over the years and wanted to get involved more directly in the planning, delivery and creative input of the festival...

The Creative Citizen Fellowship has really reignited my risk-taking streak and allowed me to try new ways of working. The fellowship has offered us the opportunity to have designated space to reflect on and develop our practice with other creative practitioners, as well as wider arts professionals. There is a real power in a process that has local communities at its heart as it facilitates a true sense of pride, belonging and ownership'

Delyth Taylor, Creative Citizen Fellow

Associate Schools

Our partnership with The Garden School in Hackney.

One of our most ambitious learning projects to date – in-depth partnerships with three Associate Schools in east London – includes a collaboration with The Garden School in Hackney, a special education school for learners with autism.

Throughout the year Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning staff have worked closely with teachers and students at the school to develop a bespoke, long-term programme of arts learning activities and professional development to meet the unique needs of their students.

‘Before the Barbican, I wrote to many arts organisations asking to collaborate – but the reply was usually no. Even when arts organisations said they had experience working with and delivering projects for students with special educational needs, I still had to adapt their programmes. The Barbican was different immediately. They listened to us and their staff attended the ‘Introduction to Autism’ training at our school. We now feel spoilt by all of the opportunities we have all experienced – both pupils and staff. The photos and videos that we have collected and shared with families are so meaningful, and the enrichment the pupils have experienced is unbelievable’
Deborah Snowden, Dance Teacher, The Garden School

Photo: Walthamstow Garden Party 2017 © Camilla Greenwell; Drum Works at The Garden School, Hackney © Matthew Kaltenborn

Young Barbican members take part in a ‘My Basquiat’ tour, created by young people in response to the exhibition Basquiat: Boom for Real © Catarina Rodrigues

Young Barbican members take part in a ‘My Basquiat’ tour, created by young people in response to the exhibition Basquiat: Boom for Real © Catarina Rodrigues

The Barbican Youth Panel

In 2017 we introduced a Youth Panel to bring young people’s ideas into Barbican projects. Panellist kieren mehta looks back on the year.

'For arts organisations as large as the Barbican, it can be difficult to connect with all audiences. That’s why the Youth Panel was formed: to provide feedback about how to make the Barbican more accessible to young people, focusing especially on inclusivity and diversity. We get to experience the inner workings of a major arts organisation, and to work on existing programming as well as creating something of our own.

'If the Youth Panel can continue to drive change within the organisation, and work with other young creatives to produce more original programming, it has a bright and vital future'.

We meet monthly to share ideas and catch up with each other and one of the most rewarding aspects of the panel has been meeting other young creatives and bonding over shared passions. Young people often feel alienated and unrepresented by large organisations – not just in the arts, but on a fundamental level socially. The potential to be heard and have those words take effect is what makes the panel so appealing, and why I applied to be part of it. If the Youth Panel can continue to drive change within the organisation, and work with other young creatives to produce more original programming, it has a bright and vital future.'

Creating Culture Mile

A major destination for culture and creativity in the heart of London’s financial district.

The Barbican is one of the core partners in Culture Mile, an ambitious new initiative to develop a world-class destination for culture and creativity in the Square Mile.

In March 2018, the Barbican played a significant role in the first big Culture Mile event, expanding our OpenFest weekend to encompass neighbouring Culture Mile venues and co-producing Tunnel Visions: Array, a free light and sound installation that transformed the Beech Street tunnel into an immersive audio-visual performance space.

Created by Tony Award-winning artists 59 Productions, Tunnel Visions: Array reimagined the tunnel as a vast canvas for a newly commissioned digital artwork inspired by composer/conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen’s work Karawane. Audiences experienced this contemporary classical piece in a unique and unforgettable way.

With Crossrail arriving at Farringdon and Moorgate, and with plans being developed for world-class new cultural buildings such as the Centre for Music and a new Museum of London, we’re excited to be working with our Culture Mile partners to fulfill the creative potential of this extraordinary corner of the capital.

Photo: Tunnel Visions: Array installation created for Culture Mile by 59 Productions, March 2018 © Justin Sutcliffe

Instagrammers in Residence

We regularly invite Instagrammers to capture life at the Barbican. Digital Marketing Assistant and curator of our Instagram account, Suzanne Zhang, shares some of her favourite shots.

See more work by our Instagrammers in Residence on @barbicancentre #igbarbican