Review 2018/19

Lakeside Terrace, Barbican Centre © Max Colson 

Lakeside Terrace, Barbican Centre © Max Colson 


Once again we are delighted to have attracted over a million people to Barbican events this year. And importantly, this figure doesn't include the thousands who visit the Barbican Centre for other reasons, such as to enjoy a drink on the Lakeside or the growing community who use the Centre to work or study.

The Barbican has always been a truly unique proposition; an arts and learning centre at the heart of a residential estate but which looks outwards to London and the world. This is a place where the extraordinary happens every day and throughout 2018/19 we hosted 4,063 arts and commercial events, featuring the best in international theatre, dance, film, music and visual arts.

We welcomed 2,647 artists from across the globe; hosted residencies with some of the world's best musicians; celebrated our 30th Curve commission; nurtured meaningful partnerships with leading theatre and dance companies; invited young people to programme in our cinemas; and toured work curated and produced by the Barbican around the world. Here in London we worked with over 1,500 local residents to deliver the annual, free Walthamstow Garden Party festival; hosted the Art 50 event in partnership with Sky Arts; and picked up awards including for our Creative Learning, Development and Sustainability work.

Our commitment to arts without boundaries remains as strong as ever and I would like to thank everyone who has supported us this year.

Sir Nicholas Kenyon
Managing Director, Barbican Centre

An international perspective

LIFT 2018, Taylor Mac, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: The First Act. Photo: Little Fang

LIFT 2018, Taylor Mac, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: The First Act. Photo: Little Fang

Louise Jeffreys, Artistic Director, on how the Barbican’s international approach to the arts led to some truly unforgettable moments for our audiences in 2018/19 .

Our international outlook has been at the heart of our artistic approach since day one; it‘s part of the Barbican’s DNA. Every day we collaborate with artists on work that crosses art forms and breaks down barriers, whether it be part of our programme here at the Barbican Centre, which aims to bring the widest range of artists from across the world to London, or part of our touring exhibitions and productions that reach hundreds of thousands of people each year all over the globe. Thanks to its role as producer, curator and commissioner, the Barbican is helping to make art that has an international perspective at its very core.

This year we presented 3,701 events across all of our art forms – music, visual arts, theatre, dance and film – featuring 2,647 artists from 54 nations.

Taylor Mac brought the unforgettable A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: The First Act to our Theatre as part of LIFT 2018. The Pulitzer Prize-nominated performance reframed the social history of America through three decades of song chronicling how communities grow stronger as they are being torn apart. It was rapturously received by our audiences, who helped create a truly ecstatic atmosphere throughout the run.

In our cinemas, Love and Anarchy: The Films of Lina Wertmüller celebrated the output of the Italian director who – despite being the first woman to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar – is almost unknown in the UK. As her work is rarely screened here, this meant that audiences were seeing work they may not otherwise have had the chance to experience. Our pioneering exhibition Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde showcased the creative output of over 40 artist couples active in the first half of the 20th century. The show examined how couples from around the world forged new ways of living and loving and opened our eyes to a myriad of different perspectives.

International highlights from our contemporary and classical music programme included a dazzling improvised set from American techno legend Jeff Mills and iconic Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, and our third residency from the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel. Packed full of hugely memorable performances, the residency was made all the more special thanks to a wonderful Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning project, which brought young people from the UK and LA together to write a youth manifesto for the future of the arts.

British artists are also celebrated across our art forms. Highlights from the past year include the first major UK solo show of contemporary photographer Vanessa Winship, who hails from rural Lincolnshire, and a triple bill from the ever impressive British dance company, Ballet Black. With an international programme comes an international audience and we were delighted to welcome 1,048,000 people to Barbican events this year with ticket bookings from 103 different countries. In addition to this were the thousands more visitors who attended our free, unticketed events or came to enjoy our public spaces such as Level G or the Lakeside.

Situated at the heart of an international capital city, the Barbican aims to represent the vitality and diversity of London’s languages, cultures and stories; our hope is for everyone to feel at home here.

Life Rewired

The Eternal Golden Braid: Gödel Escher Bach with Marcus du Sautoy, part of Strange Loops, Barbican Hall, March 2019 © Mark Allan

The Eternal Golden Braid: Gödel Escher Bach with Marcus du Sautoy, part of Strange Loops, Barbican Hall, March 2019 © Mark Allan

Siddharth Khajuria, Senior Producer, and Chris Sharp, Contemporary Music Producer, on the Barbican’s 2019 cross-arts season, which explores what it means to be human when technology is changing everything .

A starting point when we began to think about Life Rewired was that, while there’s no shortage of discourse about our relationship with machines, artists are particularly well-equipped to interrogate and respond to the complexity and scale of technological shifts that are affecting us all.

The Barbican’s cross-arts approach means that our arts and learning teams have been able to support and share work by artists with a breadth of viewpoints about the impact of technology on our lives. Rather than present any single argument, we have been keen to find imaginative ways to navigate the impact of unprecedented technological change on what it means to be human, and to encourage people to arrive at their own responses to these seismic shifts.

At the heart of the season, our major new exhibition AI: More than Human was an unprecedented survey of both creative and scientific developments in artificial intelligence. From its ancient roots in Japanese Shintoism and Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage’s early experiments in computing, the exhibition showed how an age-old dream of creating intelligence has become today’s reality.

The Barbican has long had an affinity with artists whose work is difficult to categorise, or that pushes the edges of art forms; this year’s Life Rewired programme was no different. The Strange Loops series led by mathematician Marcus du Sautoy combined music, installations, theatre, AI systems and spoken word, while Daria Martin, artist and winner of the Jarman Award 2018, used film and gaming technology to create Tonight the World, a special installation for The Curve drawing upon 35 years of dream diaries kept by her grandmother.

Over in our cinemas, anime expert Helen McCarthy curated Anime’s Human Machines, a series of eight Japanese anime films on various aspects of humanity’s response to technological change. Highlights from Fertility Fest, hosted by the Barbican for the first time as part of the season, included the world premiere of our home-grown production Avalanche: A Love Story, a dramatisation of Julia Leigh’s memoir about her IVF journey starring Maxine Peake, co-produced with Sydney Theatre Company and Audible; and The Queer Family, an evening of creativity and conversation celebrating queer families in all their forms.

The season’s creative learning projects included Design Yourself, with new work from twelve of our Young Creatives. And, by the end of 2019, we’ll have hosted over 90 events in our new micro-venue,the Life Rewired Hub, which was created in partnership with the Royal Society and British Council.

Life Rewired Shorts

Working with global video platform The Smalls, we commissioned twelve filmmakers to respond to the themes of our Life Rewired season. Each short film presents a unique take on the role technology plays in our daily lives. These are the first three.

January: Uncanny Valley, directed by Gary Dumbill
A nostalgic and familiar place that looks and feels very much like the human experience, but with something a bit strange occurring in the corner of your eye. A place with an odd surrealism you can’t quite put your finger on.

February: Kasaragod Boys, directed by Vivek Vadoliya
Through the lens of social media, you can be anyone you want to be. Here we meet three young men in the predominantly Muslim district of Kasaragod in Kerala, India, and see their world the way they project it online through social media, all while exploring the reality of who they actually are and their values.

March: The Last Forever Woman, directed by Ollie Wolf
What if you could live forever but just didn’t want to? This is exactly where Alma (Beatrice Comins), an immortal 217-year-old, finds herself. After two centuries of life, love and loss, Alma is struggling to go on and looks to take a final journey to rejoin her deceased wife Maya.

The whole series can be viewed here:

Tune into Access

Performances exploring technology and the arts on Disabled Access Day.

Tune in to Access on Level G of the Barbican Centre, March 2019 © Camilla Greenwell

Tune in to Access on Level G of the Barbican Centre, March 2019 © Camilla Greenwell

At the Barbican we believe that providing the best access possible is an essential component of what we do, as well as presenting work from artists who face barriers to inclusion.

Our arts and learning programme offers accessible events for audience members, including BSL tours of exhibitions and relaxed film screenings, theatre productions and dance shows. We provide a variety of practical services such as audio and large print access guides, maps showing step-free routes from our closest stations, and facilities such as a new Changing Places toilet. Since 2013, we have held silver level in Attitude is Everything’s Charter of Best Practice, which seeks to improve Deaf and disabled people’s access to live music across the UK.

In 2018, Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning became the London Training Centre for the world’s first disabled-led youth orchestra, the National Open Youth Orchestra. And in 2019 Creative Learning won the SEND Achievement (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) at the National Creative Learning Awards for its work with The Garden School in Hackney, a school for learners aged 4–16 with autism.

We’re proud of the work we’re doing to help make the Barbican more accessible but we recognise there is more to be done. This year, on 16 March 2019, we decided to mark Disabled Access Day with a new event called Tune in to Access, a celebratory free day of performances and participation exploring accessibility, technology and the arts. Technology has played a major role in making music performance and composition more accessible to disabled artists, a development that chimes well with our 2019 cross-arts season, Life Rewired.

As the leading national organisation working in music, disability and technology, Drake Music was our chosen partner for Tune in to Access. The Drake Music showcase comprised five new commissions by disabled musicians: Oliver Cross, Ewan Mackay, Dike Okoh, Robyn Steward and Steve Varden. Their performances took place on Level G, which was transformed into ad-hoc studio and performance spaces with audiences very much part of the musicmaking experience.

In addition to providing a platform for emerging musicians who perhaps haven’t yet had the opportunity to perform in a venue like the Barbican, we also wanted to offer a chance for audiences to experience the work of young composers.

Following the showcase, Britten Sinfonia cellist Caroline Dearnley performed synaesthetic composer Alexia Sloane’s Gate, Gate, which explores melody and text in Buddhist chanting. The day closed with the panel discussion Look Deeper: Accessible Music Technology for Performance, featuring composer Alexia Sloane and Barry Farrimond, Chief Executive of Open Up Music and developer of accessible musical instrument the Clarion.

‘I have enjoyed many Disabled Access Day trips out since its creation, but this was by far the best. I came away not only positive about the physical access of such an esteemed arts institution but from the proof that disabled people can lead the way within the arts.’
Disability Arts Online

Theatre and Dance partnerships

Internationaal Theater Amsterdam, Medea, Aus Greidanus Jr and Marieke Heebink. Photo: Sanne Peper

Internationaal Theater Amsterdam, Medea, Aus Greidanus Jr and Marieke Heebink. Photo: Sanne Peper

Toni Racklin, Head of Theatre and Dance, on why a collaborative approach to theatre and dance is best.

Positive partnerships with major festivals and companies are the backbone of our Theatre and Dance seasons. Since the very beginning of our programme we have worked hard to establish successful reciprocal relationships that allow us to present the very best international, multidisciplinary, boundary breaking performances. In 2018/19 we welcomed to the Theatre and The Pit: Internationaal Theater Amsterdam; London International Mime Festival; LIFT; Dance Umbrella; SPILL Festival of Performance; and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

‘For SPILL Festival of Performance 2018 we co-presented Jodee Mundy Collaborations’ work Imagined Touch with the Barbican. Made by deafblind Australian artists, the show invited audience members to suspend themselves in a multimedia, multi-sensory environment, which audience members described afterwards as ‘incredible’, ‘profound’, and ‘unlike any other experience in a theatre to date’
SPILL Festival of Performance

We work with these organisations to select shows, often by seeing productions at festivals and venues around the world. They are the champions of new voices, sometimes introducing us to artists or companies who are new to London. And because over the years we have developed a deep, mutual trust, we can feel confident that the work they bring fits perfectly with our year-round theatre and dance programme.

Every festival and company is different – they all have their own distinct identities. Together we join forces to promote their unique characteristics, building loyal fans who come to recognise and appreciate signature styles. Working collaboratively also means we can potentially reach a wider audience. Their visits provide a focal point for the year, as people anticipate their return and look forward to seeing what each new programme will bring.

Much of the incredible live performance – brought to us by our partners – has been recognised by major awarding bodies in the UK. We are proud that these innovators and visionaries can call the Barbican their London home.

‘At Dance Umbrella we work with many partners across the city each year, and the ones that sustain in the longer term are the most valuable. These happy relationships come about through a shared commitment to artistic exploration, articulacy, hope and wonder, and our partnership with the Barbican team delivers all of these things in abundance. Hats off.’
Dance Umbrella

Home from home

Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Barbican Hall, May 2018 © Mark Allan

Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Barbican Hall, May 2018 © Mark Allan

Our music residency programme has a real impact on our audiences, explains Huw Humphreys, Head of Music.

Artistic residencies are a key aspect of the Barbican’s music programme, allowing our audiences a deeper exploration into the imaginations of some of the world’s greatest musical figures and institutions. Working on a residency framework, often on a multi-annual basis, we are able to begin programming discussions with visiting artists by asking ‘what is your most ground-breaking project?’, rather than simply ‘what are you touring with at the time?’

Since our residency programme began almost a decade ago, the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Gustavo Dudamel has been a key partner for the Barbican and we are proud to call ourselves the LA Phil’s home in the UK. The May 2018 residency featured three concerts, whose programmes linked in with three major Barbican projects: The Art of Change annual theme; the celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday; and a focus on the music of Esa Pekka Salonen, which included the Barbican co-commission Pollux. A major highlight of the residency was the publication of a youth manifesto for the arts, Tuning into Change, the culmination of a six-month Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning project, examining the role young artists hope to play in shaping society. The manifesto was launched at a Barbican-hosted open rehearsal at which Gustavo Dudamel conducted 150 young musicians, including members of Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain’s Inspire Orchestra.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) is the newest member of our international family and launched the first of three residencies as International Associate Ensemble at Milton Court in October 2018. The repertoire ranged from Hildegard von Bingen to Sufjan Stevens, as well as a blistering account of Mozart’s three last symphonies, while ACO sat side by side with musicians from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in a performance of Bartók’s Divertimento. Perhaps its most innovative performance was Mountain, a Jennifer Peedom directed film with narration from Willem Dafoe that the ACO has developed as both a concert hall and cinematic experience.

Other residency projects have included Roderick Williams as Milton Court Artist-in-Residence and Diana Damrau’s three-concert celebration of the soprano repertoire by Richard Strauss. The Barbican’s marathon weekend in 2018, Sounds and Visions, was curated by renowned composer Max Richter and artist Yulia Mahr. Twenty concerts and screenings, both ticketed and free, were attended by over 6,000 audience members. Highlights included Chineke! Orchestra’s performance of Richter’s score for Waltz with Bashir alongside a live screening of the film, and Roomful of Teeth’s sell-out UK premiere of Caroline Shaw’s Pulitzer Prizewinning composition Partita for 8 Voices.

Watch a Barbican Session with Roderick Williams

Ahead of the curve

Francis Upritchard: Wetwang Slack, installation view, The Curve, September 2018 to January 2019, photograph by Angus Mill 

Francis Upritchard: Wetwang Slack, installation view, The Curve, September 2018 to January 2019, photograph by Angus Mill 

This year we presented our 30th commission in The Curve; Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, reveals her highlights.

So-called because it wraps around the back of our concert hall, The Curve is our free exhibition space and, since 2006, artists have been invited to create site-responsive work here. This year, Francis Upritchard became the 30th Curve commission artist with Wetwang Slack, populating the space with magical, hybrid figures.

I often say that artists need to raise their game to successfully realise a commission in The Curve because of its unique shape and chapel-like height. As the 90-metre curve unfurls, the art is revealed; there is nowhere else quite like it and, over the years, The Curve has played host to installations ranging from a Second World War bunker to a digital bowling alley.

At the right moment in an artist’s career, a Curve commission can be life-changing. This is because we are one of only a few galleries in London commissioning work, not just showing it. Equally, because the Barbican is a multidisciplinary arts and learning centre and The Curve is free to visit, it offers a unique platform for an artist to do something different.

The first commission in 2006 was, in my view, one of the best. Tomas Saraceno’s panoramic film installation comprised 20 plus projectors of real time films shot by cameras floating on the world’s largest salt lake, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. A very still horizon line cut through the entire space, with the sky mirrored in the water. It was mesmerising – a cathedral to colour, nature and light.

In 2010, we opened one of our most popular commissions when Céleste Boursier-Mougenot created a walk-through aviary. A flock of zebra finches occupied the gallery with electric guitars programmed to play the most extraordinary sounds when the birds descended on the strings. It was highly memorable – the birds perched on heads, got into handbags and did all the other things birds do.

Random International made a name for themselves when we commissioned Rain Room in 2012. It was a massive leap of faith on our part, as their plan to create 100 square metres of rainfall to walk through without getting wet was entirely untested. In fact, I remember experiencing the prototype and getting soaked. When finished, however, it was truly awesome. Not only did it look great sculpturally, but through clever camera tracking and computer programming it was possible to remain dry. As such, people queued for hours to experience the magic.

More recently, in 2017, we were thrilled to show Richard Mosse’s Incoming, about the migration crisis across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. The work was filmed with heat-sensing military grade surveillance cameras, took more than two years to complete and looked like nothing anyone had seen before.

As we celebrate our 30th commission, we look forward to the bold and immersive installations that will continue to transform The Curve in future.

Free to see

Programming free events and activities to ensure the arts are accessible to all is vital.

Walthamstow Garden Party 2018 © Gar Powell-Evans

Walthamstow Garden Party 2018 © Gar Powell-Evans

Every year the Barbican works with community groups, arts organisations and local partners to produce free and accessible arts events for people of all ages. This offer has been growing steadily over the past few years and has become an established part of our programme, featuring events here at the Barbican such as OpenFest and Sound Unbound, as well as those beyond our walls, including the annual Walthamstow Garden Party. These events enable us to create new connections with people and communities while giving emerging and established artists the opportunity to reach new audiences.

In February 2019, the Barbican worked with Sky Arts to produce Barbican OpenFest: Art 50, an exploration of what it means to be British today through music, theatre, dance, spoken word, film and visual arts. Over 9,000 people attended on the day, enjoying performances from artists such as Dreda Say Mitchell, Boy Blue, Nitin Sawhney and Lemn Sissay.

Walthamstow Garden Party, a free summer festival collaboratively produced by the Barbican, Create London and Waltham Forest Council, had its fifth outing on 14 and 15 July 2018. Across the weekend more than 90 local organisations presented music, theatre, dance, circus, spoken word, crafts, and food and drink alongside an international line-up on the Barbican Music Stage, enjoyed by over 30,000 people.

This year, Creative Learning also launched Squish Space, a new dedicated early years sensory play space for children under the age of five in the Level G Studio, welcoming 10,000 visitors within its first 100 days.

An award-winning partnership

Our world-class arts and learning programme is made possible by the generous support of our partners and donors.

Warehouse x Barbican: Inside Out collection, Isabel Moir and Amina Jama, image credit Warehouse & Phil Dunlop

Warehouse x Barbican: Inside Out collection, Isabel Moir and Amina Jama, image credit Warehouse & Phil Dunlop

In 2019, the Barbican’s partnership with fashion brand Warehouse won the Arts & Culture Award from the European Sponsorship Association. This special partnership involved a capsule collection inspired by the Barbican’s architecture, modelled by Barbican staff and a Barbican Young Poet, and was sold in Warehouse stores and online, as well as through affiliates such as John Lewis, ASOS, Selfridges and the Barbican Shop. The Warehouse team also led a Creative Learning Creative Careers session, Demystifying the Fashion Shoot, for young people looking to get into the fashion industry.

This is just one of the many valued partnerships we are establishing with supporters who contribute vital resources and expertise, and crucially help us reach new audiences. Our exhibition Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde inspired a new relationship with lead-sponsor Bupa Global, which continued its support as lead sponsor of the summer 2019 exhibition AI: More than Human. Long-time friends tp bennett also sponsored the Modern Couples exhibition.

Inspired by our 2019 cross-arts season, Life Rewired, and drawing on the intersection between the arts and science, we partnered with grant-makers such as Wellcome, which is supporting key research-driven arts projects in our theatre, visual arts, music, and cinema programmes, as well as free talks, performances, workshops and residencies.

Several grants are helping transform the direction and ambition of our creative learning work in London and across the UK: the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation is supporting the development of a national schools programme, while the National Lottery Heritage Fund has made a grant to aid the development of the Barbican Guildhall Archive and its accompanying learning programme for young people and communities.

The Barbican and our dedicated charity, the Barbican Centre Trust, would like to thank all the individuals and organisations who are helping us deliver the Barbican’s mission and vision.

The Barbican in China

Neil McConnon, Head of Barbican International Enterprises (BIE), on how his team continue to curate new shows and launch them across the world.

Digital Revolution at WF Central, Beijing, March to May 2018

Digital Revolution at WF Central, Beijing, March to May 2018

BIE develops and curates touring exhibitions with a focus on technology and the moving image, which this year attracted a total of 345,299 visitors in five different countries. This was in addition to curating AI: More than Human here at the Barbican.

A number of new projects were launched, particularly in China. One of BIE’s most ambitious partnerships to date kicked off in OCT Creative Exhibition Centre in Shenzhen, with the opening of Game On, a show exploring the vibrant history and culture of computer games, and looking at the seemingly limitless future of the industry. The exhibition then embarked on an eighteen-month tour across China, kick-starting a three-year, multi-exhibition collaboration with the Barbican.

Our 2014 show Digital Revolution, an exhibition celebrating the ways that digital technology has transformed art, design, film, music and video games, also toured China. The show started 2018 in Beijing, at the newly open WF Central, a cultural and hospitality hub located in the heart of the city. In Guangdong Science Centre, Guangzhou, Digital Revolution then welcomed over 1,200 people daily with a total of 173,000 visitors.

Back in Europe, BIE’s 2017 show Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction toured to Denmark’s Museum of Visual Arts & Culture, BRANDTS, in Odense – one of the exhibition’s co-producers, followed by Kunsthal Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, where it welcomed more than 22,500 visitors in the first month alone, an average of 850 visitors a day.

Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics, the first exhibition to present an overview of Asian comic history by presenting the largest ever selection of original artworks from Asian comics, also continued its European tour. It visited the Villa Reale palace in Monza, Italy and Le Lieu Unique in Nantes, France, bringing the number of venues toured by BIE exhibitions in 2018/19 to seven. The show is now set to move to Asia.

Taking a
Community View

Modern Couples Community View, January 2019 © Catarina Rodrigues

Modern Couples Community View, January 2019 © Catarina Rodrigues

Community Views give local groups and charities a unique chance to get closer to our arts and learning programme.

The Barbican invests in sustained and meaningful relationships with a wide variety of community groups. We focus on people who may face barriers to accessing the arts, such as challenging life circumstances, as well as geographical and financial obstacles, and work to address some of those barriers by making our programme more open and accessible and by providing a platform for people’s voices to be heard.

One of the ways in which we do this is through our Community Views. Launched at the beginning of 2018, these are free, interactive private views of our exhibitions for local groups and charities. They are designed to give people the chance to enjoy and learn from our visual arts programme while also enabling space for people to feed back their thoughts on the Barbican itself.

On 14 January 2019, we invited brain injury charity Headway East London to co-curate our Community View for major Art Gallery show Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde. As Community Partners for the event, Headway East London members curated a series of workshops that responded to the exhibition, and created podcasts, films and artworks that were displayed and shown in the Conservatory.

Other Community Views took place during the exhibitions Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins; and Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing and Vanessa Winship: And Time Folds; as well as for Unclaimed, part of our Level G programme, and at the relaxed performance of Wolfgang’s Magical Musical Circus presented by Circa in The Pit.

The programme is growing and now supports hundreds of people in accessing our artistic offer who may otherwise have been unable to do so.

Our work with community groups is enhanced by the Barbican’s Community Ambassadors, a passionate group of people aged 16 and over who are actively engaged in their communities and are keen to promote the work of the Barbican. The main aim of the ambassadors is to reach out to people in places such as community centres and libraries who may not have heard of the Barbican before, or who might not feel it is for them, and encourage them to get involved with what we have on offer here.

Introducing Gali Gold, the Barbican's new Head of Cinema.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I have always been fascinated by film. I grew up in Jerusalem and I remember watching awful movies at a cinema next door to my dad’s work. I loved the huge screen and immersing myself in the stories in the company of others (despite the films’ dubious quality). I then became interested in art house cinema and realised this was the career for me after programming a season about women in the Middle East at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.

My path to the Barbican included roles at the Birds Eye Film Festival; UK Jewish Film Festival; Jerusalem Gay and Lesbian Film Festival; and the Jerusalem International Film Festival. For years I’ve combined work with studying and teaching film, including completing a PhD on documentaries. I became a Barbican Film Curator in 2012 and Head of Cinema in May 2018.

What inspires your approach to your work?

In the 1990s, while working for a Palestinian Israeli women’s grassroots organisation, I curated a film series that aimed to share understanding of the cultures separated by conflict. I was so engrossed in the multiple points of views, and I knew I wanted to enable other people to have that exposure. Cinema is a mode of expression but also one of activism; it’s not true for every film, of course, but there are plenty of amazing works that possess power over people’s hearts and minds.

What makes the Barbican’s cinema programme special?

From big releases, to programmed seasons, to championing small independent films, everything is carefully curated. My team considers the films’ use of cinematic language, the diversity of points of view, the variety of stories, and the talent behind the scenes. The film needs to align with the Barbican’s approach to equality and inclusivity and our commitment to cross-arts.

What were your 2018/19 highlights?

I’m still excited about Nevertheless She Persisted: Suffrage, Cinema and Beyond, which was part of the Barbican’s 2018 cross-arts season, The Art of Change. The ability to look at persisting issues of women’s voices and influence on the public sphere through a medium that gains its power from its wide reach and appeal was very satisfying (particularly as the season was so successful with audiences).

The opening night of Generations: Russian Cinema of Change was one of the most moving evenings I’ve spent here. We screened Goodbye, Boys, a rare masterpiece that we brought from an archive in Moscow. This was accompanied by a live performance from emerging cutting edge pianist, Douglas Dare, which was inspired by Mikael Tariverdiev, the film composer of the original piece. Together, people from different ages and backgrounds were taken on an emotional journey through one of the most pivotal moments in Russian revolutionary history – all thanks to one of the ‘unrehabilitated’ Soviet directors, Mikhail Kalik.

What is your vision for the Barbican’s cinema programme?

To continue to present a bold and brave range of films, and to consolidate the Barbican’s place as a home for the best British and international films and as a platform for established and emerging film talent from around the world.

Gali Gold in Barbican Cinema 2, © Linda Nylind

Gali Gold in Barbican Cinema 2, © Linda Nylind

New talent

Barbican Young Programmers involved in curating the Chronic Youth Film Festival in March 2019 © Betty Laura Zapata

Barbican Young Programmers involved in curating the Chronic Youth Film Festival in March 2019 © Betty Laura Zapata

Jenny Mollica, Director of Creative Learning, on our ever-growing community of Young Creatives.

The creative industries are one of the fastest growing sectors of the British economy. To help equip young people with the skills and confidence they need to break into the sector, Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning runs a range of talent development programmes for 14–25-year-olds.

This year, 180 Young Creatives took part in our programmes covering areas ranging from digital arts to poetry. Offering the opportunity to learn from experts and create new work with the support of experienced mentors, these programmes continue to enable young people to gain creative skills for life.

90% of Young Creatives said the programme increased their creative skills

Highlights from this year include the Chronic Youth Film Festival. Curated by our Young Programmers over seven months, the festival brought together an innovative series of films dealing with escape and rebellion, and featured UK premieres, Q&As, an open submission shorts programme and British archive films.

This year we were also proud to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our longest running talent development programme, Barbican Young Poets. Under the inspiring leadership of artist and educator Jacob Sam-La Rose, the Young Poets come together for fortnightly workshops at the Barbican between September and March each year. The poets study the craft of writing, and they explore, through collaborative project opportunities, the power of performing their material live.

The 10th anniversary event saw performances from three Young Poets and the opening of the Constructing Voices exhibition in the Barbican Library. Constructing Voices was an artistic collaboration between some of our Young Poets, Young Visual Artists and Young Photographers, and was displayed throughout national poetry month in October.

Alumni from the Young Poets scheme have gone on to become performers, journalists, multidisciplinary artists and more. This year we were delighted that former Barbican Young Poet Theresa Lola was named Young People’s Laureate for London 2019.

The intrinsic diversity, vibrancy and creativity of our community of alumni from across our talent development programmes is one of the most powerful and unique expressions of our work in Creative Learning and continues to inform and inspire us year on year.

Our Young Barbican discounted ticket scheme continued to grow with 69,931 members by the end of 2018/19

This year also saw the launch of a brand new programme designed especially for young creative entrepreneurs, Young Enterprise Lab. Developed in close collaboration with the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s Enterprise department, the programme provided tailored mentoring for a group of young creatives, supporting them to develop their business ideas and pitch for a £2,000 prize to progress their vision. It was won by Pride in Progress, a business enterprise led by former Young Visual Arts Group member Joe Fear, which seeks to support young LGBTQ+ people through creative workshops. Up to four Young Enterprise Lab members will now be supported to take up places on the Guildhall School’s 2019/20 Creative Entrepreneurs Programme, and we are looking forward to growing the reach of the Young Enterprise Lab further in 2020.

‘I was able to get a new job almost entirely on the back of being a Barbican Young Programmer. For me the course has been priceless. This can only be attributed to the generosity of the Barbican (which astounds me) and the unfaltering care and passion which I have received from each one of the course leaders.’
Young Programmer, 2018/19

Level G

Borrowed Light installation by Troika © Max Colson

Borrowed Light installation by Troika © Max Colson

Level G is a place to socialise, work and explore exhibitions, installations and events.

Recently redesigned with new furniture and easy-to-read signage, Level G is an increasingly popular and valued civic space at the heart of our building. These public areas are home to a multitude of communities: audience members meeting for a drink before performances; parents/carers and toddlers enjoying sensory play in Squish Space; or freelancers working on one of our communal desks. Alongside them is our Level G Programme of installations and public events.

The programme this year included Liminal Space’s Unclaimed, an installation about the future of ageing and our experiences of growing old, which was developed in collaboration with University College London with the support of Wellcome. During its first six weeks, more than 9,000 people visited.

Elsewhere on Level G, Borrowed Light – an installation by collaborative art group Troika – resembled an artificial loop of sunset and sunrise and Soundhouse invited audiences to enter a ‘listening cinema’ to encounter a collection of audio works – curated by Falling Tree Productions and In The Dark – to provoke the imagination and stimulate the senses.

Similarly asking audiences to engage with new ideas is the Life Rewired Hub, a pop-up space inspired by, and in response to, the Barbican’s 2019 season Life Rewired. Audiences have been asked to engage with the dizzying impact of technological and scientific change on what it means to be human today through a programme of over 90 talks, performances, workshops and residencies programmed in partnership with the Royal Society and British Council.

On 3 November 2018, the Barbican and Sarah Shin presented New Suns: A Feminist Literary Festival, inspired by the 1980s international feminist bookfairs with stalls from publishers such as Fitzcarraldo Editions, Hachette, Penguin Random House and Silver Press, plus talks and discussions with writers, artists, academics and poets exploring contemporary feminism through the lens of mythology.

Take a Tour

Discovering the bold architecture of a Brutalist icon.

Lakeside Terrace, Barbican Centre © Max Colson

Lakeside Terrace, Barbican Centre © Max Colson

Walk through the Barbican on any given day, and you’re likely to find numerous photographers, students, tourists and, on occasion, film crews – all using the building as a backdrop to their images. With the resurgence in the popularity of Brutalist architecture, the Barbican has become one of the most iconic buildings in London and a landmark of modern architecture.

The Barbican was originally developed as part of a transformative vision by British architectural firm Chamberlin, Powell and Bon to re-imagine an area of London left devastated by bombing during the Second World War. The architects aimed to build a city within a city, containing houses, schools, lakes, green spaces and an arts centre in a cohesive and ambitious design. Now Grade II listed, the Barbican is seen as one of the UK’s best examples of Brutalist architecture.

On a visit to the Barbican, you may also encounter a group taking in an Architecture Tour, a 90 minute walk around of the complex, led by an expert guide. The tour takes visitors across the Barbican Centre and surrounding Barbican Estate, venturing along the highwalks and through leafy courts and sweeping crescents, and exploring key points of interest including the tranquil Lakeside Terrace, the striking form of the Sculpture Court, and the trio of soaring residential towers.

Last year, 6,420 people attended an architecture tour, an increase of 55 per cent from the previous year. The success of the architecture tours has led to the creation of additional tours that further reveal some of the hidden and unexpected aspects of the Barbican. Our Backstage Tours offer a behind-the-scenes look at the stage wings and set mechanisms of the Barbican Theatre, while our Twilight Tours combine an evening exploring of the architecture as the sun sets, with dinner in the Barbican’s Osteria restaurant.

As well as proving increasingly popular with visitors, the tours allow us to tell the story of our building in an engaging and memorable way, celebrate its architecture, and recognise its importance as an example of what can be achieved with ambitious urban planning.


We are committed to reducing our impact on the environment.

We recognise the impact that our operations and activities can have on the environment and we are committed to reducing our use of resources, our waste and all associated carbon emissions. This year, in recognition of our commitments and initiatives, we achieved a four star (out of five) Creative Green Certification from Julie’s Bicycle as well as winning Most Sustainable Venue at the London Summer Events Show.

Some of the changes we have made include:

  • withdrawing plastic straws and plastic cutlery from our bars, restaurants and cafes
  • replacing plastic cups with paper cones at our water fountains and coolers
  • switching to 100% renewable electricity across the Barbican
  • installing six free to use electric vehicle charging points
  • introducing a number of waterless urinals across the Centre
  • signing the City of London’s Plastic Free City pledge at a platinum level and supporting Clean Air in the City of London through the Clean City Air Business Engagement Programme

A commercial approach

Our iconic building can be hired for events ranging from conferences to product launches and weddings, all managed by our business events team.

Internet Advertising Bureau conference in the Barbican Hall, June 2018, image courtesy of Rolfe Markham/IAB UK

Internet Advertising Bureau conference in the Barbican Hall, June 2018, image courtesy of Rolfe Markham/IAB UK

The year 2018/19 saw a total of 362 business events. Fifty-eight per cent of the team’s work was with new clients, while established relationships with the Institute of Fundraising, the Internet Advertising Bureau, Mind the Product, the NHS and others continued to flourish. We are also proud to continue hosting graduations for London Metropolitan and City universities.

Some of the most successful events held at the Barbican over the past year include a talk on the global economic outlook by Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney, plus several in-conversation events with high profile figures including Lily Allen, Tony Blair, Tim Peake and Malala Yousafzai.

Beyond the team’s work in the events industry, it has also worked hard to grow our photography and film location business. The Barbican has played host to commercial shoots for companies including Nespresso, pricewaterhousecoopers, Nike and John Lewis, as well as a music video for singer-songwriter Freya Ridings.

Earlier this year, the Barbican was awarded the Most Sustainable Venue at the London Summer Events Show, recognising our commitment to reducing our environmental impact.

We were also proud to accept Best Venue in the City at the London City Awards.

Creating an inspiring retail destination

Exclusive product ranges and special events in the Barbican Shop.

Weaving demonstration with Christabel Balfour, Barbican Shop, May 2018 © Susannah Alltimes

Weaving demonstration with Christabel Balfour, Barbican Shop, May 2018 © Susannah Alltimes

Located across a two-floor space in the main foyer of the Barbican Centre, with an additional outlet in the Art Gallery and an online store, the Barbican Shop offers a curated selection of retail items that complement our programming and showcase new and emerging makers. The year 2018/19 was another successful milestone in the continued growth of our retail offer, which we were excited to expand into our first season of events.

Themed around contemporary craft, the Make! season allowed visitors to learn new craft skills and to meet the makers behind some of the shop’s favourite products. With the growing popularity of crafts and the maker movement, it was an opportunity to reach new audiences for the Barbican, while also furthering the work of the Barbican Shop in supporting independent crafts talent and bringing to life the methods behind the makers’ work.

We had an incredible response from people attending the activities, which included a rug weaving demonstration by Christabel Balfour, casting workshops, and a series of installations and panel discussions from local bike manufacturers. This positive reaction spread to the media, with a wide range of newspaper and online coverage alongside a live appearance on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch.

The year also saw continued development of exclusive product ranges for sale in the shop that capture the design ethic of the Barbican and the Brutalist aesthetic that is so popular with visitors to the Centre. Highlights include the launch of the Architecture Collection by Barbican Studio, a collection of homeware, lifestyle and accessory items created by our in-house design team; a collaboration with local distillery East London Liquor Company to present a special edition Barbican London Dry Gin; the launch of the Surface jewellery collection by design studio Tom Pigeon, which incorporates patterns inspired by the geography of the Barbican Estate; and for our younger visitors the My Modern House activity book by illustrator Charlotte Trounce, which takes a playful look at the world of architecture.

Looking ahead to the next year, our continued curation of an exciting and profitable retail range will remain central to the goal of the Barbican Shop in supporting the wider organisation and providing an inspiring destination for our visitors.

Watch Christie Balfour demonstrate how to weave from her studio

Centre for Music

Plans were developed for a building that delivers access to music for all.

In January 2019, the Barbican, London Symphony Orchestra and Guildhall School of Music & Drama released the first concept designs for the proposed Centre for Music.

The new Centre aims to harness the power of these three internationally renowned cultural organisations to inspire a new generation with a love of music, by creating a new world-class venue for people of all ages and backgrounds to experience the joy of music making first hand.

The concept designs, developed by the project’s lead designer Diller Scofidio + Renfro, demonstrated the potential to deliver a landmark new building on the current Museum of London site, transforming the public realm of the area and delivering a building that includes superb spaces for performance, education and rehearsal across all musical genres.

The partners’ shared commitment to access and inclusion is central to the Centre for Music’s vision, with plans being developed for major new learning and discovery initiatives as part of the project.

The Centre for Music would enhance the status of London as one of the world’s leading cultural capitals, delivering major new benefits to the city and the UK’s musical life, educational offer and international reputation.

The new Centre would also create an iconic new gateway to the City of London’s emerging Culture Mile, drawing visitors to and from the south on a key cultural axis that includes Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral.

Culture Mile

Plans were developed for a building that delivers access to music for all. Reimagining the north west of the City through culture and creativity.

The Barbican is a lead partner in Culture Mile, an ambitious, long-term initiative led by the City of London Corporation to transform the area between Farringdon and Moorgate with outdoor programming and events, improved links between cultural venues, and major enhancements to the streets and wider public realm. Highlights of the Culture Mile programme over the last year include Smithfield 150, a two-day festival curated by the Museum of London that celebrated the 150th anniversary of Smithfield Market, and a series of pop-up performances and installations in the area, including Jason Bruges’ Brutalist Tapestry in Beech Street Tunnel.

The year also saw major steps forwards in setting the future direction of Culture Mile. This included the publication of the ‘Look and Feel’ strategy for the area, setting out a unified vision for creating an unrivalled visitor experience, and a major piece of research conducted by BOP Consulting demonstrating the opportunity to establish the district as a hub of creativity, enterprise and innovation.

We are working alongside the City Corporation and core partners the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra and Museum of London to deliver our vision, and are excited about the potential for Culture Mile to have a transformative effect on the future of this area of the capital.

Lakeside Terrace, Barbican Centre © Max Colson

Lakeside Terrace, Barbican Centre © Max Colson