The Barbican Centre in London will make major changes to its leadership, following the publishing of Barbican Stories, a book written by a group of anonymous employees of color at the institution who recount nearly a hundred of incidents of racism at the institution since its founding. The news was first reported by the Art Newspaper.
As a result of the publication of Barbican Stories in June, Nicholas Kenyon, the Barbican’s managing director, will step down in the fall. Two current Barbican employees will act as joint interim managing directors: Will Gomertz, the Barbican’s director of arts and learning, and Sandeep Dwesar, the institution’s chief operating and financial officer. Additionally, Nina Bhagwat will join the Barbican’s senior leadership team as interim director of equity, diversity, and inclusion beginning this month.
Set in motion as a “worker-led direct action triggered by the Barbican’s inadequate response to Black Lives Matter in June 2020,” according to the institution’s website, the Barbican Stories book—which was “funded by white Barbican staff members and friends”—detailed various anonymous accounts of alleged racism experienced by employees. An anonymous worker recounted that when a full-time position was split into two roles, one position was only offered under a temporary contract, while a white colleague who took on the other role was given a permanent contract. “An official, organised system has allowed this to happen!,” the worker wrote.
Another employee recounted only ever seeing one Black person hold a managerial role and added, “I’ve only seen white apprentices or interns get jobs in the organisation after. People of colour who intern don’t get taken on long term. That’s a pattern of employment I’ve seen in the Barbican offices.”
The City of London Corporation, a municipal governing body that is the Barbican’s primary funder, said it had retained the law firm Lewis Silkin LLP to conduct an external review into the incidents detailed in Barbican Stories.