Barbican commits to ‘radical transformation’ following discrimination inquiry

·3-min read

The Barbican Centre has committed to a “radical transformation of culture and behaviours” after an inquiry into complaints of bullying and racism.

Staff at the venue will undertake compulsory anti-discrimination training after 121 allegations, around a third of which related to racism, were investigated by lawyers.

Legal firm Lewis Silkin interviewed 35 people during its external review.

Its report, published by the City of London Corporation on Tuesday, identified issues including a lack of diversity, a lack of confidence in the handling of complaints and in managers to “deal with or take seriously” concerns of racism.

Concerns were also raised about “a lack of understanding of institutional racism” and “preferential treatment” being given to white members of staff, job applicants and those with private or “Oxbridge” educations.

The external review followed the publication earlier this year of Barbican Stories – a website and social media forum detailing allegations of discrimination from current and former staff.

The Barbican board has now launched an “action plan” to tackle discrimination at the centre, which will be considered on November 17.

It commits the arts centre to a “radical transformation of culture and behaviours” including new workforce diversity recruitment targets for ethnicity, gender and more.

Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Barbican Centre Board Tom Sleigh said: “This investigation makes tough reading. All of us want the Barbican Centre to be a truly diverse and inclusive organisation.

“Racism and discrimination have no place in the Barbican Centre or anywhere else in our society. So, on behalf of the entire Barbican Centre Board, I apologise to any member of staff, both former and current, who has experienced this unacceptable behaviour.

“We now take additional decisive action to build a culture in which staff feel confident, valued and respected, and where there is zero-tolerance of all forms of discrimination.

“This work is already under way, and the board supports the centre’s management, with its ambitious and creative vision with equity, diversity and inclusion at its heart.

“The Barbican Centre Board has prioritised this action and will keep pressure on the Barbican Centre and City of London Corporation’s management to deliver and implement change.

“Staff are the lifeblood of the Barbican Centre and I hope that we can now move forward together to ensure the Barbican is an increasingly inclusive and welcoming place to work.”

Will Gompertz and Sandeep Dwesar, interim joint managing directors of the Barbican, said: “We welcome both the external review and a separate HR audit, also commissioned by the City of London.

“We’re committed to acting on the findings and recommendations of both reports which will help us to evolve our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, and to change the culture of the organisation to provide a safe environment for staff, audiences, artists and partners of all backgrounds …

“In the immediate term, it is our priority to support all our employees through this process. It is our ambition to create a truly inclusive and diverse organisation and we’re sorry for the pain and distress experienced by those who shared their lived experiences.

“Since June 2021, under new leadership, we’ve already taken many positive steps to progress our work around inclusion and diversity. Our progress to date can be found (online).”

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