Barbican Centre branded 'inherently racist' by current and former staff

·2 min read
The Barbican Centre
The Barbican Centre

The Barbican Centre, Europe's largest multi-arts venue, has been accused of being "inherently racist" in a dossier compiled by current and former staff.

Barbican Stories, released on Thursday, contains "first-hand and witnessed accounts of racism and discrimination".

Responding to the claims, The Barbican said it was "shocked and saddened" and had launched an investigation.

Copies of the anonymously-written book have been sent to the London venue's bosses.

It was triggered by the centre's "inadequate response to the Black Lives Matter movement and protests of June 2020", the authors said.

More than 100 stories of discrimination and prejudicial behaviour dating back to 2014 are included in the book, which was written by staff from ethnic minority backgrounds and backed by white colleagues.

These include a claim that a senior staff member called an Asian worker "a yellow", later saying they were referring to their aura. One worker calls it a "systemically racist institution", while another describes it as "the whitest space I have ever been in".

The book also includes accounts of racist incidents not being investigated and non-white workers finding it harder to climb the career ladder.

'Insidious and incredibly obvious'

"The Barbican's working culture is inherently racist," the Barbican Stories collective said in a statement.

"It is insidious and incredibly obvious at the same time. The limited internal work that has been allowed to happen has been hard fought for and driven by the lower levels of the workforce.

"This work has either been ignored, side-lined or glossed over with anti-racism statements crafted in the interest of upholding white supremacy.

"This means prioritising the institution over its staff, audiences and artists and continuing to marginalize people for profit."

They are now calling for "radical change" to the organisation.

'Listened to and respected'

In a statement, a Barbican spokesman responded: "The Barbican has always strived to be an inclusive, welcoming and open organisation.

"We are shocked and saddened to hear about these allegations, and will immediately launch an independent review into them.

"Although we have not received formal complaints, all staff will be able to contribute to the independent review so that their experiences can be heard and those impacted can get the support they need. We want everyone's voice to be listened to and respected.

"We fully recognise the pain and hurt caused by these experiences. We are committed to pursuing the ongoing programme of action which we have laid out to advance anti-racism in the organisation, and to achieve necessary change."

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