Skip to main content

Home Culture Culture News

Barbican staff to undergo ‘anti-discrimination’ training following bullying and racism claims

An external review has identified "an absence of confidence [...] in managers to deal with or take seriously concerns of racism"

By Patrick Clarke

The Barbican Centre in London
The Barbican has committed to "radical transformation" after accusations of institutional racism (Photo: Commons)

All staff at The Barbican are set to undergo retraining after the London arts hub was accused of being “a systemically racist institution”.

A dossier compiled by lawyers and reported by The Guardian last June described more than 100 instances of alleged prejudicial behaviour dating back to 2014.

In it, Barbican staff were described as “belittling of women of colour’s achievements” and making “stereotypical assumptions about race.”

It also said staff members were referred to as a ‘diversity hire’ which suggested “people of colour would not be working at the Barbican based on merit alone.” A book compiling the alleged incidents titled ‘Barbican Stories’ was also published.

In response The Barbican commissioned an independent review by legal firm Lewis Silkin, the results of which were published by owners The City Of London Corporation today (November 10).

The external review, which interviewed 35 people, identified “a lack of diversity in the organisation, an absence of confidence in HR systems and in the handling of complaints and in managers to deal with or take seriously concerns of racism”.

A subsequent ‘plan of action’ is to be considered by the centre’s board this month. It includes “compulsory anti-discrimination training…rolled out to all staff at the Barbican Centre with senior leaders taking part first”.

Chair 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.”

The Barbican has also launched an internal review, and has pledged to introduce diversity targets for its workforce.