Barbican to weed out racism after some staff presumed ‘all black artists smoke cannabis’

The Barbican Centre is to introduce compulsory anti-racism training after a review heard claims that some staff members believe "all black artists smoke weed".

Employees reported "stereotypical assumptions about race", racist and sexist comments, bullying and "belittling of women of colour’s achievements" within the London arts organisation.

Among the concerns was a lack of diversity among senior Barbican executives, who were described as predominantly "British, male, white and middle/upper class, many of whom have been Oxbridge-educated".

The report, conducted by law firm Lewis Silkin, included interviews with 35 of the Barbican’s 350 members of staff and 10 written submissions. Only eight were people of colour.

Among the allegations was that "assumptions are often made by Barbican staff members about artists of colour, for instance that all black artists smoke weed".

‘This investigation makes tough reading’

A theme arising from the review was concern that, because Barbican curators are predominantly white men, the artistic programme "is delivered through the prism of their white male perspective".

The independent review was launched after staff produced a collection of alleged racist and offensive incidents under the title "Barbican Stories".

In response to the latest report, the Barbican’s leaders said they would order compulsory diversity and inclusion training "to be rolled out from the top down".

Tom Sleigh, the chairman of the Barbican Centre Board on behalf of the City of London Corporation, 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 board, I apologise to any member of staff, both former and current, who has experienced this unacceptable behaviour."

Will Gompertz and Sandeep Dwesar, the interim joint managing directors of the Barbican, said in a statement: "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."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *