Barbican boss to quit after staff said centre was ‘institutionally racist’

The Barbican’s managing director has announced he will stand down, with the announcement coming shortly after staff accused the arts centre of being "institutionally racist".

Sir Nicholas Kenyon has announced he will be stepping down from the role after 14 years, with his statement coming just two weeks after employees published a dossier of alleged racist incidents at the London institution.

Barbican Stories, a 250-page document which includes almost 100 personal testimonies of alleged discrimination, concluded that the arts centre is "institutionally racist" and favours the “white and upper/middle class”.

The Barbican has denied that Sir Nicholas’ departure is linked to the release of the document, which prompted the institution to launch a separate review of the allegations.

Sir Nicholas said in a statement: “After 14 hugely enjoyable years at the Barbican, I will be stepping down later this year now the Barbican is reopening to our audiences, to return to my roots in music writing, criticism and research.”

A statement from the City of London Corporation which jointly manages the centre said the decision was not made in light of the Barbican Stories claims.

Staff behind the document demanded “radical change” at the institution in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, accusing the centre of offering only “cosmetic corporate exercises” to address issues of racism.

Staff at the Barbican demanded "radical change"

Credit: ISTOCK

The Barbican Stories group said in a statement: “The Barbican’s working culture is inherently racist. It is insidious and incredibly obvious at the same time.

“It is evident that the Barbican, alongside other institutions in the UK and beyond, take the accusation of racism far more seriously than the actual doing and upholding of it.

“In making this a matter of public interest, we are putting external pressure on the institution.

“These conversations cannot be controlled by institutions who are incapable of self-led criticism because they are run by people who don’t genuinely believe there is a problem”.

A spokeswoman for the institution said following publication: "The Barbican has always strived to be an inclusive, welcoming and open organisation. We are shocked and saddened to hear about these allegations.

“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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