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Our EDI Journey


the barbican at evening with yellow lights on and a few people sitting on white benches outside

November 2021

Today (Tue 9 Nov) we received the findings of the External Review that was commissioned by the City of London on the recommendation of the Barbican Board. The External Review was undertaken by independent lawyers Lewis Silkin LLP, a leading employment and equalities law specialists, after current and former colleagues of staff documented experiences of racism in their publication Barbican Stories in June 2021.

We welcome both the External Review and a separate HR Audit, also commissioned by the City of London. Both reports, a combined action plan and next steps can be found here: External Review, HR Audit and Tackling Racism Action Plan.

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 and we’re offering a range of support services including confidential and safe counselling sessions.

It's 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 through Barbican Stories and the External Review.

Since June 2021, under new leadership, we’ve already taken critical, foundational steps to progress our work around equity, diversity and diversity. This is just the start, and we recognise there's so much more to do if we are to become an organisation where all can truly belong. Our progress to date can be read below.

Summary update of recent Equity, Diversity and Inclusion actions 

Our EDI Action Plan, outlining key interventions, was launched in June 2021, following the publication of Barbican Stories. Driven by a new leadership team, the plan provides us with a solid foundation to build, grow and mature all of our EDI work. It will be updated as we progress and learn and will take account of the recommendations of the External Review and HR Audit that will be published shortly.

Key points in the plan include:

  • The development of a new creative vision which puts Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at its core and the establishment of Barbican Futures, a new department to take forward the main workstreams related to the Creative Vision.


  • The hiring of Nina Bhagwat as Interim Director of EDI in August 2021 so that we now have a dedicated resource in place to work with leaders to drive this change. Our EDI work will encompass positive action initiatives, strategies and programmes designed to cultivate a diverse and inclusive company culture. We'll invest more resource to support Nina and HR to implement change.


  • An External Review: The Barbican Board in collaboration with the City of London Corporation, commissioned Lewis Silkin LLP to undertake an independent, External Review into staff experiences of racism at the Barbican. The review is due to be published in November, after which, recommendations and actions will be implemented and incorporated into our EDI Action Plan.


  • An HR Audit: An HR audit of the Barbican was undertaken, and this will be published concurrently with the External Review and key recommendations implemented.

Update from the Barbican Directors 

Since our last update and following the publication of staff experiences of racism at the Barbican, we’ve launched an EDI action plan in consultation with our colleagues. Back in May, we said we’d refresh our Equality and Inclusion (E&I) strategy and present this to our Board in July. However, in light of the very serious issues raised and published by colleagues, this piece of work has now evolved into the immediate action plan, approved by the Barbican Centre Board. 

It’s clear we’ve been too slow to put in place the structures and systems required to ensure the Barbican is actively anti-racist. Our actions have not followed our intentions at the speed appropriate for the seriousness of this issue. Our new anti-racism approach, which is measurable and defined, intends to help change this. The ten-point plan, currently being worked on by teams across the organisation, includes: 

- Appointing our first Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion - Nina Bhagwat will join the Barbican’s senior leadership team from August as Interim Director of EDI to drive the Barbican's anti-racism work, and to ensure the Barbican’s inclusion agenda progresses quickly. Nina has a wealth of experience in diversity and inclusion roles throughout the creative sector. 

- Setting and measuring inclusivity targets for ethnicity, gender and other protected characteristics at the Barbican for the first time. We also commit to annually publishing Barbican staff grading and pay by ethnicity, gender and other protected characteristics. 

- A commitment to review our staff support structures, fully funding any and all improvements required to achieve industry best practice. Current support includes individual and group sessions specifically for Black and POC members of staff; free, confidential counselling sessions for all colleagues; and access to Dignity at Work Advisers, who operate outside of our formal complaint procedures. How to challenge non-inclusive behaviour training courses have been rolled out and we want to establish more robust policies and practices for reporting microaggressions and racism. We’re also working to better integrate our colleagues on casual contracts into the Barbican community.  

- Launching a new Arts, Learning and Communities strategy that will change our existing structures and ways of working so that we can build a fairer, more agile, community-based Barbican.

In addition to our own EDI action plan, we fully welcome the City of London Corporation’s External Review into staff experiences of racism at the Barbican. The review has begun, is being led by leading equalities law specialist Lewis Silkin LLP, and will report to the City Corporation’s Barbican Centre Board in September. If you are a current or former Barbican colleague who would like to contribute to the review, please email: [email protected]

We’re committed to becoming actively anti-racist across everything we do and will share progress updates here at least every six months to ensure transparency and accountability.

Update from Nick Kenyon 

As we approach the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd on 25 May 2020, we're ever more determined to advance our equality, diversity and inclusion work and to move forward with our anti-racism commitments.

Over this past year, activity, discussion and learning has taken place across the organisation. We're now working to update our Equality and Inclusion Strategy; we'll entirely rewrite it in consultation with members of our staff and partners, with a draft submitted to our Board in July and a further E&I Action Plan for implementation in the autumn. This page will be updated in July to share our progress.  
As part of this strategy, we will create and recruit for our first EDI specialist role to work across the organisation in partnership with senior management and colleagues across the Barbican. We look forward to appointing this role.
We’re so grateful to our staff and all those who have participated in discussions, which we know have been extremely challenging at times, and who continue to help find a common way forward for the Barbican.

Key actions taken to date

  • The Barbican Board has set up a formal sub-committee - the Nominations, Effectiveness and Inclusion Committee, part of whose role is to help push forward our anti-racism action and hold us to account for this work. 
  • The Barbican’s Equality and Inclusion Strategy is being updated and will fully integrate our anti-racism commitments as well as key performance indicators and timelines by which our progress will be monitored. The process will engage staff across the organisation and will be discussed at the Barbican Centre Board meeting in July 2021. 
  • Staff took part in ‘listen and learn sessions’ led by an external consultancy. The recommendations and organisational learnings from these will feed into the new Equality and Inclusion Strategy and Action Plan.  
  • Seven colleagues from across the Barbican have been appointed to explore and consider next steps to remove processes and barriers in the organisation that sustain systemic racism.  Their findings and recommendations will also feed into Barbican’s new Equality and Inclusion Strategy and Action Plan. 
  • All employees have completed Equality and Inclusion training and our Senior Management Team have also undertaken Inclusive Management training.
  • Teams across the organisation continue their own discussions and development of actions relevant to their areas, and there are regular updates about the Barbican’s anti-racism work at our monthly all staff meetings.
  • The Barbican is part of the City of London Corporation, and we’re implementing the recommendations from their Tackling Racism Taskforce. These include anonymised recruitment across all grades; new mentoring & reverse mentoring schemes; a newly created Dignity at Work scheme with trained advisers to provide a first point of contact for any employee who has concerns and a new Bullying & Harassment procedure. 
  • The Barbican has signed up to be part of Inc Art’s Unlock with a focus on the Barbican Theatre. 
  • We’ve aimed to make the arts and learning programme that we’ve been able to run in recent months more representative. We’re developing a new approach to collecting data from the artists we work with, to help monitor and improve diversity within our artistic programme.  

Since publishing our commitment to anti-racism in June 2020, we've been working as an organisation to move forward with this work. We've worked with an external agency and are taking forward the recommendations and learnings from that process, and formed a special taskforce made up of eight members of staff from across the Barbican who are empowered to consult and collaborate with all staff to lead us in making change within the organisation. 

Our Equality and Inclusion Strategy will be updated in 2021, in response to what we've learned in 2020 and to what emerges from the process that the group is undertaking. 

We recognise that this is long term work; it’s an extensive project, and there will be short, medium, and long-term objectives and outcomes. We've much further to go, but there is a new urgency to this work in the organisation and we remain dedicated to achieving the goals we've set ourselves to deliver meaningful and sustainable change. We'll update with more detail on our progress throughout next year.

A statement from Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director of the Barbican

The Black Lives Matter movement has demonstrated the urgent need for us to take action in showing an active commitment to eradicating racism in all its forms.

As part of this, we need to acknowledge that we have not made as much progress as we should have on issues relating to race and to privilege. We’re part of a systemic problem and we haven’t done enough over time to address these issues in our organisation and in our sector. We’re determined to change this now.

These are our initial commitments in taking the first steps to achieving this:

  1. We commit to being transparent as to how we're delivering change. We'll communicate openly how we’re doing this
  2. We commit to removing institutional barriers and increasing ethnic minority, and particularly black, representation across our workforce and further across our programme 
  3. We'll equip ourselves with more knowledge; learning and growing together so that we can remove processes and barriers that sustain systemic racism
  4. We stand for social justice, recognising the fight against inequality and racial injustice is an ongoing and everyday commitment
  5. We'll publish details of how we’re making changes and holding ourselves accountable
  6. We'll create the space for us to have open conversations with our staff

These initial commitments are just the start, and we know we need to go further and to publish specific actions and deadlines for change. But real change needs to come from across our organisation and, importantly, needs to be informed by the experiences and views of all our staff, artists and those with whom we work.

We’re therefore setting up a special taskforce to agree the steps we need to take to remove processes and barriers in the organisation that sustain systemic racism. This taskforce will involve people across the organisation and will be independently chaired by an external expert in this field who will help develop the brief and methodology.

This will lead to an action plan, which will form part of our next Equality and Inclusion strategy and will be shared with all our staff and published on this website.

We’ll add to this page with updates on this work, meeting our commitment both internally and externally to be transparent as to how we’re removing institutional barriers and holding ourselves accountable.
We are changing.

Sir Nicholas Kenyon 
Managing Director, Barbican