Saved events

Press room

A statement from the Barbican in relation to the London Review of Books Winter Series

8 March 2024
A statement from Claire Spencer, CEO of the Barbican Centre:

"We regret that we were not able to get the necessary logistical arrangements in place to host the LRB Winter Series. We strongly believe in the importance of protecting and maintaining artistic freedom and freedom of speech. Artists and cultural institutions play a crucial role in reflecting, commenting on and responding to the issues of the day. 

The topic of Pankaj Mishra’s talk in particular was important and we should have been able to host it. We are disappointed that we did not do that. The terrible loss of life and devastation in Gaza is one of the most urgent issues of our time and it is essential we enable critical voices to be heard. 

We recognise the decision has created significant concern about artistic freedom, and which voices are given a platform to speak during this moment of deep humanitarian crisis. We are sorry for the distress we have caused to everybody who feels we have let them down. 

Our intention is never to censor and always to host the widest possible range of artists and thinkers, and we collaborate with thousands of different partners and organisations every year to do this. 

We are thoroughly reviewing the circumstances in which this decision was taken. We acknowledge there were things we should have done better in the way we handled the process – especially building in sufficient time for planning and preparation, making clearer our need and timelines for this.

We are sorry for the impact this has had on the artists, lenders and curators and we respect the decisions of those who have withdrawn their work from Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art."

14 February 2024
A statement from the Barbican

Following recent commentary in the media and online we would like to provide further information about the circumstances relating to the London Review of Books (LRB) Winter Lectures Series.

We had been in conversation since late 2023 about the possibility of hosting the Winter Lectures Series, comprising talks by three speakers during February and March. We received details of the proposed speakers and topics in January. Once we received them, we knew that Pankaj Mishra's lecture – titled ‘The Shoah after Gaza’ – would need dedicated and thoughtful care given the importance of the topic, and we were in the process of discussing that with the LRB.

Unfortunately, the Barbican was communicated as the venue while those discussions were ongoing, and before an agreement to hold the events had been finalised. That meant that we lost the opportunity to properly consider how to hold the events with care, or to do the preparation they would need. As we continue to undergo deep organisational cultural change, we know we have a particular responsibility to ensure that when we provide a platform for important and complex subject matter like this, we do so especially sensitively. On this occasion we didn’t feel we would be able to guarantee this given the circumstances, which is why we agreed with the LRB that the events would be hosted at an alternative venue.

We believe it is important to carefully consider the content of all proposed screenings, performances, talks and exhibitions before agreeing to host them. We are committed to holding events that deal with complex, sensitive, and topical subjects, when we are able to properly plan, prepare, and treat them with the care they deserve. This includes events that explore the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we are actively developing plans for future events on the topic which will be announced in due course.

We have, and are committed to maintaining, a varied and daring artistic programme, which inspires, connects and encourages debate. We aim to host the broadest and most diverse range of artists and thinkers, including those who may have been marginalised, representing the widest possible range of world views and human experiences and ensuring the exchange of ideas via debate and free expression.