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City of London Corporation appoints the Barbican Centre’s first-ever CEO

Claire Spencer will lead the Barbican Centre after being appointed by the City of London Corporation as its first-ever Chief Executive Officer, following a far-reaching recruitment search.

Claire, an experienced and dynamic arts leader will take up her new post in May 2022, after stepping down from Arts Centre Melbourne, where she has been CEO since November 2014.  She has nearly 20 years’ experience at the Sydney Opera House and Arts Centre Melbourne.

Claire will play a key role in the work underway to embed equity, diversity and inclusion across the Barbican Centre’s operations. She will also be an integral part of the Barbican Renewal Project, the design teams shortlist was announced last month, which will put culture front-and-centre of the City of London’s recovery from the pandemic. 

In her new role, Claire will drive forward the Barbican Centre’s innovative agenda as an international centre of creative excellence; pushing ambitious targets for audiences, education, and the workforce, and building strong relationships with the diverse and vibrant communities the Centre represents and serves.

Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Barbican Centre Board, Tom Sleigh, said:

"I am delighted that Claire is to head-up the Barbican team as CEO.  She brings a brilliant reputation as an arts venue administrator and a track-record in the sector that is second to none. Her leadership on EDI issues in previous roles was a significant additional factor in the recruitment panel's clear endorsement.

“This is an important time for the Barbican Centre as we celebrate its 40th year and continue our recovery from the pandemic. Claire’s excellent experience and knowledge will be invaluable in taking us through to the next stages.”

Talking about her new appointment, Claire Spencer, said:

“Some of my earliest memories in the arts are of the Barbican Centre and the prospect of returning to London to take up this leadership opportunity at this pivotal moment in the Barbican’s history is both a huge honour and a great privilege.   I look forward to working with the Barbican Board, the dedicated Barbican team, our many stakeholders and the City of London Corporation to take this iconic organisation into the next phase of its creative contribution to London.”

The role of CEO is a new role created following the retirement of Sir Nicholas Kenyon as Managing Director in mid-2021. 

The City of London Corporation, which is the founder and principal funder of the Barbican Centre, is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £130m every year.

In partnership with the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra, and Museum of London, the City Corporation is leading the development of Culture Mile between Farringdon and Moorgate, a multi-million-pound initiative to create a new cultural and creative destination for London.