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Karena Johnson joins Barbican as new Head of Creative Collaboration & Learning

Karena Johnson has been appointed the new Head of Creative Collaboration & Learning at the Barbican.

Currently Artistic Director and CEO of Hoxton Hall, Karena will join the Barbican in September 2022 and will oversee the Barbican’s innovative learning programme; community projects and events, its public programme, as well as Barbican Futures, the driving force behind the Barbican becoming a more inclusive, diverse, and welcoming international centre for art, education, and enterprise.

The new Head of Creative Collaboration & Learning is a completely new role for the Barbican and will combine the Centre’s world class arts activity with a sector-leading creative education programme, while forging new collaborations to provide the resources needed to encourage and support new cultural enterprises. Karena will also play a major role in the Barbican Renewal project, a major upgrade of the Barbican Centre, adapting it to respond to the creative opportunities and urgent challenges of today’s world.

Karena Johnson is an award-winning artist who has worked for over 20 years as a theatre director, curator, conceptualiser and producer, championing emerging artists; new audiences and diversity. In her current role as Artistic Director and CEO of Hoxton Hall, Karena led the re-launch of the grade II listed Victorian Music Hall in the heart of the East End in 2015 with a new vision of innovative theatre, music, comedy and a youth arts programme.

Her pioneering career includes being Artistic Director of The Broadway, Barking, Acting Artistic Director of Contact Theatre, Manchester, Artistic Director of Kushite Theatre Company and Theatre Programmer at Oval House theatre. She has also been an Associate at Theatre Royal Stratford East, Nottingham Playhouse and NOW festival, as well as led a range of international projects.

Her work has been recognised by with a TMA special award nomination for "theatre with cojones" for her Spin Season at The Broadway, an artistic response to the local election race between Labour and the BNP. Karena has also won Arts and Business award for Diversity.

On joining the Barbican, Karena Johnson, said: "I am thrilled to join the Barbican as Head of Creative Collaboration & Learning after seven years at Hoxton Hall. My career is driven by a desire to make the arts more inclusive at every level. I pride myself on noticing who is not in the room and developing approaches and art to enable those missing to engage. My passion for the transformative nature of arts experiences makes me look forward to being part of this world leading arts centre as it engages with these important questions at an exciting moment of change."  

Will Gompertz, Artistic Director at the Barbican, said: “We’re absolutely delighted Karena is joining the Barbican team. Her passion and wealth of experience of bringing people together to enjoy creativity and culture is exceptional, and I can’t wait to see how she’ll bring her energy and vision to the incredible artistic community we work with. Karena will play a key part in the Barbican’s future as one of the world’s leading arts and learning centres, and I look forward to working with her.”

Chris Murray, Chair of Hoxton Hall’s Board of Trustees, said “Although we will of course miss Karena’s dedication, talent and expertise, we are delighted for her personally. Being offered this important and high-profile role at such an internationally renowned arts centre is a real testament to Karena’s qualities and underscores how fortunate Hoxton Hall has been to benefit from her leadership over the last seven years.”