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Sir William Russell elected to lead Barbican Centre Board

Former Lord Mayor Sir William Russell has been elected as Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Barbican Centre Board at its meeting.

Sir William has been a member of the Barbican Centre Board since 2019 and was previously Deputy Chair. He replaces Tom Sleigh who has served his full term of four years as Chair.

The body is responsible for overseeing the Barbican Centre – a leading international arts, learning and conference organisation in the City of London, which showcases all major art forms including dance, film, music, theatre, and visual arts. Central to its purpose is supporting emerging talent and young people which has seen the Barbican Centre run over 230 learning activities and events to over 49,000 participants over the past year, providing the resources needed for more young people to develop their artistic practice and access jobs in the creative industry.

A Brutalist icon, the Barbican Centre is one of the UK’s greatest post-war buildings, attracting almost two million visitors a year. It is home to two art galleries, two theatres, three cinemas, a concert hall, a conservatory with over 1,500 species of plants and trees, as well as a library, conference facilities, public and community spaces, restaurants, and a picturesque lakeside oasis.

It is a major contributor to the economic, social, and cultural life of the City, London, and the UK, making an annual £40 million contribution to the capital’s economy and supporting over 800 jobs.  

Sir William took office as Lord Mayor in 2019 and, because of the pandemic, served two consecutive years in office, becoming the first Lord Mayor to do so since 1861. 

He is also a member of the Barbican Centre Trust, its charitable and fundraising arm, working to grow its community of individual donors, corporate sponsors, and grant makers. As a not-for-profit, the Barbican relies on their support to deliver its arts and learning programme and to enable the widest possible range of people to experience the joy of the arts.  

Sir William has several other charitable interests, previously serving as Chair of the Development Board of the Royal Court Theatre. He is a former Board Member of the City Corporation’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and sits on the Council of the Royal Theatrical Support Trust. 

The City of London Corporation is the owner, founder, and principal funder of the Barbican Centre. It is one of the largest funders of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £130m every year. The organisation manages a range of world-class cultural and heritage institutions, including Tower Bridge, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Guildhall Art Gallery, London Metropolitan Archives, and Keats House. It also supports the London Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of London.

It is working with the Barbican Centre on the Barbican Renewal Programme - a multi-million-pound upgrade of the site which will care for the things people love about the Centre, whilst opening up the venue for a range of different audiences and providing creative experience for everyone.

And the Centre is playing a leading role in the City Corporation’s Destination City programme, which sets out a vision for the Square Mile to become a world-leading leisure destination for UK and international visitors, workers, and residents to enjoy.

Chair of the City Corporation’s Barbican Centre Board, Sir William Russell, said:

“This is an exciting time to help shape the future of a compelling, and extraordinary organisation, building on decades of excellence and achievement.

 “The Barbican is a creative powerhouse and world-renowned arts and learning organisation, showcasing the most exciting performers and artists from around the globe.

“It is one of the nation’s most-admired post-war buildings and a cornerstone of our Destination City programme, enhancing the Square Mile’s first-class arts and culture offer, and elevating our attractiveness as an international visitor destination.

“I would like to thank my predecessor, Tom Sleigh, for all that he has done for the Barbican during his tenure as Chair.”