Schools & colleges

Barbican Box

Photo of students working with a teacher on Barbican Box

Barbican Box is a portable box filled with the ingredients for making and creating original theatre, visual art or music inspired by our world class arts programme.

Barbican Box launched in 2011 as a theatre education programme for secondary schools and FE colleges in east London. Now in its 6th year, Barbican Box works in music, theatre, and the visual arts across 40 secondary, SEN schools and FE colleges in east London with a national programme currently being piloted in Manchester

Created in collaboration with artists and associate companies such as Serious, Complicite and Toneelgroep Amsterdam, the Boxes contain a range of stimuli designed to encourage an imaginative, adventurous approach to arts learning. 


barbican box theatre

Programme structure

Barbican Box is a six month process and begins with CPD (continuing professional development) training for teachers, after which the Box is sent into schools for teachers to begin working with their students.

Teachers are matched up with an artist mentor who delivers in-school workshops at the beginning, middle and end of the creative process. Students come to the Barbican to see a production, musical performance or exhibition and the project culminates with students returning to the Barbican to showcase their original work.

Barbican Box Theatre

Each year, Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning commission a world class theatre company with an established relationship with the Barbican to design and curate the Barbican Box, providing an artistic starting point from which teachers and students devise their own piece of theatre. 

This takes the form of a physical Box, which is opened up to reveal the ingredients for creating a piece of theatre. These objects act as stimuli, ideas and provocations that are designed to encourage an imaginative and adventurous approach to creating new work, giving students the opportunity to express their unique perspectives on the world around them in the process. 

Applications for our 2018-2019 programme have closed.

The programme includes:

  • Teacher training at the Barbican
  • Visit to a theatre production 
  • Learning resources
  • In-school workshops
  • Mentoring sessions
  • A showcase performance for the participating students at the Barbican 

Past Barbican Box Theatre projects

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students at a workshop at the barbican centre

Watch: Barbican Box Theatre - Toneelgroep Amsterdam

We speak to Toneelgroep Amsterdam's Artistic Director, Ivo van Hove and the Barbican Box producers along with some of the participating teachers and students, to learn more about the impact of this year's project. 

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students with paper planes

Watch: Barbican Box Showcase


A creative education programme designed for secondary schools and FE colleges, Barbican Box aims to ignite, support and facilitate music, theatre and visual art making in schools through a process of devising and creating work from scratch.

Inside Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s Barbican Box

In 2016, the box was curated and created in association with Toneelgroep Amsterdam, who had their first residency at the Barbican in 2017, with three productions directed by Ivo van Hove, the company’s Artistic Director.

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four women dressed in black

Vote for the Barbican Box

In 2015, Complicite chose the theme of Political Power. Packed with newspapers, camcorders, banners, ballot papers and The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s briefcase, the Box was opened and it was over to the young theatremakers to take control.

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young student holding a blue bag

Exploring the Barbican Box

In 2014, we welcomed back innovative theatre company, and pioneers of collaborative theatre making, Complicite, to curate a unique box with one objective – to help inspire and create exciting theatre with young people throughout London.

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students on the floor working together

Opening the Barbican Box

Each year, we commission a theatre artist or company to design a box with ideas, inspirations and provocations to spark imagination in young theatremakers and performers. In 2013, renowned masters of storytelling Complicite accepted the challenge.

Barbican Box Music

Barbican Box Music is the perfect tool to inspire musical collaboration in class. Along with CPD training and in-school workshops, Barbican Box Music facilitates students and their teacher coming to the Barbican to see a concert culminating with students returning to the Barbican to present their original work in the Barbican Concert Hall.

Past artistic mentors have included Max Richter,Bellatrix and Soweto Kinch.

Applications for our 2018-2019 programme close on 1 November 2018.

The programme is designed for music teachers in secondary schools who wish to develop their own skills in composition and that of their students and provides:

  • The Barbican Box itself
  • An accompanying teacher learning resource
  • Two days teacher training led by the Artistic Partner
  • An artist mentor who visits the school to support the creative process
  • Tickets to a Barbican show for participating students and chaperones
  •  A showcase for the participating students at the Barbican

Apply for 2018/19

Past Barbican Box Music projects

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student playing drums

Inside the Barbican Music Box

Inspired by the life of adventuring music collector and folklorist Alan Lomax, the inaugural Barbican Music Box arrived in East London schools, inciting the same adventurous spirit in students as they used its contents to compose their own music.

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soweto kinch in a music room

Barbican Music Box: Inspired by G

In 2016, jazz musician Soweto Kinch tasked students in schools around East London to create music from various every day life objects, as part of that year’s Barbican Music Box.

Bellatrix’s Barbican Music Box

Each year, we select an artist to curate a Barbican Box, inspiring music making and creativity in young people around London. In 2016, UK beatboxing champion Bellatrix led the students through an exploration of ‘having a voice’...

Barbican Box Visual Art

The Barbican Box Visual Art is a multi-arts project that draws inspiration from Barbican’s visual arts programme. Students and teachers visit the Barbican and take part in a series of artist-led workshops and activities. The box mixes a range of art forms and student’s work is shared as part of our annual Art Box publication. In the past these publications have included art books, cards, magazines and zines.

Applications for our 2018-2019 programme have closed.

The programme includes:

  • Teacher training at the Barbican
  • Visits to a Gallery exhibition
  • Learning resources
  • Workshops
  • School visits + editing sessions
  • Mentoring sessions
  • Professionally printed publication
  • Final publication launch and exhibition in Cinema Café and a Final Evaluation

Our Art Gallery

Collection: Art Gallery

Hear from the artists and designers, curators and collaborators behind our dynamic programme of exhibitions, installations and commissions, spanning the worlds of art, design, architecture, photography, fashion and more.

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Photo of artist Ragnar Kjartansson at the Barbican

Listen: Art Gallery Talks

Listen to the creators, curators and the people inspired and influenced by our prestigious programme of international exhibitions and events with recordings from our talks and lectures series plus exhibition guides from our curators.

Barbican Box Primary

Barbican Box has been running in secondary schools for 6 years in music, theatre and visual art.  In 2016/17 we introduced a multi-artform primary school Box taking inspiration from the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, working with 4 primary schools.

We recommend this project for students years 2–5.

Applications for our 2018-2019 programme have closed.

The programme is designed for teachers in primary schools who wish to develop their own skills in composition and that of their students to:

  • Support and facilitate creative arts practice in schools
  • Introduce young people to imaginative and adventurous approaches to the arts
  • Support and enrich the delivery of school curriculum
  • Connect schools with the City’s cultural organisations including Barbican and its world class arts programme
  • Enhance literacy through creative writing
  • Promote creativity within the classroom
  • Provide and promote ongoing training and development for teachers
  • Encourage and nurture a lifelong relationship with the arts

Past Barbican Box Primary Projects

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photo of map and letter

Barbican Box: The Great Fire of London

As part of the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, we commissioned a special edition of Barbican Box, filled with objects designed to incite creativity. Take a look at this film, created by Year 2 pupils from Sir John Cass Primary School.