Decisive action plan puts inclusivity at heart of Barbican Centre

The City of London Corporation’s Barbican Centre Board today launched an Action Plan to tackle racism and all forms of discrimination at the Barbican Centre following a legal investigation.

In July, the Board commissioned an External Review by employment and equalities law specialists Lewis Silkin LLP, following the publication of ‘Barbican Stories’, which set out anonymised experiences and allegations of discrimination at the arts centre. The Lewis Silkin External Review is published today.

The Action Plan in response to the External Review, and an audit of the Barbican’s HR policies and processes will be considered for decision by the Barbican Centre Board on 17 November. It commits the arts centre to a radical transformation of culture and behaviours, including setting new workforce diversity recruitment targets on ethnicity, gender, and other protected characteristics.

Compulsory anti-discrimination training will be rolled out to all staff at the Barbican Centre, with senior leaders taking part first, in a bid to improve understanding of equal opportunities, anti-racism, and how to be an ally and Barbican Centre Board members have already agreed to initiate training for the Board.

Barbican Centre employees will be supported by a new Dignity at Work staff service where colleagues can confidentially raise issues, escalate complaints, and receive support and advice.

And management will ensure the Barbican Centre is an open and welcoming environment for all staff by elevating under-represented voices across the organisation and making bespoke mental health support available for People of Colour.

The Action Plan, Lewis Silkin External Review and HR Audit are being shared with all staff at the Barbican Centre as part of the City Corporation’s commitment to be open and transparent with colleagues.

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

“This investigation makes tough reading. All of us want the Barbican Centre to be a truly diverse and inclusive organisation.

“Racism and discrimination have no place in the Barbican Centre or anywhere else in our society. So,on behalf of the entire Barbican Centre Board, I apologise to any member of staff, both former and current, who has experienced this unacceptable behaviour.

“We now take additional decisive action to build a culture in which staff feel confident, valued and respected, and where there is zero-tolerance of all forms of discrimination.

“This work is already under way, and the Board supports the Centre’s management, with its ambitious and creative vision with equity, diversity and inclusion at its heart. The Barbican Centre Board has prioritised this action and will keep pressure on the Barbican Centre and City of London Corporation’s management to deliver and implement change.

“Staff are the lifeblood of the Barbican Centre and I hope that we can now move forward together to ensure the Barbican is an increasingly inclusive and welcoming place to work”

Reporting directly to the City of London Corporation and Barbican Centre Board, the External Review interviewed 35 people, and examined 121 allegations. Around a third of these were complaints of racism and 20% of respondents were from People of Colour.

The investigation made recommendations on how to take forward several allegations as cases for further investigation, which will be pursued by the City of London Corporation’s new Interim Executive Director of HR, with disciplinary action taken where appropriate.

For reasons of confidentiality, specific allegations will not be published as they include details which could identify individuals.

The Lewis Silkin investigation also identified several themes around working practice and culture at the Barbican Centre. These included a lack of diversity in the organisation, and an absence of confidence in HR systems and in the handling of complaints, and in managers to deal with or take seriously concerns of racism.

Concerns were raised about a lack of understanding of institutional racism, with poor career development and preferential treatment being given to white members of staff, job applicants, and those who have had, or are perceived to have had, a private education.

Following the publication of Barbican Stories, an HR Audit was carried out over seven weeks, reviewing workforce data and policies at the Barbican Centre. The Action Plan acts on the criticisms of the Barbican Centre’s handling of discrimination and harassment reports.

The Board has already set up the Nominations, Effectiveness and Inclusions committee which oversees and drives progress of EDI policies at the Barbican Centre. The Barbican Centre also now has new Interim joint Managing Directors, a recently appointed Interim Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and will have a new HR role appointment as part of the senior leadership team to focus on embedding EDI throughout its HR operations.

In addition, staff awareness campaigns to encourage a safe and open environment will be launched and formal meetings will happen after people raise whistleblowing issues, along with increased support for people who raise concerns through grievance or bullying and harassment policies.

There will be targeted action to support internal staff promotion and a new project led by the City Corporation’s Interim Executive Director of HR into the Barbican’s Centre’s working culture so that all staff have a shared understanding of behaviours which foster a positive and inclusive workplace environment.

The Barbican External Review, HR Audit and Action Plan is available here (item 5)

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk


Alison Langley
Media Officer, City of London Corporation
alison.langley@cityoflondon.gov.uk or 07599 101463