The new book, Barbican Stories, is a collection of firsthand and witnessed accounts of racism and discrimination at the Barbican Centre.
Barbican Stories has been written anonymously by current and former Barbican employees from Global Ethnic Majorities who believe the Barbican Centre did not adequately respond to the Black Lives Matter movement and protests of June 2020. Many of these staff members felt that their experiences were unfairly dismissed or ignored altogether. This is a space for them to tell their stories, even if the Barbican Centre will not.
Writers are anonymous because it is still not safe for these experiences to be openly spoken about and characters in the stories are anonymised because this document is about looking at the Barbican through the lens of systemic and institutional racism and discrimination, not about individual persons.
Barbican Stories is described as a vessel that ensures that experiences which have typically been suppressed, ignored and isolated from each other are written into history by the very people who have experienced it firsthand.
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It is a testament, a radical archiving object, and a collective complaint.
The book presents a narrative of what has happened and continues to happen not just at the Barbican, but across the arts sector and in society. The book spotlights the gaslighting and institutional racism that has blown through the Barbican since they released their BLM statement in June 2020.
A year on, they say that not enough has changed. The book’s publication coincides with the start of the Barbican’s new Director of Arts and Learning’s tenure, a silent protest marking the lost opportunity to hire a candidate for this position of power beyond the usual (or expected) demographic.
The design of Barbican Stories is based on a pre-existing company sanctioned policy handbook that was written collaboratively by Barbican staff in 2016 called ‘Everything you always wanted to know about the Barbican’. This handbook is given to all new employees upon joining the organisation and contains anecdotes to help them navigate the workplace. Though Barbican Stories is not company sanctioned, it has the potential to do the same thing.
If you want to learn more about racism in the UK’s arts industry, then check out this new book. It documents some atrocious discrimination that has yet to be brought to the public’s attention.