Death of a Barbican boss

Death of a Barbican boss


norman lebrecht

April 27, 2021

The controversial Baroness Detta O’Cathain died last Friday after a short illness. She was 83.

No-one quite understoood how a businesswoman with no passion for the arts became managing director of the Barbican Centre in 1990, but over the next five years Detta succeeded in affronting managers and performers on whm the Barbican depended, cutting as deep as she dared to blacken the bottom line. She finally lost the confidence of City paymasters and was sent on paid leave before her contract expired.

In person, she was charming and informal, never wanting to be addressed by her title.


  • henry williams says:

    how can somebody be appointed to her
    position without having knowledge of the
    arts. it reminds me somebody at work
    thought a duet was jewish twins.

  • Maria says:

    She had a knowledge of the arts but not a passion for them, as Norman rightly put it – not the same thing. An astute business woman that even 30 years ago as a woman would have been an uphill struggle in that position and dealt with the male dominated Cityslickers with the dosh of the corporate world. May she rest in peace.