Who will run the Barbican?

Who will run the Barbican?


norman lebrecht

June 24, 2021

The headhunters are already tapping into the usual suspects for the top vacancy at the City of London’s arts centre.

Various grey BBC faces are thought to want it – the outgoing Nick Kenyon and his predecessor John Tusa were both BBC – and all manner of failed managers at the South Bank Centre will be polishing their CVs.

What the Barbican needs, though, is flair, and that’s in short supply.

Not to mention infinite patience for dealing with City bigwigs.

The following eminently qualified heads may not wish to be counted:

Wasfi Kani (Grange Park Opera)

Roger Wright (BrittenPears Arts)

Alan Rusbridger (exLady Margaret Hall)

Ian Maclay (exRPO)

Nicholas Hytner (ex-National Theatre)

Kasper Holten (Royal Danish Opera)

Who have we overlooked?

We hear they may be considering the LSO’s Kathryn McDowell as a stopgap.



  • DML says:

    Wouldn’t Roger Wright also be classed as ex BBC?

  • Sue Armstrong says:

    Abigail Pogson (the Sage)
    Esme Ward (Manchester University)
    Stephen Maddocks (CBSO)
    Catherine Mallyon (RSC)
    John Mcgrath (Manchester Festival)

    Have all led organizations in exciting new directions.

  • SVM says:

    How about someone senior at GSMD? They would have the advantage of already knowing the Barbican scene pretty well. The GSMD’s current Director of Music, Jonathan Vaughan (who is also a former chairman of the LSO and a former director of the NYO), strikes me as a potential candidate.

  • PD says:

    They should strongly consider Jane Moss, who transformed Lincoln Center’s presentations and created artistically adventurous programming without alienating the culturally conservative New Yorkers who are LCPA’s audience base. Some found her tastes a tad Eurocentric (albeit multiculti), but that’s probably not a problem for the Barbican.

  • Culture Vulture says:

    Jonathan Mills, Fergus Linehan and Ruth McKenzie would be my suggestions.

  • Nick Schleppend says:

    What is immediately obvious, and quite extraordinary[!], about this list is that none of these individuals are likely to be in the running or even interested.

  • Harold Clarkson says:

    Nigel Redden, formerly Lincoln Center Festival and now still Spoleto Festival in Charleston

  • Armchair Bard says:

    Pretty sure George Osborne CH (St Paul’s & Magdalen) still has some room left in that capacious portfolio of his…

  • Oliver says:

    Graham Sheffield, whose feet may be particularly itchy given the government’s recent cut of the British Council’s budget.

    • Nick2 says:

      Wasn’t he at the Barbican before he left for richer pastures in Hong Kong but where he walked out after just a few short months?

  • UK Arts Administrator says:

    John Gilhooly? (been at Wigmore quite some time now and might be ready for a bigger challenge)

  • My monies on Matt Hancock.

    • Dave says:

      He’s got his hands full – you’ll have seen the picture?

      And in any case he’s spending more time with his family. I wish Johnson would follow suit.