Just in: London’s Barbican hires boss in Australia

Just in: London’s Barbican hires boss in Australia


norman lebrecht

February 09, 2022

The Barbican Centre has appointed Claire Spencer to be its chief executive, starting in May. Clare has been head of Arts Centre Melbourne for the past seven years.

The City of London Corporation says she was chosen for her ‘leadership’ on diversity issues.

The Barbican’s previous boss Nick Kenyon, left amid a staff outcry over embedded racism.

Spencer’s CV says she is ‘a Member of Chief Executive Women – the pre-eminent organisation representing Australia’s most senior women leaders from the corporate, public service, academic and not-for-profit sectors; she is on the board of The Pinnacle Foundation, established to provide scholarships and mentoring support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex students who are marginalised or disadvantaged’

She will have her work cut out at the Barbican, where two interim bosses wanted her job and will have to make do with lowered expectations.



  • Tony says:

    Have you ever stopped to wonder, Norman, how your posts make the hard working people of the BBC, arts institutions and the City of London Corporation feel? I bet not. Disrespect bleeds out of you like bile. Shame on you.

  • La plus belle voix says:

    She is chartered accountant, holds a Masters in Theology, and was chosen to solve diversity issues. Just what the Barbican needs going forward.

  • Helen says:

    ‘Racism’ – the accusation against which any defence is treated as further evidence of ‘racism’.

  • Trophy says:

    Having worked with Claire over a number of years, I can honestly say that this is a great appointment for the Barbican. ACM was not in a great position when she was appointed and she’s transformed it, successfully lobbied for significant government investment and leaves it in a much better position than she found it.

    • HugoPreuß says:

      Your facts are getting in the way of the prejudice that is flowing so freely on this site. How dare you express an opinion based on personal kowledge and experience with the person in question! Can’t you see that you are getting in the way of all the good people who ridicule this appointment without ever having heard of her!

  • Anon says:

    Chosen to solve diversity issues, not to ensure art in all forms at the highest level, being represented at the Barbican then!

  • caranome says:

    “The City of London Corporation says she was chosen for her ‘leadership’ on diversity issues.”
    1. I thought this is a performing arts job?
    2. Self proclaimed diversity leaders are now a dime a dozen. There’s nobody within 500, 1000 miles of London? Or the U.S.?
    3. She’s not even black; she’s lily white! (unless she, she looks like a she, identifies as black or Cherokee Indian or whatever.) That’s a waste of woke points after all this effort.

  • fflambeau says:

    Give her a chance. Sorry, this article is unduly negative.

  • Orlando says:

    As somebody who has worked with Claire Spencer in Melbourne I can testify that she has made a huge difference in the cultural life of the city and proven to be a visionary leader of a major arts organization. The Barbican is lucky to get her.

  • Ernest says:

    Claire will be a welcome breath of fresh air in the Barbican. The world around us is changing …

  • Nik says:

    Norman, why aren’t you covering the ROH booking system fiasco this week? And the “personal message” dispatched by Alex Beard to members with the amazing offer of… a free programme as compensation for the hours we all spent trying to get through to the checkout page on Tuesday?

  • Enquirer says:

    The Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Barbican Centre Board said “I am delighted that Claire is to head-up the Barbican team as CEO. She brings a brilliant reputation as an arts venue administrator and a track-record in the sector that is second to none. Her leadership on equity, diversity and inclusion issues in previous roles was a significant additional factor in the recruitment panel’s clear endorsement.”

    Not quite the same as “was chosen for her ‘leadership’ on diversity issues”.