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Barbican boss Sir Nicholas Kenyon resigns amid "institutional racism" claims

It has been confirmed that Sir Nicholas Kenyon, the current and longstanding Managing Director of the Barbican Centre, has decided to step down amid claims of “institutional racism” against the organisation.

“It’s now time to hand over the next stage in the life of this great institution to others, and for the Barbican to have fresh leadership for a new generation,” Kenyon said.

Tom Sleigh, chair of the Barbican centre board, accepted the news and thanked Kenyon for his ability to take “the international reputation of the centre to new heights”.

Adding: “There will be time for other tributes later, but the board is now focused on beginning a search for a successor; whoever we appoint will have a hard act to follow.”

Kenyon’s resignation arrives after Barbican Centre staff members, both past and present, have accused the London institution of being “inherently racist”. The allegations surfaced after Barbican Stories released a statement earlier this week, a dossier that includes claims of “first-hand and witnessed accounts of racism and discrimination”.

The book collects more than 100 stories of alleged discrimination and inimical behaviour. The allegations included within the book are said to stretch back as far as 2014. The authors of the book have said that their decision to publish the stories now comes in reaction to the “inadequate response to the Black Lives Matter movement and protests of June 2020.”

“The Barbican’s working culture is inherently racist,” Barbican Stories said in a statement. “It is insidious and incredibly obvious at the same time. The limited internal work that has been allowed to happen has been hard fought for and driven by the lower levels of the workforce.

“This work has either been ignored, side-lined or glossed over with anti-racism statements crafted in the interest of upholding white supremacy. This means prioritising the institution over its staff, audiences and artists and continuing to marginalize people for profit.”

The authors of the book have sent copies to the London offices of the Barbican Centre. In response, The Barbican has launched an investigation and said it was “shocked and saddened” by the allegations.

“The Barbican has always strived to be an inclusive, welcoming and open organisation,” a spokesperson from The Barbican said. “We are shocked and saddened to hear about these allegations, and will immediately launch an independent review into them.

“Although we have not received formal complaints, all staff will be able to contribute to the independent review so that their experiences can be heard and those impacted can get the support they need. We want everyone’s voice to be listened to and respected.

“We fully recognise the pain and hurt caused by these experiences. We are committed to pursuing the ongoing programme of action which we have laid out to advance anti-racism in the organisation, and to achieve necessary change.”

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