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Claire Spencer. Photo: Mark Gambino.
Claire Spencer. Photo: Mark Gambino.

Claire Spencer Named Inaugural CEO of Barbican Centre

London’s Barbican Centre, the largest performing arts venue on the European continent, has announced Claire Spencer as its inaugural CEO. Spencer will depart her present role as CEO of Arts Centre Melbourne on April 14 and will take up her new post in May.

“There’s nowhere on Earth quite like the Barbican, I think, and that was very attractive to me,” Spencer told Arts Hub of her decision to join the organization. “Some of my earliest memories of theater were actually at the Barbican and the opportunity to go back and be involved in that is quite extraordinary.”

Spencer, who spent eleven years at the Sydney Opera House before arriving at Arts Centre Melbourne in 2014, is expected to “play a key role” in fostering inclusion and diversity at the Barbican, which last year was rocked by allegations of racism following the publication of a dossier compiling nearly a hundred anonymous accounts of alleged racism and discrimination at the prestigious performing arts venue. A housecleaning followed, with longtime managing director Sir Nicholas Kenyon CBE leaving the organization in September, and a law firm hired to conduct an external review into staff experiences.

“My plan is to work closely with the team and the board to deliver on the full agenda that the Barbican has ahead of it, which covers both an artistic vision as well as a physical renewal, and a very big agenda around equity and inclusion,” said Spencer.

Spencer arrives at the Barbican as it plunges headlong into a $208 million initiative aimed at refurbishing the Brutalist structure in which it is housed. The refresh, which will see the Barbican drastically reduce its carbon footprint and increase accessibility, is part of the City of London’s part plan to transform itself into an international cultural destination.