The Barbican’s Future

I’m Laura Kriefman – the new CEO of the Barbican, Plymouth. I started 4 days before lockdown, and have probably had one of the ultimate ‘baptism of fire’ – having to close 2 venues, and find a new future for the organisation during Lockdown and everything we have all been experiencing. I have been applying everything I’ve learnt through my collaborative work worldwide about adapting, changing, doing more for less, in new ways, with different people to redefine the Barbican’s future. 

The Barbican is committed to building Plymouth’s cultural voice. We have been working for 40 years with 12-25 year olds to inspire the next generation of artists and entrepreneurs to find their creative voices, which are often unheard. 

During lockdown, and despite 5 of our team being furloughed, we have worked hard to continue to support our freelance practitioner community and all the young adults who participate in our classes. We have had over 33,000 engagements in our online materials and classes.  We are also delivering 4 projects across the city this summer. 

However, having closed our doors in March, we’re facing an over 50 % reduction in our turnover – (our Arts Council National Portfolio Funding and wider grant funding has only ever been 30% of our turnover). We have very sadly had to run a redundancy process and over 30% of our full time staff have been made redundant. 

As I’m sure you’re aware social distancing guidance for venues (and the risk of second lockdowns) makes programming the theatre really hard. We only have 140 seats, and to accommodate social distancing we have to reduce our capacity to around 30 people a night. That’s not financially viable, and not a satisfying experience for audiences or performers. As a result I’ve made the hard decision that we won’t be programming performances in our venue until at least April 2021. 

The BBar has reopened for its delicious sit down meals and take away – they can only host 28 people now, and there will be no live music and comedy events for quite a while. 

As a charity we have always focussed on ploughing our turnover back into our activities (we don’t have large cash reserves), and with a 50% reduction in that turn over we’re in an incredibly tough financial situation. We’re working hard with Plymouth City Council, Arts Council England and as a team to figure out how we can do as much as possible with very, very reduced finances. We’re not going down without a fight – And this is where we need your help:

Whilst we don’t feel able to run shows in our building – we’re coming to you instead. We’re creating ‘pay-what-you-can’ Playground events across the city in hairdressers, fish chips shops, skateparks and amphitheatres – all designed for different levels of social distancing – and bringing different creatives across the city together. 

We believe in our work- we know the difference it makes to the young people we support who come from a diverse, low income community that deserves to find it’s own cultural voice. So we WILL be returning in September to run our talent development classes and a much wider range of masterclasses and workshops (from VJ-ing, to Projection mapping, to composing for choreography). The classes will be smaller groups, and cost us a lot more to run- but we’re keeping them at a maximum of £60 a yearand we’ll continue to offer payment plans for anyone who needs it.

All Barbican Talent Development work will run under the new name ReBels
ReBels are SuBversive and CollaBorative and interested in HyBrids SuBcultures.

Imagine an entire new dance style growing out of Plymouth (like KRUMP coming out of LA, or footwork from Chicago),  the next music genre (like grime from London or Drum and Bass in Bristol).  What’s the new ‘Margate’ school of visual art? What are the stories that Plymouth’s young  people want to tell – will they be so exciting that they tour worldwide (like Ontroerent Goed did from the Netherlands) Who’s the next Kae Tempest?  

We’re excited. But we need the city’s help. Can you help?

Can you donate towards us helping a young person find their creative voice and have a safe space to grow and develop?

Can you help us by completing this survey, so we know how and when you would like to come back to our building?

Can you help us find exciting places for us to host ReBel Playgrounds?
Do you want to take part in any of the things we’re offering? Then get in touch- we want to hear from you 

Laura Kriefman

CEO – Barbican Theatre, Plymouth. 



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