Barbican announces a three-day digital residency with the Australian Chamber Orchestra [pictured] alongside further new digital content across all artforms

Inspired by the Barbican’s international arts programme, a curated mix of livestreams, podcasts, playlists, films, videos, talks and articles enables audiences to continue to enjoy the Centre’s rich and varied programme from home or on the go during its temporary closure and beyond.

Digital content is available via the Barbican’s website through Read, Watch & ListenCinema on DemandConcerts on DemandLive from the Barbican and its social channels. In addition, podcasts can also be accessed by subscribing to the Nothing Concrete podcast via AcastSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Highlights of the Barbican’s current and upcoming digital content include:  

  • digital residency with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, featuring an entirely free programme of concerts, supported by a Barbican-curated collection of podcasts, photography, videos and conversations (1-3 December 2020)
  • For the duration of the latest lockdown in England, concerts as part of the Live from the Barbican autumn series are now available On Demand, including performances from Sir Bryn Terfel, Nubya GarciaErland Cooper, The Divine Comedy, Emmy the Great, Richard Dawson, SEED Ensemble, The Kanneh-Mason Family, Ian Bostridge and Dame Sarah ConnollyShabaka Hutchings as well as Barbican Associate Orchestra BBC Symphony Orchestra and Barbican Associate Ensemble Britten Sinfonia
  • We Cover the Universe by Akin, performed by Rachel Lincoln and Remmie Milner, is a sensory online show for the under-fives, parents/carers and extended families, available via Zoom from Thu 10 December
  • Barbican Artistic Associates Cheek by Jowl launch their second podcast series, Not True, But Useful…, featuring conversations with Artistic Directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod
  • Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning launches its Open Lab programme to commission eight artists to produce new socially engaged work
  • A new short film and soundscape, titled Kamala: a Lotus, produced by artist Timalka Kalubowila, exploring the mental health crisis faced by young people due to the ongoing pandemic
  • On Fri 27 November, the Barbican will unveil It All Comes Down, a free online group exhibition featuring newly created works from 13 emerging visual artists on Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning’s Young Visual Arts Group programme
  • Young Barbican Night, a special evening of streamed online performances and music, hosted by Queer House Party, celebrating the Barbican’s latest exhibition, Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer (Sat 28 November)
  • New Spotify playlists from three of the Barbican Cinema’s Emerging Curators, accompanying their screenings in December
  • An interview with the directors Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov, about their latest film The Man Who Surprised Everyone (Russia 2018), which also screens on Cinema on Demand
  • An extended run of the critically acclaimed Billie (UK 2019, Dir. James Erskine), a biopic of the troubled jazz singer Billie Holiday on Cinema on Demand

The Barbican believes in creating space for people and ideas to connect through its international arts programme, community events and learning activity. To keep its programme accessible to everyone, and to keep investing in the artists it works with, the Barbican needs to raise more than 60% of its income through ticket sales, commercial activities and fundraising every year. Donations can be made here:

Full details of digital content below.


Australian Chamber Orchestra digital residency

digital residency with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Centre’s International Associate Ensemble at Milton Court, takes place from 1–3 December 2020. The ACO and their Music Director Richard Tognetti are currently in Australia but bring an entirely free programme of concerts, supported by a Barbican-curated collection of free podcasts, photography, videos and conversation, marking what would have been the ensemble’s third year as a Barbican partner.  

In a concert that was originally scheduled to be performed at the Barbican in October 2020, Indies and Idols (Tue 1 December) twins the music of contemporary performers and composers Bryce Dessner, Sufjan Stevens and Jonny Greenwood with works from some of the great composers who inspired them: Karol Szymanowski, Witold Lutosławski and Krzysztof Penderecki. On Wed 2 December, the ACO present Transfigured, a project that marked the ACO’s exuberant and hopeful return to the stage in Australia in September 2020, featuring indigenous Australian composer, vocalist and didgeridoo player William Barton. The residency concludes with 2017’s Sydney Opera House live performance recording of the film Mountain (PG), which will be made available on Thu 3 December. Directed by BAFTA nominee Jennifer Peedom and narrated by William Dafoe, this breath-taking cinematic exploration of humanity’s obsession with wilderness and the sublime force of high places was recorded with the ACO performing in front of the film’s stunning backdrop. Mountain will be available to watch until Sat 5 December, with the other two concerts available for a month.

Huw Humphreys, Barbican Head of Music, said: ‘We are thrilled to be able to present this digital ACO residency, which showcases the energy, flexibility, vibrancy and artistry for which the ensemble is renowned. International partnerships like the one we have with the ACO are now more important than ever and we are so proud that they are our International Associate Ensemble at Milton Court. The ACO’s annual visits to the Barbican have provided many of the stand-out moments of recent seasons and, while they are unable to be with us in person this year, we hope that this treasure trove of digital delights will sustain you until the ACO and Richard Tognetti can be back with us again soon.’

Accompanying the residency is a host of digital content including a photo series by Daniel Bould documenting the orchestra’s Golden Age instruments. From Richard Tognetti’s 1743 Guarneri del Gesù violin, to Satu Vänskä’s 1726 ‘Belgiorno’ Stradivarius, this photo series shares the stories of some of the finest instruments in the world. The residency also features conversations between Richard Tognetti and the Barbican’s Head of Music Huw Humphreys in which they discuss the residency and how the orchestra has adapted in an unprecedented year, as well as a conversation with William Barton on the art of composing for didgeridoo, and fusing indigenous Australian music with classical. The residency also features playlists, podcasts, Barbican sessions and long reads all available on the Barbican’s Read, Watch, and Listen page. Further details in the full press release here.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra’s digital residency is kindly supported by its University Partner, The University of Melbourne.

Concerts on Demand during lockdown in England

All concerts that have already taken place as part of the Barbican’s autumn concert series Live from the Barbican have just been made available On Demand until England’s lockdown is lifted.

This new concert series, devised when it became apparent that the pandemic would prohibit the Centre’s originally planned music season going ahead, made Barbican concerts accessible online for a global digital audience for the first time. This hybrid experience for live and digital audiences was developed and delivered entirely in-house and featured artists such as Richard DawsonThe Kanneh-Mason FamilyThe Divine ComedyNubya GarciaIan Bostridge and Dame Sarah ConnollyEmmy the GreatSEED EnsembleSir Bryn TerfelErland CooperShabaka Hutchings as well as Barbican Associate Orchestra BBC Symphony Orchestra and Barbican Associate Ensemble Britten Sinfonia.

Concerts on Demand are all available to access here. Tickets are £12.50 for new bookers and half price for those who booked tickets to watch the concerts originally. Discounted tickets at £5 are available to 14–25-year-olds through the Young Barbican scheme. Once tickets are bought, audiences have 48 hours to watch the concert.

Live from the Barbican continues in December.


Barbican Cinema offers new perspectives on Cinema on Demand and complementary content on Read, Watch & Listen.

Emerging Film Curators Programme

As part of Barbican Cinema’s two Emerging Film Curators’ Programmes in December, curators Grace Barber-Plentie and Maria Paradinas and Emma Bouraba have curated Spotify playlists available on Read, Watch & Listen from Fri 27 November.

To complement, Reframing the Fat Body Grace Barber-Plentie has compiled a Spotify playlist : ‘As part of my work on my Reframing the Fat Body screening, I wanted to create a Spotify playlist that incorporated some of the most iconic fat musicians who have helped shape both music and the way that we think about fatness in pop culture. From our pioneers such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mahalia Jackson to the Queen of Soul and Walrus of Love – Aretha Franklin and Barry White – all the way to new fat musicians like Lizzo and Brittany Howard, these singers show that fatness is something that can be reframed not just visually but also aurally.

Further reading here.

Curators Maria Paradinas and Emma Bouraba have curated a playlist Algerian Resistance (available from Fri 27 November) to complement their screening of Rayhana Obermeyer’s I Still Hide to Smoke (2016, France /Greece/Algeria) which will screen on Cinema on Demand and in Cinema 1.

Maria Paradinas and Emma Bouraba comment, ‘Algerian Resistance is a polyphonic call for emancipation. It is a musical journey spanning from the 1970s to the present day; a period of time marked by political unrest, oppressive governments and the trauma of the Civil War.

‘This playlist is a sonic journey tracing the artists that called for the end to oppression and whose music captured the struggle for equality, and an ode to musicians from the region that inspired hope.

Further reading here.

The Man Who Surprised Everyone

To complement the run of the Siberian film The Man Who Surprised Everyone (2018 Russia), available to stream exclusively and for the first-time in the UK on Cinema on Demand (between 4–17 December), there will be an in-depth interview with the film’s directors Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov which goes live on Read, Watch & Listen on Fri 4 December.

The film tells the story of Egor (Evgeniy Tsyganov), a well-respected father whose wife is pregnant with their second child, who discovers he has only two months to live.

He takes desperate inspiration from a Russian folktale and decides to cheat death by taking the guise of a woman, risking losing the love of his family and facing rejection from his community.

The interview reveals the complex issues the film raises about love, death and marriage and the challenges of making a film that questions gender identity in a country where traditional male and female roles still dominate.

Billie Holiday

Extended due to popular demand, James Erskine’s new documentary Billie, featuring a newly-unearthed treasure trove of audio interviews about Billie Holiday, is now available on Cinema on Demand until Mon 30 November.

Barbican Cinema on Demand is supported by the BFI FAN Resilience Fund, awarding National Lottery funding, and the Mayor of London’s Culture at Risk business support fund.


Akin – We Cover the Universe

Poetry, drawing and gentle play awaken the imagination in Akin’s interactive, sensory online show for the under-fives and parents/carers and extended families.

We Cover the Universe introduces audiences to Dot, when she’s feeling small. She’s stuck in a grey room until, one day, she starts to draw and dream. Plucking up the courage to venture out, she encounters a glorious new world of colour and learns there’s more to life than she ever thought.

Two friendly performers – Remmie Milner and co-founder of Akin, Rachel Lincoln – guide children and adults through simple movement and inventive art-making activities via Zoom, exploring how basic household objects feel and sound. With magical music, vibrant visuals and playful poetry, this wondrous experience takes families on a journey together, wherever they are, transforming items and spaces before their eyes.

Akin – We Cover the Universe runs Thu 10–Sun 20 December 2020, times vary
Press performances: Fri 11 December 2020, 10.30am and 2pm
available via Zoom

Presented and co-commissioned by the Barbican, tickets for We Cover the Universe are £5 per household and are on sale now here.

Further reading here.

Cheek by Jowl

Barbican Artistic Associates Cheek by Jowl are back with the second series of their podcast Not True, But Useful… featuring conversations with Artistic Directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, and hosted by Lucie Dawkins.

Not True, But Useful… focuses on what the great playwrights can teach us about love, life and hope in this strange time. Each episode is based around one production in the company’s repertoire, including The Winter’s TaleUbu Roi, and As You Like It, taking listeners behind-the-scenes and sharing ideas about directing, designing and acting.

Created in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown, the first seriesexplored the themes that run through Cheek by Jowl’s creative and rehearsal process – with subjects including space, threshold, language, encounter, and creative partnership. The entire first series is available at

The first episode in this new series of Not True, But Useful… has just been released, with the next seven episodes released every Friday, covering The Winter’s Tale, Ubu Roi, ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore, As You Like It, The Tempest, The Changeling, Boris Godunov, and Cymbeline.


Barbican launches call-out to commission eight artists to produce new socially engaged work

Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning’s Open Lab programme has opened for applications.

The programme will support artists at an early or mid-career stage to experiment across any artform with no expectation of delivering a final artistic product.

Interested applicants’ practice should be socially engaged. Work should explore how people’s mental, physical and social wellbeing is improved by participation in and enjoyment of the arts. It should be inclusive, rooted in community and should respond to the uniquely challenging times we find ourselves in today.

Successful applicants will receive a fee of £2,000 to develop their idea, have access to bespoke guidance and advice by Barbican staff members and a selected mentor. Applicants should document their process and will have the opportunity to showcase their work on the Barbican’s website and social media channels.

The Barbican will support the work of eight early to mid-career artists in total, with four artists being selected for the first round from January–April 2021. The deadline to apply is Monday 14 December. In spring 2021, we will open a second round of applications for four additional artists to take part in Open Labs between May-August 2021.

Disabled people, those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds as well as people under 30 are under-represented in the arts sector, so we are particularly encouraging applications to Open Lab from people in these groups.

More information about the programme and how to apply can be found here.

Subject to Change: November commission

Artist Timalka Kalubowila has released Kamala: a Lotus, a powerful new short film and soundscape exploring the mental health crisis faced by young people due to the ongoing pandemic. The work can be viewed here.

Working with sounds and imagery from nature and the confines of her home, Timalka was drawn to the symbolism of lotus flowers and their ability to blossom so beautifully, regardless of the muddy disposition which they emerge from. In her short film, the lotus serves as an antidote to our current times and a reminder that we have the ability to conquer our mental struggles and rise above difficult situations.

This original work is part of Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning’s programme Subject to Change: New Horizons. Each month for a year, Young Creatives will be commissioned to produce new and powerful artistic work responding to the uncertain times in which we are living. Timalka’s piece is the fifth in the series. New work will be shared every month on the Barbican’s website and social media channels until June 2021.

Young Visual Arts Group 2020 online exhibition

Fri 27 November 2020 – Thu 27 May 2021

On 27 November, the Barbican will unveil It All Comes Down, a free online group exhibition featuring newly created works from 13 emerging visual artists on Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning’s Young Visual Arts Group programme. Produced during the Covid-19 lockdown, the exhibition showcases 70 artworks which explore the impermanence of social structures, the relationship between the individual and the collective and how the self is shaped by a dramatically changing world.

It All Comes Down spotlights work from artists Sam Ahern, Sneha Alexander, Rebecca Cromwell, Safiye Gray, Annie Lee, Becca Lynes, Emily Marshall, Molly Morphew, Defne Ozdenoren, Jordan Robertson, Lay Stevens, Vangelis Trichias and Arabella Turner. The artworks span various mediums including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, films and installation, presented alongside writings from the artists, as well as images of the artwork installed at site specific locations across the Barbican Centre and Estate.  

Full details about the exhibition will be released on Fri 27 November.

Young Barbican Nights x Queer House Party

Sat 28 November, Zoom

On Sat 28 November at 9pm, the Barbican is hosting its next online Young Barbican Night, a special evening of streamed online performances and discussions hosted by Queer House Party, an award-winning virtual LGBTIQ+ party.

Available for Young Barbican members, the online event will celebrate and take inspiration from the Barbican’s latest exhibition, Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer and include music by Queer House Party DJs and performances from young creatives and students from Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Performers include poet, actor-writer and theatre maker Maedb Joy; experimental artist Kookie Blu; circus teacher and performer Jazz McInerney; writer and performer Jess Rahman-González; as well as writer and performer Jeremiah ‘Sugar J’ Brown and producer Gabriel ‘Bump Kin’ Jones.

The event will also feature an exciting costume competition to recreate one of Michael Clark’s iconic looks using items found at home. The winner will win two tickets to the exhibition Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer, which runs until Sun 3 January 2021.

More information about the event can be found here.