Barbican reopens with vibrant programme for the festive period


The Barbican today announces the reopening of the Centre to the public, in line with government guidance, on Wednesday 2 December 2020, as well as an exciting programme of live events and digital content for the festive period.

Highlights include:

Exhibitions Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer and Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory will reopen to the public on Wednesday 2 December.

Successful concert series Live from the Barbican, for both live audiences in the Barbican Hall and global livestream audiences at home, continues with The Cosmos with Professor Brian Cox & BBC SO on Sunday 13 December. This is followed by a series of Christmas concerts throughout December featuring Saxophonist Jess Gillam, singer-songwriter Katie Melua, actor Kevin Whately, Barbican Associate Ensemble the Academy of Ancient Music – with a performance of seasonal classic, Handel’s Messiah – and BBC Singers conducted by Bob Chilcott.

The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle perform two days of Beethoven Piano Concertos on Wednesday 16 and Thursday 17 December with guest pianist Krystian Zimerman to round off the Barbican’s Beethoven 250 celebrations.

Communities in Residence returns from Thursday 3 December with a regular programme of small-scale and in-person creative workshops for local community organisations and charities.

London premiere of Vox Motus’ Flight, based on Caroline Brothers’ novel Hinterland about the perilous journeys faced by refugee children is co-presented by the Barbican at the Bridge Theatre, opening on Thursday 10 December.

The Barbican and fieldwork present The Ghost Light, a series of spontaneous short pieces performed live in the Barbican Theatre from Tuesday 12 January to an audience of between one to six people (from the same household or bubble).

Barbican Cinema 1 reopens on Thursday 3 December with two Event Cinema screenings – NT Live, Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, and Sonia Friedman’s Olivier award nominated production of Uncle Vanya. New cinema releases opening on Friday 4 December include David Fincher’s Mank and George C Wolfe’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Barbican Conservatory, home to more than 1,500 species of tropical plants and trees, will reopen to the public for free from Thursday 3 December.

Playing Democracy by artist Ling Tan, a giant two player game of Pong reopens on Wednesday 2 December for everyone to enjoy for free on Level G.

For children aged five and under, Squish Space will be offering a new series of digital prompts for parents/carers and their children to enjoy at home over the winter months, while Akin’s interactive, sensory online theatre show We Cover the Universe opens on Thursday 10 December via Zoom.

A new series of free festive-themed Play Packs from the City of London Corporation’s Culture Mile, of which the Barbican is a core partner, will be available to download for free or collect from local foodbanks and community centres.

Barbican Shop will reopen its physical stores on Level G and Level 4 from Wednesday 2 December, featuring an exciting selection of design-led gifts for the festive season. It will also continue taking orders through its online store.

Long reads, podcasts, videos and more are available for free via Read, Watch & Listen on the Barbican’s website.

Full programme information for the above and more is detailed below.

Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director, Barbican said: “We’re excited to welcome everyone back to the Barbican once again to enjoy culture and creativity. Our festive programme features a series of in-person and livestreamed Christmas concerts, new theatre performances and cinema releases, two not-to-be-missed exhibitions, and a range of creative activities for families. We’re also very pleased to restart our Communities in Residence programme which provides free space in the Barbican for local community groups to use in a way that is useful to them, and to reopen our iconic Conservatory to the public again for free, for those seeking solace or a place to pause and reflect.

“We understand not everyone will be able to join us in person, and we’ll continue to share a curated programme of digital content via our website and social channels including Akin’s We Cover the Universe, an interactive sensory online show combining poetry and drawing show for the under-fives and our digital residency with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

“On behalf of everyone at the Barbican, I’d like to thank our audiences, patrons and supporters and the City of London Corporation for their exceptional support this year. Merry Christmas, and we look forward to seeing much more of you in 2021.”

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 the December programme:

Visual Arts

Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer

Barbican Art Gallery

Open until Sun 3 Jan 2021

Barbican Art Gallery is reopening its exhibition Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer, the first ever major exhibition on the ground-breaking dancer and choreographer Michael Clark, on Wednesday 2 December. The exhibition’s opening hours have been extended until 9pm from Thursday to Saturday. Details of full opening hours are below.

New opening hours:

Mon-Wed 11am-7pm; Thu-Fri 11am-9pm; Sat 10am-9pm; Sun 10am-7pm; 24-27 Dec Closed; New Year’s Day 12-7pm.

Exploring his unique combination of classical and contemporary culture, Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer unfolds as a constellation of striking portraits of Clark through the eyes of legendary collaborators and world-renowned artists including Charles Atlas, BodyMap, Leigh Bowery, Duncan Campbell, Peter Doig, Cerith Wyn Evans, Sarah Lucas, Silke Otto-Knapp, Elizabeth Peyton, The Fall and Wolfgang Tillmans. This exhibition, one of the largest surveys ever dedicated to a living choreographer, presents a comprehensive story of Clark’s career to date and development as a pioneer of contemporary dance who challenged the furthest intersections of dance, life and art through a union of ballet technique and punk culture. Films, sculptures, paintings and photographs by his collaborators across visual art, music and fashion are exhibited alongside rare archival material, placing Clark within the wider cultural context of his time. Contributions by cult icons of London’s art scene establish his radical presence in Britain’s cultural history.

Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory

The Curve

Open until Sun 24 Jan 2021

The Barbican’s current Curve commission, Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory, a site-specific installation of 40 drawings by Nigerian-American artist Toyin Ojih Odutola, reopens to the public on Wednesday 2 December. Details of full opening hours are below.

Opening hours:

Mon-Fri 12-7pm; Sat-Sun 11am-7pm; 24-27 Dec Closed; New Year’s Day 12-7pm.

A Countervailing Theory is the first-ever UK commission by Nigerian-American artist Toyin Ojih Odutola. An epic cycle of new work unfurls across the 90-metre long gallery, exploring an imagined ancient myth conceived by the artist. An immersive soundscape by renowned conceptual sound artist Peter Adjaye fills the space in response to Ojih Odutola’s work. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication featuring a new text by acclaimed writer Zadie Smith and an interview with the artist. Executed in pastel, charcoal and chalk, the installation features a series of 40 drawings, each work acting as an individual episode within an overarching narrative. Ojih Odutola encourages the viewer to piece together the fragments of the stories she presents. Set within a surreal landscape inspired by the rock formations of Plateau State in central Nigeria, the works depict the tale of a fictional prehistoric civilisation, dominated by female rulers and served by male labourers. Drawing on an eclectic range of sources, from ancient history to popular culture, Ojih Odutola investigates the power dynamics at play within this community. Toyin Ojih Odutola is winner of the Apollo Artist of the Year 2020 Award.


Live from the Barbican – Autumn series concludes on 13 December

In October 2020 the Barbican began a new series concerts, designed for both a reduced, socially-distanced live audience in the Barbican Hall and a global livestream audience at home. Live from the Barbican has featured artists such as Sir Bryn Terfel, Nubya Garcia, The Kanneh-Mason Family, The Divine Comedy, Ian Bostridge with Dame Sarah Connolly, and Shabaka Hutchings with Britten Sinfonia. The autumn series comes to an end on 13 December:

The Cosmos with Professor Brian Cox & BBC SO

Sun 13 Dec 2020, Barbican Hall, 8pm

Tickets £20 & 12.50 (livestream)

Sibelius arr. Iain Farrington: Symphony No. 5 Mov. 3

Ives: The Unanswered Question

Mahler arr. Michelle Castelletti: Symphony No.10 Mov. 1

One of the world’s pre-eminent physicists embarks on a mind-bending musical voyage through space and time, set to a soundtrack inspired by the great unknowns of the Universe.

What does it mean to live small, finite lives in an infinite Universe? Prepare to confront some of the biggest questions of them all: questions of life, death and the very meaning of our existence. Physicist Professor Brian Cox joins the Barbican Associate Orchestra BBC Symphony Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor Dalia Stasevska to explore the questions raised by music and the Cosmos concerning eternity, death, rebirth and meaning. Professor Brian Cox returns to the Barbican for this concert, following a critically-acclaimed performance with the BBC SO of Holst’s The Planets in 2018.

Co-produced by the Barbican and BBC SO.

This performance will be streamed live from the Barbican Hall on a pay-to-view basis, with 48 hours to view or re-watch the concert after it begins. Tickets for the live experience in the auditorium are available, if government guidance continues to permit this.

Live from the Barbican – Christmas concerts

A series of Christmas concerts can be enjoyed in December by both a reduced, socially-distanced live audience in the Barbican Hall and a global livestream audience at home. The performances feature saxophonist Jess Gillam, singer-songwriter Katie Melua, actor Kevin Whately, Barbican Associate Ensemble Academy of Ancient Music in Handel’s Messiah, and BBC Singers conducted by Bob Chilcott. This continues the successful season of live and livestreamed concerts as part of Live from the Barbican. All performances will be streamed to a global audience live on a pay-to-view basis, with 48 hours to view or re-watch the concert after it begins. Tickets for the socially-distanced live experience in the auditorium will be available for all concerts, if government guidance permits this at the time.

A Choral Christmas with Jess Gillam and Katie Melua

Tue 15 Dec 2020, Barbican Hall, 7pm

Tickets £20-40 & 12.50 (livestream)

Saxophonist Jess Gillam, whose recent second album TIME saw her reach No 1 in the UK’s Official Classical Artist Chart, takes to the Barbican Hall stage this Christmas as she hosts and performs in an evening of festive music for a live and livestreamed audience. Gillam is joined by singer-songwriter Katie Melua, one of Britain’s most successful recording artists of the millennium, as well as the BBC Singers conducted by Principal Guest Conductor Bob Chilcott, and members of the BBC Concert Orchestra. Coinciding with the release of her eighth-studio album this autumn, Album No.8, the concert will see Melua perform new soulful songs as well as seasonal ones from her 2016 Christmas record In Winter. The evening will also include performances of traditional favourites, including Bob Chilcott’s arrangement of The Twelve Days of Christmas and Have yourself a merry little Christmas.

Co-produced by the Barbican and BBC Singers.

Handel’s Messiah – Academy of Ancient Music / Egarr

Sat 19 Dec 2020, Barbican Hall, 7pm

Tickets £20-40 & 12.50 (livestream)

Barbican Associate Ensemble the Academy of Ancient Music celebrate their return to the Barbican Hall with a performance of the seasonal classic, Handel’s Messiah, directed by Richard Egarr. Despite trying times, the Barbican is determined to continue its annual tradition of hosting a performance of the Messiah for the festive season, with the AAM’s period instruments bringing a vibrancy and vitality that is acclaimed internationally. They are joined on the night by a glittering array of British talent – soprano Rowan Pierce, countertenor Iestyn Davies, tenor Ben Johnson and bass Ashley Riches.

Co-produced by the Barbican and the Academy of Ancient Music.

A Dickensian Christmas

Tue 22 Dec 2020, Barbican Hall, 7pm

Tickets £20-30 & 12.50 (livestream)

Kevin Whately, English screen star known for his roles in TV crime dramas Inspector Morse and Lewis, joins the London Concert Brass conducted by Hilary Davan Wetton for a festive evening for all the family. Whately will bring to life a selection of readings from Charles Dickens’ festive fixture, A Christmas Carol, which will be accompanied by a programme of classic Victorian carols for choir and brass, including Deck the Hall, Ding Dong Merrily on High and Sussex Carol, In the Bleak Midwinter and The Holly and the Ivy.

Co-produced by the Barbican and Raymond Gubbay Ltd.

Australian Chamber Orchestra digital residency

A 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. Indies and Idols (Tuesday 1 December) twins the music of Bryce Dessner, Sufjan Stevens and Jonny Greenwood with works by Karol Szymanowski, Witold Lutosławski and Krzysztof Penderecki who inspired them. On Wednesday 2 December, the ACO present Transfigured 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 Thursday 3 December. Directed by BAFTA nominee Jennifer Peedom and narrated by William Dafoe, this is a cinematic exploration of humanity’s obsession with wilderness and the sublime force of high places. Mountain will be available to watch until Saturday 5 December, with the other two concerts available for a month.

Accompanying the residency is a host of digital content including a photo series by Daniel Bould documenting the orchestra’s Golden Age instruments, conversations between Richard Tognetti and the Barbican’s Head of Music Huw Humphreys, 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 & Listen page.

London Symphony Orchestra

A Singalong Christmas – London Symphony Orchestra/London Symphony Chorus

Sun 13 Dec 2020,, 3pm

Free event

This year the London Symphony Orchestra’s annual Christmas Concert will be a free online singalong event on Sunday 13 December 3.00pm – 4.00pm on Led by LSO Choral Director Simon Halsey, featuring well-known carols and seasonal songs ‘Sleigh Ride’, ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ and ‘The First Nowell’, alongside some yuletide discoveries from around the world. Filmed at LSO St Luke’s with guest singers Abigail Kelly soprano and Rodney Earl Clarke bass-baritone, with London Symphony Chorus and London Symphony Orchestra. The concert is available online for 90 days.

Beethoven Piano Concertos 1 & 4 – London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle and Krystian Zimerman

Wed 16 Dec 2020, Barbican Hall 3.30pm & 6.30pm

Tickets £18 – £35 & £5 under 18

Beethoven Piano Concertos 1 – 5 – London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle and Krystian Zimerman

Thu 17 Dec 2020, Barbican Hall 6.00pm

Tickets £18 – £60 & £5 under 18

The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle perform two days of Beethoven Piano Concertos with guest pianist Krystian Zimerman in December to round off the Barbican’s Beethoven 250 celebrations. On 16 December, there will be concerts at 3.30pm and 6.30pm featuring Beethoven Piano Concertos 1 Op 15 and 4 Op 58, with all five Beethoven piano concertos being performed at 6pm on 17 December in an extended concert with two intervals, due to end at 9.50pm.

Communities in Residence

From Thursday 3 December, Communities in Residence will return with a regular programme of small-scale and in-person creative workshops, social activities such as film viewings and visits to the Barbican Art Gallery.

Communities in Residence is a responsive programme that provides free space at the Barbican to local community partners including Accumulate, an ‘art school for the homeless’; Key Changes, a mental health recovery organisation for musicians; and City of London Age UK which offers support and services to older people.

The programme provides valuable face-to-face interaction for people experiencing the chronic issue of loneliness and is helping to foster feelings of value and connection.

Theatre and Dance

Vox Motus – Flight

Thu 10 Dec 2020 – Sat 16 Jan 2021

Bridge Theatre

Press performances: Mon 14 Dec 2020, times vary

The Barbican collaborates with the Bridge Theatre, to co-present the highly acclaimed theatre installation Flight, by Vox Motus, bringing the production to London for the first time. From a private booth, audiences will be drawn into this tale of orphaned brothers and their desperate odyssey across Europe, the action unfolding in an exquisite world of moving miniature

With their small inheritance stitched into their clothes, young Aryan and Kabir set off on an epic journey by foot from Kabul to London. Braving bustling train stations, hazardous sea crossings, menacing strangers and threats of violence, their heart-wrenching story speaks of terror, hope and survival. Based on Caroline Brothers’ novel Hinterland, Flight combines timely themes with engrossing images to honour the resilience of refugee children adrift in dangerous lands.

At the Bridge Theatre audiences will be seated individually and given headphones for this intimate experience staged by Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison (magic and illusions designer, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child). Like a 3-D graphic novel brought to life, the revolving scenes contain detailed sets and figures, accompanied by binaural sound and narration.

Akin – We Cover the Universe

Thu 10 – Sun 20 Dec 2020, times vary

Press performances: Fri 11 Dec 2020, 10.30am and 2pm

Available via Zoom (£5 per household)

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. We Cover the Universe is co-commissioned by the Barbican.

Barbican and fieldwork – The Ghost Light

Tue 12 – Sat 23 Jan 2021, Barbican Theatre

The atmospheric auditorium at the Barbican has been dark for months, except for a solitary light, traditionally kept burning after hours to appease ghosts and celebrate the enduring power of theatre. Now, as the Theatre doors reopen, we invite an audience of one, and up to five members of their household or bubble, to inhabit the space with an artist as a 30-minute piece unfolds just for them. Anything from comedy to drama or dance to poetry may be performed. It could be rowdy or reflective, grand or intimate, classic or contemporary. The audience will only know once they’ve taken their seats.

The Ghost Light concept has been developed by Purni Morell and Christian Roe of fieldwork. These spontaneous short pieces are performed live in the evocative setting of the Barbican Theatre, lit only by the ghost light. They offer an opportunity for artist and audience to connect in an empty space – to experience the mutual vulnerability of being alone in the “ghost space” that is currently theatre, in an intimate, unique exchange.

The performers include: Marc Almond, Fehinti Balogun, Dickie Beau, Viviana Durante, Inua Ellams, Christopher Green, Jamie Hale, Shappi Khorsandi, CN Lester, Ursula Martinez, Patrick O’Kane, Theo (Godson) Oloyade, Maxine Peake, Tom Randle, Christian Roe and Michelle Tiwo.

Originally scheduled for November 2020 The Ghost Light was postponed due to the second lockdown. An online ticket lottery was held between 14–30 October. The lottery is closed but all applicants will be rolled over to the new performance dates when winners will be drawn and contacted one week ahead of the scheduled performances. Six performances will be filmed and streamed in early 2021, allowing more people to experience a selection of the shows.


Barbican Cinema 1 will reopen on Thursday 3 December with two Event Cinema screenings – NT Live, Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, and Sonia Friedman’s Olivier award nominated production of Uncle Vanya, which was filmed in August 2019.

New releases opening on Friday 4 December include David Fincher’s Mank and George C Wolfe’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The reopening weekend will also include Emerging Film Curator, Grace Barber-Plentie’s programme of short films Reframing The Fat Body and the Closing “Best of Fest’ screening for the London International Animation Festival.

Family Film Club will return to the Stalls Floor Foyer on the morning of Saturday 12 December with festive fun and magical creatures in Wintry Wonderland Films for Families.

From January 2021, refurbished Barbican Cinemas 2&3 will reopen to join Cinema 1 and Cinema On Demand with a curated programme of independent new releases, major seasons, regular series, ScreenTalks, and one-off special events.

New Releases:

Mank (12A)

US 2020 Dir David Fincher, 131 min

Fri 4 Dec – Thu 10 Dec 2020, Barbican Cinema 1

Directed by David Fincher and starring Gary Oldman this super stylised film tells the story of how Orson Welles’ masterpiece, Citizen Kane, came to be.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (#)

US 2020 Dir George C. Wolfe, 94 min

Fri 4 –Thu 10 Dec 2020, Barbican Cinema 1

Viola Davis and Chadwick Bosemen star in this film adaptation about trailblazing blues singer, Ma Rainey.

iHuman (#)

Norway 2020, Dir Tonje Hessen Schei, 99 min

Thu 10 Dec 2020 – Thu 7 Jan 2021, Barbican Cinema on Demand

This documentary follows the booming artificial intelligence industry, what opportunities and challenges it brings and the impact globally.

Cocoon (15)

Germany 2020, Dir Leonie Krippendorff, 95 min

Fri 11 Dec 2020 – Fri 8 Jan 2021, Barbican Cinema on Demand

In a sun-drenched Berlin summer, 14 year old tag-along Nora watches the older boys and girls and the ways they interact, but when she meets 18 year-old Romy, she sees a different way: an opportunity to grow into something more beautiful and more natural to her.

For full details about films on release in Cinema 1 and Cinema On Demand visit:

Curated Events:

Emerging Film Curators

Reframing the Fat Body (15*)

Sat 5 Dec 2020, 3.00pm, Cinema 1

Grace Barber-Plentie presents Reframing the Fat Body, a programme of shorts in which fat bodies are freed from the restraints of modern society and allowed to be fluid, free, sexy and radical.

London International Animation Festival 2020

The Best of the Fest (18*)

Sun 6 Dec 2020, 5.25pm, Cinema 1

A roundup of LIAF 2020 and the announcement of the best films as chosen by an industry panel and the audience.

Emerging Film Curators

I Still Hide to Smoke (15*) + ScreenTalk – France, Greece, Algeria 2016, Dir Rayhana Obermeyer, 82 min

Tue 8 Dec 2020 8.45pm, Cinema 1

This programme will also be available on Barbican Cinema on Demand, between 9–22 December 2020.

Maria Paradinas and Emma Bouraba will present Rayhana Obermeyer’s I Still Hide to Smoke (2016, France /Greece/ Algeria). The event includes a recorded introduction by the director, and a post screening panel discussion exploring the multiple ways in which women challenge oppression during conflict and post-conflict situations.

Family Film Club in the Foyers:

Wintry Wonderland Films for Families (U*)

Sat 12 Dec 2020, 11am & 1:30pm, Stalls Floor Foyer

Exploring the fun of the festive season, Wintry Wonderland features magical bears, gingerbread people and accident-prone penguins. Highlights include: The Snow Rabbit (S Korea 2010), Night Fairy-Tale (Russia 2016) and Crispy (Latvia 2014).

This month’s Family Film Club craft workshop will be led by architect Nicole Strong from Goldfinch Create and Play who will share ideas inspired by nature and The Bear and The Snowman films, which will be available on Read, Watch & Listen on Saturday 19 December.

Event Cinema:

NT Live: No Man’s Land

UK 2016, Dirs Sean Mathias & Robin Lough, 170 min

Thu 3 Dec 2020, 3pm, Cinema 1

Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart return to the West End stage in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land. Two ageing writers, Hirst and Spooner, meet in a Hampstead pub and continue their drinking late into the night.

Uncle Vanya (#)

UK 2020, Dir Ian Rickson, 155 min

Thu 3 Dec 2020, 7pm, Cinema 1

Nominated for four Olivier Awards, this Sonia Friedman production of Anton Chekov’s classic play Uncle Vanya by Conor McPherson is directed by Ian Rickson and was filmed this in August. Marrying the intimacy of the screen with the electricity of live performance, an amazing ensemble cast including Aimee Lou Wood, Toby Jones, Richard Armitage, Roger Allam and Rosalind Eleazar.

Exhibition on Screen: Frida Kahlo (12A)

UK 2020, Dir Ali Ray, 90 min

Sat 12 Dec 2020, 2pm, Cinema 1

Making use of the latest technology to deliver previously unimaginable quality, this film about the iconic Frida Kahlo takes an in-depth look at key works throughout her career.

NT Encore: War Horse

UK 2014, Dirs Marianne Elliott & Tom Morris, 135 min

Sun 13 Dec 2020, 2pm, Cinema 1

Originally broadcast in 2014 War Horse returns to cinema screens for the first-time. Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo and adapted by Nick Stafford.

War Horse has delighted millions of people around the world on stage since it was first performed at the National Theatre in 2007. At its heart are astonishing life-size puppets by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, who bring breathing, galloping, charging horses to thrilling life on stage.

Concerto: A Beethoven Journey (U)

UK, Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, USA 2015, Dir Phil Grabsky, 93 min

Wed 16 Dec 2020, 6pm, Cinema 1

Filmed to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, award-winning director Phil Grabsky follows leading concert pianist Leif Ove Andsnes’s attempt to understand and interpret Beethoven’s five piano concertos.

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.

Barbican Conservatory

The Barbican Conservatory will reopen to the public on select afternoons of the week from Thursday 3 December. A hidden oasis in the city, the Barbican Conservatory is home to more than 1,500 species of tropical plants and trees, as well as three indoor ponds for exotic fish and terrapins. Entry is free, but tickets must be booked in advance with available dates and times listed on the Barbican website here.

Level G Programme

Soundhouse: Intimacy and Distance

Available online until Sun 17 Jan 2021

Soundhouse: Intimacy and Distance, is a free digital showcase of experimental audio works and written commissions exploring audio culture in a physically distanced world due to the ongoing pandemic. The project is a collaboration with audio-makers Nina Garthwaite (In The Dark) and Eleanor McDowall (Falling Tree Productions).

Three bespoke online ‘listening rooms’ have been guest-curated by the audio producer Arlie Adlington; multimedia artist and audio-maker Ariana Martinez; and award-winning sound designer Axel Kacoutié. These engage with subjects ranging from of the political power of personal storytelling to the sculptural qualities of sound – drawing together audio from traditional speech-led narratives to more abstract, sound-focussed works. Rather than letting people listen to programmes on demand, Soundhouse adopts a ‘live listening’ approach, which means, whenever listeners tune-in, they’ll be having a communal listening experience.

Soundhouse: Intimacy and Distance also explores how increased isolation and social distancing have affected our psychological relationship with audio and sound. The project included a survey of around 200 audio-makers and listeners, which revealed that 75% of respondents’ listening habits had changed since the pandemic began. They found themselves particularly drawn to presenters they considered familiar, comforting or friendly, and to podcasts and radio programmes that offered humour and escape from the anxiety-inducing news cycle.

Ling Tan: Playing Democracy

Open until Apr 2021, Level G

Playing Democracy is a new interactive installation by artist Ling Tan, designed as a giant two player game of Pong which explores ideas around social structures, collective responsibility and agency in participation.

Projected onto a wall, participants can modify the rules of the game as they play, either collaborating with each other on opposite sides or even violating the rules as they go, bringing into question ideas around social structures, the implications of influencing them and our interaction with other people. Players can adjust its fairness, equality and freedom parameters to increase the difficulty of the game. By working together, the game can be played longer, or players can compete to win.

The piece is designed to be suitable for all age groups.

Nye Thompson: INSULAE (Of the Island)

Until – Apr 2021, Level G

Flying at drone height over digitally-rendered waves, INSULAE [Of the Island] is a video installation by Nye Thompson. In the age of Brexit, this work contemplates the impact of island geography on national identity, through a perpetually looping virtual tour of the waters just off the British coastline. With the ocean as a metaphorical buffer between the UK and the rest of the world, the viewer is taken on an endless patrol of our watery borders.

Both installations have been commissioned in partnership with Lumen Art Projects.

Creative Learning

Squish Space Play Prompts

Smelly Time, Body Orchestra, Winter Picnic and more…check out the new digital season of Squish Space, the Barbican’s multi-sensory adventure for children aged five and under.

While Squish Space at the Barbican remains temporarily closed, this series of play prompts will inspire creative activity and exploration of everyday objects by engaging with families in their own homes over the winter months. Designed by Squish Space creators India Harvey and Lisa Marie Bengtsson, the activities, along with other creative ideas will be launched in the new Squish Space Facebook Group this December. The Facebook group will bring together the families and carers digitally who usually get the chance to connect onsite.

New creative prompts inspired by Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory

Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning have worked with three creative partners to produce a series of creative prompts to inspire people to create their own artworks and writing using the themes and ideas from the exhibition Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory.

Suitable for all ages, people will be able to create their own drawings and marks using prompts created by Headway East London and the London Drawing Group. The project also includes the tools for people to compose their own poetry inspired by poet Rachel Long.

The creative prompts will be made available over the next couple of weeks via the Barbican’s website and artistic responses inspired by the prompts can be shared with the Barbican by emailing [email protected] and or by using #ToyinOjihOdutola on social media.

Culture Mile Festive Play Packs

Culture Mile, the City of London’s cultural district stretching from Farringdon to Moorgate, has created a new series of free Play Packs for young people and their families to experience at home over the festive period.

500 packs will be distributed to foodbanks and community centres across the City of London and neighbouring boroughs this winter to provide materials to local families who may not have online access or play resources. The Play Packs are also available for anyone to download from

The colourful activity bundles contain a range of exciting activities, games and materials including Diwali drawings with The Playful Indian, Hanukkah card making with fashion and digital designer Nicole Zisman, a Victorian Christmas adventure with immersive theatre makers Tea Dance for Little People, and a chance to experience what the festive season would have been like for one of London’s dockworkers.

Since May, Culture Mile has distributed 10,000 Play Packs to families and young people. The Barbican is a core partner in Culture Mile, alongside Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra and Museum of London, and led by the City of London Corporation.

Barbican Shop

The Barbican Shop will reopen its physical stores on Level G and Level 4 from Wednesday 2 December, featuring an exciting selection of design-led gifts for the festive season. It will also continue taking orders through its online store.

Architecturally inspired highlights include the exclusive Brutal collection of accessories and clothing featuring a playful take on the Brutalist style associated with the Barbican, a Brutalist calendar for 2021, and the Concrete Utopia clothing collection which has been created especially for the Barbican by Apparel & Lovers from their studio in Helsinki.

To accompany Barbican Art Gallery’s latest exhibition Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer, Barbican Shop is stocking a range of items including t-shirts, bags and posters featuring classic designs from Michael Clark productions, as well as an exclusive reproduction of Peter Saville’s daring 1998 poster for current/SEE. Also available is a fully illustrated exhibition catalogue with rare photography, previously unpublished archival material, an exclusive interview with Michael Clark, and contributions by Charles Atlas, Jarvis Cocker, Kim Jones, Sarah Lucas, Elizabeth Peyton and Susan Stenger.

The Barbican Shop is available in-store and online at

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