Barbican announces plan to humanise itself

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The Independent Online
The much-criticised Barbican Centre in London is to be given a "new human face" by its managing director John Tusa.

The arts centre has suffered years of criticism from audiences who claim it is hard to find your way about; and it has been plagued by management problems before Mr Tusa's arrival from the BBC World Service.

Yesterday Mr Tusa launched the first full season at the centre without the year-long residency of the Royal Shakespeare Company which will only be in London for the winter months.

Announcing an eclectic programme including foreign theatre, seasons by the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet, contemporary dance companies, comedy performances outdoors in the sculpture court, and the centre's first education programme.

But Mr Tusa's new director of public affairs, Ruth Hasnip, said: "The message from our audiences following extensive customer research was very clear. We needed to communicate the human side of the building, the lively mix of our audience and the welcoming staff, as well as the exciting programme."

And so the new Barbican Centre will have two mobile information points in the foyer to tell visitors how to find their way around. New, brightly coloured uniforms are being introduced for the 150 stewards and box office staff. And the monthly events guides have gaily coloured covers proclaiming "helpful staff" as an added plus for the centre.

The centre has undergone a pounds 1.9m transformation, upgrading the acoustics in the main theatre and giving it two orchestra pits and a new sprung floor for dance.

Mr Tusa said: "The Barbican Centre will always be at the Barbican. There is nothing we can do to change that. Some people don't like coming here, but two million people do. The Barbican Theatre with its intimate auditorium ... is one of the best equipped stages in London. It has now become a unique space within the London scene - no other theatre can offer the range and flexibility to play such a wide variety of work."