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Karena Johnson to be Barbican Centre’s Head of Creative Collaboration & Learning

This is a completely new role for the Centre combining world-class arts activity with a sector-leading creative education programme

Currently Artistic Director and CEO of Hoxton Hall in London, Karena Johnson will take up her new role in September 2022.

She will oversee the Barbican’s innovative learning programme, community projects and events, its public programme, and Barbican Futures, describer as ‘the driving force behind the Barbican becoming a more inclusive, diverse, and welcoming international centre for art, education, and enterprise’.

Johnson will also play a major role in the Barbican Renewal project, a major upgrade of the Barbican Centre.

Karena Johnson is an award-winning artist who has worked for over 20 years as a theatre director, curator, conceptualiser and producer, championing emerging artists, new audiences and diversity. In her current role as Artistic Director and CEO of Hoxton Hall, she led the re-launch of the grade II listed Victorian Music Hall in the heart of the East End of London in 2015 with a new vision of innovative theatre, music, comedy and a youth arts programme.

Her pioneering career includes being Artistic Director of The Broadway, Barking, Acting Artistic Director of Contact Theatre, Manchester, Artistic Director of Kushite Theatre Company and Theatre Programmer at Oval House theatre. She has also been an Associate at Theatre Royal Stratford East, Nottingham Playhouse and NOW festival, as well as led a range of international projects.

Karena Johnson, said, ‘I am thrilled to join the Barbican as Head of Creative Collaboration & Learning after seven years at Hoxton Hall. My career is driven by a desire to make the arts more inclusive at every level.

‘I pride myself on noticing who is not in the room and developing approaches and art to enable those missing to engage. My passion for the transformative nature of arts experiences makes me look forward to being part of this world leading arts centre as it engages with these important questions at an exciting moment of change.’  

Will Gompertz, Artistic Director at the Barbican, said, ‘We’re absolutely delighted Karena is joining the Barbican team. Her passion and wealth of experience of bringing people together to enjoy creativity and culture is exceptional, and I can’t wait to see how she’ll bring her energy and vision to the incredible artistic community we work with. Karena will play a key part in the Barbican’s future as one of the world’s leading arts and learning centres, and I look forward to working with her.’