Graham Sheffield

Graham Sheffield has been Artistic Director of the Barbican since 1995. He leads the development of artistic vision, policy and strategy across the art forms in this, Europe’s largest integrated multi arts centre for music, drama, dance, cinema, spoken word and the visual arts.

  • Graham Sheffield © British Council. Photo by Jodie Kingzett

Graham Sheffield © British Council. Photo by Jodie Kingzett

Graham is also consultant to the Luminato Festival of Arts and Creativity in Toronto, and the Chairman of the recently-formed City Arts and Culture Forum, charged with strategic coordination and policy for the City of London’s extensive arts portfolio, including its cultural plans for 2012. In 2009 Sheffield was appointed Advisor Arts and Creative Economies to the British Council, and joined the Advisory Committee for Index on Censorship.

Your connection to the British Council?
I am the new Adviser Arts and Creative Economies.  I am very excited by this new opportunity – working alongside my role as the Barbican’s Artistic Director.  My role is to build on the recommendations of the Devlin report in strengthening the arts programme and impact within the new strategic framework for the Council.  So I will be working closely with the Head of Arts (Rebecca Walton) and the arts team, but also in close touch with wider BC Management team and the trustees.  I will be looking for opportunities to build and rebuild key partnerships with arts organisations in the UK and abroad, lobbying within the Council, but also listening a lot to the views of others outside the arts teams here on how the arts might become more involved in projects involving education, science and other areas.

I hope also to be talking to and visiting some of the regions key to BC priorities and seeking out major opportunities for the arts overseas.  The UK arts community has a huge contribution to make to cultural, social and economic development overseas in partnership with all kinds of people.  We can also learn much ourselves by listening and absorbing other rich influences. What a great role to be asked to do: and what a great team with which to work!

Your current project?

In my early months I am doing a 'recce' learning about the BC, listening to views, and best assessing where I can make the most effective contribution.

What/who turned you on to film?
My father – he used to take me to the old Odeon Edgware Road and the ABC Harrow Road in the 60’s.  I even remember when the Odeon Marble Arch opened – that shows my age!

Career high so far?
Turning the Barbican from a lost cause into a world class arts centre.

Your first job in the film industry?
Running the Barbican’s three screens – lucky that I have such a great professional team there.

Favourite British film?
I love the old Ealing comedies – Alec Guinness in particular was always fantastic.  Also Brighton Rock with Richard Attenborough, and that wonderful Hitchcock film Frenzy, set in Covent Garden, with the scene in the back of the potato truck!

If you could have been involved in (directed, produced, acted in etc…) any film ever made, which one would it be?
Lawrence of Arabia – I think I’d look great in all that kit.

What’s the first film you ever saw?
The Yangtse Incident – seen on a wet afternoon in an old flea pit in Westgate in the late fifties, where my parents used to take me on holiday!

Your favourite line or scene from a film?
Something from the Godfather Trilogy – what a fantastic epic that was…maybe one of those inaudible comments from Marlon Brando.

Favourite screen kiss?
Any kiss involving Juliette Binoche: I’ve been in love with her for two decades, and would love to kiss her myself!

Favourite screen hero/villan?
Peter Sellers in …the mad scientist – can’t remember the name... Dr Strangelove!

Who would play you in the film about your life?
It has to be a resurrected Dudley Moore: people always said I looked like him.  He was a terrific actor, very funny, very talented and a fantastic musician.  A huge loss when he died.