On 3 March 1982, the Barbican Centre opened its doors for the first time.
To celebrate our 35th anniversary, we’ve looked back through the archives and uncovered 35 Firsts from our boundary-pushing heritage over the last three and a half decades.
In this next chapter, we head back to the 2000s.
Explore our online scrapbook: barbican.org.uk/barbicanat35
Share your Barbican Firsts with us on Twitter @barbicancentre #barbican35
#13) 6–15 July 2001: Complicite: The Noise of Time First UK performance of Simon McBurney’s The Noise of Time
A collaboration between Complicite and the Emerson String Quartet, The Noise of Time explored the life of Shostakovich alongside a performance of his final quartet, No. 15 in E Flat. The Company captured the essence of this haunted composer by outlining his life and times through mosaic fragments. The birth of radio, morse code and Gagarin’s first flight in space are juxtaposed with biographical material from Shostakovich’s life. Projected images and photographs compose themselves onto screens, bits of clothing, the face of a cello, and are accompanied by reminiscences, contemporary tapes, letters… all elements which cohere into a dynamic theatrical experience; a feast for our ears as well as our eyes.
#14) Sunday 14 October 2001: DJ Richard G. Jams aka Aphex Twin First silent disco in London
‘To borrow a 1960s coinage, Aphex Twin's DJ set is more of a happening. As ticket-holders enter the venue's handsome conservatory - steel and glass above, soil and woodchips below - they are issued with cordless headphones through which they will hear the set. Take them off and there's no music, just the murmur of conversation and the trickle of water features.' The Guardian
#15) 19 October–11 November 2001: Studio Ghibli season First major UK retrospective of the work of Japanese animation house, Studio Ghibli.
As part of the Japan 2001 Festival of Art & Culture, we presented, for the first time in the UK, a major retrospective of the work of Japan's leading animation house Studio Ghibli. The centrepiece of the season was Hayao Miyazaki’s universally acclaimed Princess Mononoke, which received its UK premiere at the Gala Opening on Friday 19 October 2001.
#16) 26 March 2002: Mali Music First performance of Mali Music, featuring Damon Albarn, Ko Kan Ko Sata Doumbia and Diourou Diallo.
Around the millennium celebrations, Oxfam’s education project On the Line took Damon Albarn to Mali in West Africa to work with traditional musicians and investigate the country’s rich and diverse music scene. During the visit to capital city Bamako and surrounding villages, Albarn met and played with many musicians including blues griot Lobi Traore, ngoni player Sata Doubia, praise singer Kasse Mady Diabate and kora master Toumani Diabate. Whilst there he made recordings which were to be incorporated into the album Mali Music. Two years later he is reunited with more than a dozen Malian musicians for this unique world premiere, among them the haunting voice and guitar of Afel Bocoum.
#17) 16 May–15 September 2002: Game On First major international exhibition to explore the vibrant history and culture of computer games.
Focusing on key game developments between 1962 and the present day, Game On takes a global perspective at gaming’s fascinating past and limitless future. From the colossal PDP – 1 of the early sixties to the latest industry releases, Game On examines the creative and scientific advances that have revolutionised the games we play. With over 150 playable games including Space Invaders, Sonic the Hedgehog and Rock Band, and the ten most influential consoles – you can experience and play them all in this truly interactive, touring video games exhibition. It’s still touring now, and to date there have been 3,640,105 visitors for Game On and Game On 2.0 combined.
#18) 21 September–3 November 2002: Grayson Perry: Guerilla Tactics First Grayson Perry’s show in a UK public gallery, which leads to him winning the Turner Prize in 2003.
Grayson Perry’s first major UK survey showcases over sixty works from 1968 to the present day and includes the first pot that he made in 1968. From lush, glittering ceramics to brightly coloured textiles Perry’s alluring and seemingly innocent work is used to reveal a powerful, provocative and subversive political intent. Painted urns, hand made by Perry, combine traditional English vernacular techniques with harsh depictions of violence, sex, war, gender and abuse. Scratched graffiti-like texts, transfers, stencilling and photographs are fused on a crowded surface that demands our attention. Drawing on the English satirical tradition, Perry examines contemporary society, world events and the foibles of fashionable London society.
#19) 14 April–14 May 2005: Julius Caesar First performance of Deborah Warner’s production of Julius Caesar in the world.
Directed by celebrated British theatre director Deborah Warner as part of the BITE:05 season, Julius Caesar was the second show to be produced by the Barbican. Deborah Warner directed a great ensemble cast including, Simon Russell Beale as Cassius, Ralph Fiennes as Mark Antony, Anton Lesser as Brutus, Fiona Shaw as Portia and John Shrapnel as Julius Caesar.
#20) 13 February – 22 May 2006: Tropicália: A Revolution in Brazilian Culture First performance of legendary psychedelic rock band Os Mutantes play together for the first time since 1973
As part of Tropicália, our three-month festival of Brazilian art, music, theatre, dance and film, audiences enjoyed the much-awaited reunion of Os Mutantes.
#22) 20–22 November 2009: Toneelgroep Amsterdam, Roman Tragedies First London performance of Toneelgroep Amsterdam with Ivo van Hove
Toneelgroep Amsterdam transformed the Barbican Theatre into a magnificent political arena with Ivo van Hove’s gripping six-hour spectacle, Roman Tragedies. Roman Tragedies comprises Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, performed consecutively in this daring staging in which audiences are invited on stage to view the action at close range. The protagonists are portrayed as contemporary characters through whom audiences are invited to make modern political parallels. Roman Tragedies sustains its energy and impact throughout as the action is filmed and relayed live via television screens which can be viewed by the audience from all angles. As part of Ivo van Hove’s residency, Roman Tragedies returns to our stage in March 2017.