The Barbican Centre
The Barbican Centre is a vortex in space and time that would do Dr Who proud. It lurks in a fat, raised-above-street-level dollop between Moorgate, St Pauls and Goswell Road, in a place where clearly a lot of bombs fell back during the Blitz. Do not, do not, do NOT assume that normal laws of geography apply within its walls. In its maze of walkways, towers, crescents, squares, avenues, internal ramps, stairs, bridges and tunnels are hidden away two theatres, three cinemas, one concert hall, three restaurants, one secondary school, one lake, one music shop, one library, one music and drama school, one news agent, two galleries, a conservatory and, on occasion, an ice rink. In terms of programming, the organisers at the Barbican are perfectly happy to mix up a film schedule of X-Men and 1950s noir classics; a theatre program of Shakespeare done by kabuki dancers and plays about two men in a bath. Mystic yellow lines are painted on the tiled floors of every corridor, theoretically to guide you from A to B in as convenient and logical way as possible, with maps recommending you take Exit 15 for here, or Exit 5 for there; yet, without fail, all these yellow lines invariably lead to the roof. Don’t ask me how they do it, it’s one of those great mysteries.
The Barbican also possesses its own micro-climate. Courtesy of the materials of which its built and the large open spaces enclosed within walls and tunnels, the Barbican is a perpetual wind trap. The weather outside may be as calm as a yogi monk on a diet of lettuce leaves, but so long as the sun has been shining or a drop of rain has fallen, there will be a force 7 storm doing its bit inside the internal courtyards of the Barbican, and all umbrellas are futile.
Personally, I love the Barbican Centre. I love visiting its theatres and cinemas, particularly now that the theatres have woken up to the realisation that under-26 tickets should be cheap if they want to have future audiences. I spent many happy months in the library as a kid reading every fantasy book they had, and if you’ve got a few hours to spare, I heartily recommend getting lost within the Barbican’s walls, just to see if you can find a hidden palace within its walls…
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