My Barbican: Libby Rice

My Barbican is a feature in the Barbican's monthly guides, which asks members of staff and residents about their favourite and secret parts of the Centre and Estate. The April issue of the guide featured Libby Rice, our Archivist, who has been working for the LSO for over 43 years – before the Barbican Centre was opened! Here are Libby's favourite spots. See how many you know, and look out for them on your next visit.

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Libby Rice, centre, with fellow long-serving admin staff Diana Salthouse (left) and Sue Mallet (right)
Photo by Ranald McKechnie

Moor Lane Clean Air Community Garden

My journey into work takes me along Moor Lane and past this little oasis situated underneath Willoughby House. It ‘popped up’ in 2017 and was built in five days by many local volunteers. Created as part of the Low Emission Neighbourhood project, it is intended to raise awareness of air quality in the City. It is constructed from 57 galvanised steel pipes and all the plants have been chosen for their ability to trap particulates and improve air quality – as well as providing cover and forage for birds and nectar-rich flowers for pollinators. It always makes me smile when I walk by.

Moor Lane Clean Air Community Garden

The Sculpture Court

The LSO offices overlook the Sculpture Court and for me it always brings back memories of past LSO events there. In the Barbican opening year, the Orchestra presented a Summer Festival of outdoor concerts (although it has to be said, many had to be relocated to the Hall thanks to the unreliable British weather). The first two of these concerts were conducted by the composer, John Williams, and featured extracts from some of his film music. Over the years, the LSO has recorded many of his film scores, including most famously Star Wars. The enthusiastic audience was seated on the Court and on the balconies overlooking it.

We celebrated the LSO’s Centenary in 2004 and a star-studded Gala Concert was held on 9 June, the actual anniversary of the Orchestra’s inaugural concert. As Events Manager that year, I was struggling to find an entertaining space somewhere in the Barbican to house 450 Dinner guests. Jokingly, I suggested we put a marquee on the Sculpture Court. The next thing I knew we were closing Silk Street and hiring cranes to lift the huge marquee and equipment over the building and into the Court. In the end it was a great success and the interior was magical. I vowed I would never do that again, but the next year was André Previn’s 75th Birthday and yes, we did it again!

Stuyvesant Pops Summer 1982 on the Barbican Sculpture Court

The Old logo

I’ve worked in the Barbican Centre since before it opened so I remember the original design and décor with great fondness. The first Barbican logo was iconic – the four Bs – and I’m happy to say it can still be seen to this day in a few spots around the Centre. If you stand in Silk Street and look up above the entrance, you will see it there on a concrete wall. It can also be seen in the Sculpture Court and on some of the old glass doors around the Centre. Maybe you’ve spotted it elsewhere?

The old Barbican logo on the high walk outside the conservatory

Mendelssohn’s tree

For a rather quirky musical connection, walk along the Level 3 highwalk towards Barbican station. Just before the bridge over Aldersgate St, you will see a gnarled stump of wood. In fact, this is part of a 500-year-old Beech tree which fell in Burnham Beeches in a storm in 1990. The Corporation of London purchased the forest on behalf of the Nation in 1880 and it was a favourite haunt of Mendelssohn when he visited England. Apparently, the composer used to sit under this tree gaining inspiration to write several works including some of the Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. One wonders what he might have written sitting under the towers of the Barbican!

Mendelssohn Tree

Republished with the kind permission of the Barbican. 

We celebrated the Barbican's 40th anniversary last month. Read more about our celebrations here.

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