At the launch of the Barbican Centre's 25th anniversary celebrations today, Sir John Tusa, the managing director who retires this year, said that the artistic programme would be in jeopardy if some new core funding was not found in the next couple of years. Compared to an overall increase in funding to the National Theatre of 30 percent and to the Royal Shakespeare Company of 40 percent, the Barbican has experienced a funding decline in real terms of ten percent.

Tusa predicted a trading surplus this year of £250,000. The box office had generated over £6 million of income in an overall budget of £32 million, but the centre has been hard hit by the increase in energy costs which amounted to over £250,000. Sir John heralded a tumultuous programme of over 100 events in the next few weeks.

He announced that Deborah Warner, whose epic Julius Caesar at the Barbican in 2005 starred Ralph Fiennes and Simon Russell Beale, has been appointed an associate director, and Graham Sheffield, the Barbican's artistic director, confirmed that Warner would have a production on the main stage next year. Warner herself commented: "I'm really thrilled...I will be able to create new work both on the large and small scale, develop our contacts internationally and, with the benefit of the Barbican's resources and support, develop new work here at home."

Sheffield also confirmed that the National Theatre of Scotland's production of Black Watch, the hit of last year's Edinburgh Festival, would be seen in a co-presentation with the Barbican later this year (See News, 23 Jan 2007), but that the proposed London site (not the Barbican) was still awaiting clearance from the licensing authorities.

Online ticket sales at the Barbican now stand at 62 percent of the total (the figure stood at just 4 percent a few years ago), and the centre boasts 58 per cent repeat attenders, as opposed to 30 percent four years ago. In 1995, the Barbican generated just ten percent of its income from its own presentations. Now, the centre produces more than 750 events a year, accounting for more than 80 percent of the artistic presentations.

There was great media interest today in the announcement that the new exhibition opening in October, Seduced: Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now, would contain pornographic material from all over the world and not be open to people under the age of 18. The exhibition will be enhanced by a sound installation featuring readings from erotic texts such as the Kama Sutra, Lolita and the works of the Marquis de Sade, while Union Dance, under the direction of Corrine Bougaard, will present a specially commissioned movement series, with music by Hayden Chisholm.

The opening performance in the 25th anniversary celebrations tonight is The Bull performed by the Irish dance troupe, Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, whose director, Michael Keegan Dolan, is also made an artistic associate alongside Deborah Warner, Cheek by Jowl and the Michael Clark Company.

- by Michael Coveney