Graham Sheffield CBE, Director Arts

Graham Sheffield is Director Arts for the British Council, having taken up his role in May 2011.  He is responsible for leading and delivering a global arts strategy and programme across the British Council's 110 country operation.

From 1995-2010 Graham was Artistic Director of the Barbican Centre in London. Under his directorship, the Barbican became one of the most innovative, dynamic and respected centres in the arts world, with an award-winning international programme across the art forms. 

In the last three years he has driven a major expansion and rebuilding of the arts programme at the British Council, defining a new vision, developing new arts specialists in the global network, planning major extended seasons of work in Brazil, China, Qatar, India, Mexico and South Africa, as well as responding ambitiously to social and political change in the Middle East, Gulf and North Africa. 

Under Graham’s leadership, the arts programme has grown in size and received more investment: to launch a Cultural Skills programme, expand the work within the Creative Economy, develop a digital arts programme and refresh and enlarge the British Council’s internationally renowned Art Collection – a vital contributor to work overseas in cultural relations.

Graham graduated in Music from Edinburgh University and worked as a Radio 3 producer at the BBC for 12 years.  From there he went to the Southbank Centre as Music Projects Director for 5 years, during which time he founded the world-renowned Meltdown Festival.  He also served as CEO of the West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong in 2010. He was Chair of the Royal Philharmonic Society (2007-2010), and consulted to the Luminato Festival of Arts and Creativity in Toronto.  From 2004-2006 Graham was Chair of the International Society of Performing Arts and a council member of Arts Council England, London (2002 – 2008). In 2014, Graham took up a new role as Chair of the UK’s largest music charity, Help Musicians UK and joined the Board of Rambert.

He was awarded CBE in the 2010 New Year’s Honours’ list for services to the arts and was made Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2005. He is an honorary Doctor of Arts at City University.

Graham was honoured in January 2015 by ISPA with the International Citation of Merit for lifetime achievement in the arts.