Secret London: Barbican Conservatory

Hi dancers!

I really hope that you have been enjoying my Secret London series. I’ve been posting dance photo galleries here for a couple of years now, but this series is a way for me to add another element and share with you some of the places I love in my home city.

I’m trying to find spots that most people don’t know about and won’t have been. If you’ve been enjoying these posts (and especially if you’ve visited any of these places after seeing them!) please let me know in the comments- I really want to post things that you are interested in. Also comment if you have any locations of your own that you think should feature in this series!

I’m also happy to talk about dance photography and tips for taking similar photos yourself, if that’s something of interest. Just comment here or send me a message on Instagram (@daretodanceblog) and let me know what you’d like to see. Now- on to this week’s location!

This selection of photos is from the Barbican Conservatory. If you’re not familiar, the Barbican is a huge complex that is a very famous example of Brutalist architecture. Honestly- Brutalism is not my style. I grew up on a council estate built in the same post-WWII era and this just reminds me of that oppressive place. However I can’t help but appreciate its historic value, as something that at one time was the absolute height of modernity, and its impressive expansiveness.

The Barbican features an excellent arts centre, which always has a range of activities on offer- including dance! Ballet Black are performing there next month (click HERE for info!). What I didn’t know until recently, however, is that above the theatre, surrounding the fly tower (where scenery is stored to be lowered into place), is a conservatory housing an array of tropical plants, trees and fish. It’s not unlike the conservatories found at Kew Gardens, which is a much larger and more well-known place for a botanically-inclined day out, but is also much busier and more expensive. The best thing about the Barbican Conservatory is it’s completely free. Now, it’s not exactly the same as Kew Gardens, obviously: Kew is home to extensive beautiful grounds and a number of very large conservatories/ temperate houses and other things, whereas this is just one indoor conservatory. However if you want something similar without committing yourself to a very lengthy day out with a lot of walking, this is a great alternative, and it really is beautiful. It’s also ideal for photos! Of course, if you’re smart, you can double up your conservatory visit with one of the other events going on at the Barbican Arts Centre- there is always something, including music, theatre, art, photography, dance, cinema, talks, workshops, and even if you just want to use the library or get a coffee and make the most of the free WiFi and excellent people-watching opportunities. I’ve barely visited the Barbican until we came to the conservatory (again- note my negative associations with the architecture!) but we followed up our photoshoot with a bite of lunch and caught some music going on in the foyer. I’m resolved to come back and try lots of different events, as there’s just so much on offer.

The conservatory is only open to the public on certain days. The opening times and other useful information can be found HERE. You don’t need to book. Another good reason to visit (as demonstrated below!) is it’s a gorgeous location to take photos! There were quite a few other people at it when we visited, including what looked like a wedding photoshoot and another group that we guessed might be a band. Kew Gardens are very picky about you taking photos, if it looks like you’re taking professional photos they may ask you to stop and Jake has even had messages on Instagram from them asking if they had permission to take photos! (These weren’t images from a paid photoshoot either, just photos for fun with friends). If you want to take pictures at Barbican, they seem very happy for you to do it- I recommend you get there as soon as it opens for maximum freedom of the space and to avoid getting in anyone’s way too much! That’s the best time to arrive anyway, as even though it doesn’t get super busy, it’s really nice and empty in the first hour or two.

About the photos:

Taken by Jake Owens on a Nikon Z6 with Sigma Art 35mm 1.4 lens

Edited by me in Lightroom (I’m getting quite good at it don’t you think?!)

I’m wearing:

Dress from Religion

Bloch footless black dance tights

Nike running shoes

Grishko 2007 pointe shoes (these aren’t my usual shoes- I didn’t want to get my everyday pair too dirty- and although they look nice on my feet I find them too hard for me so it was a little difficult to get over the box on my injured foot!)

If you’re interested in Jake’s work, you can find his website HERE and his Instagram HERE (@jakeowensphoto).

I hope you enjoy these photos, and please do let me know if you’ve been to the Barbican Conservatory yourself or if you’re planning to visit!

Until next time,

Jessica x

This was the very last shot we took and I think it’s one of my favourites


Jake has moves too!


We only had one quick go at this before giving up as lots of people were coming up and down the stairs- I assumed the couple of shots we got in those few seconds would be no good, so I was pleasantly surprised with how this one turned out!


Other posts in the Secret London series:

Mercato Mayfair

The Garden at 120 Fenchurch Street

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