Graham Sheffield is said to be as excited 'as a schoolboy in a candy store' or 'a wine connoisseur in the world's largest wine cellar' about his post as chief executive of the West Kowloon Cultural District. That is the impression he gives when talking about his new job, according to the latest newsletter of the cultural district authority, which has hired the 58-year-old Briton to guide development of the HK$21 billion arts hub. While Sheffield, artistic director of the Barbican Centre in London, isn't giving media interviews yet, the newsletter publishes his responses to 20 questions about his career and views on art subjects. He described the Barbican Centre as a kind of 'mini-West Kowloon' in one 'really challenging building'. Asked to describe his most significant accomplishment there in 15 years, he said: 'Turning it, with a brilliant team, from an artistic lost cause into one of the most respected and forward-thinking artistic institutions in the world.' He said when he joined the Barbican in 1995, 'I could ... see the potential for the place to become much more than the sum of its parts'. Sheffield was born in Little Venice in London's Maida Vale - a place of canals and greenery - but also has a strong connection with Egypt. His grandparents lived in Cairo, where his grandfather ran an upmarket jewellery business. His maternal grandfather was a lawyer in Cairo in the government of King Farouk. Sheffield took up the piano at the age of eight, the same time he started learning downhill skiing. He became passionate about opera while at university, but the first record he bought with his own money was the first Beatles album. 'The first classical music, I think, was Ashkenazy playing Chopin.' Sheffield says he when he produced a radio feature called Avalanche for the BBC, 'I had to go and record on the slopes with technicians and the Swiss Army, even being buried in a snow hole, with a smelly sausage and a microphone, while the rescue dogs searched for me in an avalanche exercise.' Despite his age, he sounds close to youth. 'We are the iPod generation. People are open to many more diverse genres of music these days .... This dynamic interplay makes for a much more creative scene.' Sheffield says he is fond of Japanese kabuki theatre and the 'extraordinary sound' of Chinese orchestras. Bach is his favourite composer; his favourite artists are James Turrell, an American installation artist, and Goya, a Spanish romantic painter born in 1746 who is hailed as the first of the moderns. Local art critic Mathias Woo Yan-wai said Sheffield sounded Eurocentric. 'I hope he will not replicate a Barbican in Hong Kong, as the ecology here is very different,' he said. Woo hopes the chief executive will forge partnerships with local art groups and establish an intellectual dialogue with them.