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Welcoming members back to 195, pt.5

25 January 2022

With BAFTA 195 Piccadilly's Julian Shaw, director, and Kamel Lakhdari, assistant bar manager.

The final instalment of our Q&A series about BAFTA 195 Piccadilly features its director, Julian Shaw, and assistant bar manager, Kamel Lakhdari, offering their thoughts on what’s next... Interview by Toby Weidmann

Event: BAFTA Staff Portraits at 195 PiccadillyDate: Monday 15 November 2021Venue: BAFTA, 195 Piccadilly, London-BAFTA/Alecsandra Raluca Drăgoi

To kick off, remind us where we’re at with BAFTA 195.

Julian: The Richard Attenborough Rooms [the members’ areas] are now open from 8am to 11pm, Monday to Friday, and we will also be open at the weekends for screenings. Our screenings bar in the Reuben Gallery will be open during those times, as well as our members’ spaces on the fourth floor, where they can eat and drink... Our hours and available service has been limited up until now, but we will be open fully from the beginning of February onwards.

Kamel: I’d say, so far, so good. The members who have come in have been very happy with it. Their first impressions were all, “Oh wow ­– I love it!” Now that we’re also serving food and drink, they’re even happier. They love the space.

For those members yet to visit, what are you most excited about them experiencing?

Kamel: Everything. Those who have been in have commented on every little detail. It’s not a small thing that we’ve done... When you stand outside the building, you’d think perhaps much hasn’t changed at all. But as soon as you walk in, that’s when the adventure starts.

Julian: The quality of the screening experience in the Princess Anne Theatre is second to none. And the providence is fantastic. The quality of the food and drink and the service, looked after by Kamel and the team, is amazing.

What are your main objectives for BAFTA 195?

Julian: We have three: we’re the home of BAFTA, where we host our screening programme and members’ activities; we’re also here to deliver BAFTA’s charitable remit through utilising the spaces, such as the dedicated learning areas in the Creative and Future Galleries; and we’re available for commercial hire, which is incredibly important because the profit we generate from that goes directly into delivering our charitable programme. It’s a fine balance meeting all three requirements... We have to be incredibly flexible, but one of the key things of the redesign is it allows us to be as flexible as possible to meet the different requirements in the various spaces.

What’s it been like adapting back to working life at BAFTA 195?

Kamel: I was really emotional when I first walked into the building. I’ve been at BAFTA for around 17 years, so when I first saw it my skin went funny... BAFTA 195 is a big part of my life and I really appreciate my job, so when the members came back, it was great. They all wanted to chat. It was very emotional. The building itself is beautiful. I’ve never seen a transformation like it in my life. Everything has been made easy and it looks lovely. I also have a lot more responsibility now, which makes me very happy.

Julian: It’s fantastic for Kamel. He has the members’ spaces and a team of people to work with him. On my side, I’ve been involved in the process all the way through, so I knew what to expect. But, the biggest thing for me is how we actually managed to get back into the building in the time that we did. I can’t quite believe it, because there were many times I wondered if it was going to happen... Everyone pulled together... [and] the quality of the craftmanship is phenomenal. You can tell people have taken a lot of time and care over it because it shows in every aspect of the building. As the physical representation of BAFTA, I think we now have a building that really represents the brand and allows us to showcase what we’re all about.

How would you like to see members engage with BAFTA 195 differently?

Julian: I hope our ability to have a separation between event and the members’ spaces will be the biggest change in how they use the building. It’s a beautiful oasis right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the West End... We’ve always been busy during the day, but we were only ever really busy in the evenings if we had screenings. We could never control the ambience in the evening before; if there was a screening, you’d have 200 people arrive at 6 o’clock, the bar would be packed and then half an hour later it would be tumbleweed... What we have now are very welcoming spaces in the evening, where people can have dinner, have a drink, socialise – it’s a place for members to be very proud of.

Kamel: One of the reasons why the members are so happy is that they have their own space. They can go to a screening or their own bar directly without having to come across any other events. When we host private events, members can have dinner, have a drink, socialise and meet their friends. There’s no vying for space. So it’s perfect.

Sum up BAFTA 195 in three words.

Kamel: ‘Best’. ‘Beautiful’. ‘Staff’. Because it’s the best building in the UK, in my opinion; it’s a beautiful place; and you have the best staff as well.

Julian: Oasis. Excellence. Familiar. To me, it’s a real home from home. It’s familiar, with familiar faces, but it’s also very new.

What one message would you like to send to members?

Kamel: Please come visit. You’re welcome here anytime.

Julian: We’re really looking forward to the next 12 months, the next five years, the next decade, because this is an evolutionary process. Opening the doors is only the beginning, there’s lots more exciting things to come.

The Richard Attenborough Rooms at BAFTA 195 are open to members Mon-Fri 8am-11pm, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. As a member, you and up to four guests are able to enjoy the space.