BIFA switches London venues

Independent Awards move to Roundhouse

LONDON — The 10th edition of the British Independent Film Awards promises to be an altogether bigger and bashier affair with the ceremony’s move to north London’s historic Roundhouse venue.

The Roundhouse was a countercultural landmark in 1960s London, hosting the psychedelic UFO Club and acts including Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Doors and the Rolling Stones. And the 1970s saw the Clash and the Sex Pistols wreak havoc onstage at the ex-railway engine shed.

But the Roundhouse — yes, it is round — fell on hard times and was shuttered between 1983 and 2006. However, after a $60 million redevelopment led by Torquil Norman, the venue has quickly re-established itself as a prominent fixture on the London arts scene, hosting gigs by Paul McCartney, George Michael and the Kaiser Chiefs.

The Roundhouse’s impeccable rock ‘n’ roll credentials sit comfortably with the tradition of the BIFAs, which consciously espouse a punk, indie spirit in contrast with the more staid, formal and elegant feel of the BAFTA awards. (Fittingly, a film about a musician — Anton Corbijn’s biopic of troubled Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, “Control” — leads the list of noms with 10 nods.)

The BIFAs are “open, casual and raucous,” says Sandy Lieberson, who sits on the BIFA Advisory Committee and attended “really provocative, offbeat” Living Theater events at the Roundhouse in the 1960s.

The first four editions of the kudofest were held at traditional West End venues — Piccadilly’s Cafe Royal and the Park Lane Hotel — before BIFA founder Elliot Grove made the bold decision to move to a nightclub a little outside the center. The fifth edition, where a dress code was cast off (for good), took place at the trendy Pacha nightspot in London’s Victoria nabe. The move paid off when hip London listings bible Timeout recognized the bash as one of the best parties of 2002.

The four ensuing years at the Hammersmith Palais — also a venue built on solid rock ‘n’ roll foundations — saw the BIFAs build a strong rep as both a celebration of British indie filmmaking and a proper night out for industryites in relaxed mode. The Palais closed in April, but BIFA brass say a move was always in the cards for the 10th ceremony.

“The Palais was wonderful, but we were always short on space and having to turn away people every year that really should have been there,” BIFA director Johanna von Fischer says. “The Roundhouse can accommodate 800 seated, 100 more than could be crammed into the Palais.”

The venue will not be dressed, as von Fischer and her team like its “raw, industrial feel.” DJ Rob da Bank will return to spin the tunes at the after-party.

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