Royal Opening: 195 Piccadilly and the birth of ‘BAFTA’
“With little effort, it's possible to envisage 195 Piccadilly as being a vital centre, an exchange where product and people are enabled to disseminate and discuss, to give and to take, to argue and to learn” wrote SFTA Administrator Paul D McGurk in a special issue of the members’ Journal in 1975. As the Society of Film and Television Arts (SFTA) continued to grow in the 1960s and '70s, so did the need for a suitable space that members could meet and showcase their work. 

With the help of a £60,000 donation from HRH The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh (their share of the profits from Richard Cawston’s 1969 TV documentary Royal Family), the Society managed to secure a space in the heart of London: 195 Piccadilly, part of a Grade II listed building that had originally been built for the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1883.

With a new building came a new name: the SFTA re-branded as the British Academy of Film and Television Arts – launching ‘BAFTA’ into the nation’s vocabulary. The official Royal Opening of 195 Piccadilly took place on 10 March 1976, with HRH The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, The Earl Mountbatten of Burma and Academy President HRH The Princess Anne in attendance.

A magnificent new building wasn’t the only reason to celebrate that day; making a surprise appearance was legendary actor and filmmaker Sir Charles Chaplin, who was presented with a BAFTA mask by Princess Anne, marking his induction into the Academy Fellowship.

Image: Brian Perry, architect of the 195 refurbishment in the large theatre and the unique 26" custom built Decca colour monitors.

BAFTA Archive
BAFTA Archive

Video: Her Majesty the Queen opens BAFTA's new headquarters at 195 Piccadilly and presents a Fellowship of the Academy to Sir Charlie Chaplin (Source: AP Archive).