New-look Bafta may face legal action over 'shoddy treatment'

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The Independent Online

Creative minds at the top of the film industry have become embroiled in an unseemly row over the home of British cinema.

Lord Attenborough, the president of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and his board are facing a rebellion within the ranks of its members, and the prospect of legal action.

Bafta - which is responsible for the annual awards dubbed the "British Oscars" - is run from a headquarters in Piccadilly in London.

For years, this was a rather shabby building, but recently the Bafta chairman Duncan Kenworthy (who has produced films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral) and his CEO decided to undertake a renovation, and replace the bar staff with a new catering firm, the Capital Group.

It's backfired rather spectacularly. In July, Bafta saw - behind closed doors - its most fraught annual general meeting of recent times, and a vote showed a majority of members present were unhappy about the changes made.

Now Pandora hears that a group - headed by a media lawyer - is keen to take legal action on behalf of the bar staff, who they believe were unfairly dismissed.

"They were popular and had been around for ages. It's shoddy treatment," I'm told. "Members weren't consulted over the renovation and many of us think it was a total waste of money."

A spokesman for Bafta says: "It would be shocking if, after such extensive renovation, everyone did agree. But we've only had 54 complaints, and we haven't heard of any legal action."

* It will be a big night in the fashion calendar when Isabella Blow holds a party on Wednesday.

The Tatler magazine fashion director is a grande dame of the London rag trade, credited with "discovering" (among others) the model Sophie Dahl and the designer Alexander McQueen. In recognition of this, Mac Cosmetics has just named a lipstick after her, which is to be launched that evening.

However, notably absent will be Stephanie Theobald, the social editor of fashion bible Harpers & Queen. It's a shame as coverage in Harpers would be worth good money to the cosmetics firm. But Theobald, at one time a high profile lesbian, has had a passionate fling with Blow's husband, Detmar, and is unwelcome at the bash.

"Issy and Detmar are back together and very happy," I'm told. "It's not that Stephanie is seen as a temptation any more, but obviously she and Isabella aren't exactly buddies."

When Pandora calls, an organiser admits: "Harpers isn't covering the event."

* Every cloud has a silver lining - and for Sean Bean, the collapse of plans to film a secret new production with Benicio del Toro this summer meant the chance to be in London to see his girlfriend on stage at the first night of Who Killed Mr Drum? last Thursday.

Bean is stepping out with the relatively inexperienced actress Georgina Sutcliffe, who is playing a white "love interest" in the play about apartheid South Africa at the Riverside Studios.

"There's a cosy irony in that Sean's big budget feature was due to be filmed in South Africa, and Georgina's play is set there," says a friend.

"She was delighted that he could watch her. They've not been going out very long: they met in a bar, where she was a waitress before she was cast in this."

* In the course of his long career, the restaurateur Marco Pierre White has made many sacrifices for the kitchen. Few will have been as painful, however, as his decision to give up the lease on the shooting rights at the Clovelly estate in Devon.

The chef has long been a passionate shot, and enjoyed hosting a series of high-profile guests to days there. But this year, he won't be doing so.

"It's sad for him, because he has only had the lease for a year," says a friend. "The problem is that Clovelly is a very long way from London, and Marco's just opened Frankie's in Chiswick and has big plans for a new restaurant in St James's, too.

"Between those and his family, he doesn't have time for all that travelling, so any shooting he does will be closer to home."

* Amid news of terrorist threats and natural disasters, weighty matters were occupying people in the BBC's current affairs department at White City last week. A circular e-mail has been sent out regarding an infestation of rodents at the office.

"Harmless ultrasound devices have been installed throughout current affairs radio, TV and resources to deter mice," it reads. "The system will also keep away rats (the non-human kind), cockroaches (the non-human kind), squirrels and ants."

The brackets are a slightly unkind reference to the reporter John Sweeney, who was involved in a row at the office when he accidentally squashed a mouse with a waste paper basket. "I think we should just get a cat," Sweeney tells me.

A little bloodthirsty, perhaps, but the suggestion might save some licence-payers' cash.

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