February 2018~ BAFTA British Academy Awards

It’s been a good few years since I have been to an event like this.

BAFTA have allowed a set number of members of the public into a special red carpet access area. This allows them to get photographs, autographs and selfies with the many celebrities attending. Many of my friends have done it in the past but over the past few years, BAFTA had allowed people to camp outside the venue overnight which meant that wristbands for the red carpet public access went fast.

This year was to be different…or so the website said. It stated that overnight camping would not be allowed and that wristbands would be given out from a central London location at 10.30am on the morning of the event. The location of the wristband collection point would be made public on the official website and Twitter pages at 10am same day. It also stipulated that the location would not be The Royal Albert Hall or BAFTA Piccadilly.

I came up with a plan. I figured that they probably wouldn’t venture too far from either RAH or BAFTA HQ. My thinking was that it could be somewhere in the West End. I hailed a cab at 9.45am and explained to the driver my plan. We decided to head for Upper Brook Street, off Park Lane, as that would give us access to a number of locations.

We sat and waited.

10am came and the location popped up. Golden Square off Regent Street. It would be 3 minutes tops as the streets were quiet on that Sunday morning. We got there as my watch hit 10.04am. I’m pretty sure the driver was trying to recreate a scene from The Italian Job by the way he drove and then pulled up at the location! To my (and others) surprise, there was already a good 100 people, mostly dealers, in a line already. It was obvious that they must have had insider knowledge. Now I have a real problem with autograph dealers at events like this. Most of them are downright bullies who think that because they are dealers, it’s their right to be there. They often turn up with 10-15 items per celeb they are ‘hunting’. Two guys even had suitcases!! Anyway, the line wasn’t being managed which meant that latecomers were turning up and joining their friends. I went from being about 120 to 201. It got very heated and really needs managing better. It was unfair for many people and there were some arguments. Eventually I got my wristband.

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I was told to go to the junction of Queen’s Gate and Prince Consort Road by 1pm. I arrived early just in case. Again,it was badly organised. We were let in in batches, supposedly in number order but it was obvious that it wasn’t being checked properly. The idea was that the lower your number, the better spot you would have. I was 201 out of 550.

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I eventually got in, and found a spot by the barrier right at the front on the steps of the RAH. I thought it would be a great spot. Boy was I wrong.

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I stood for a few hours chatting with other attendees, doing a bit of cheering for both CNN and RTE whilst set up continued.

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The pens opposite us, all the way up the stairs, were empty. One of the security people said it was for press but what actually happened was that people at the back end of the line (numbers around 450+) were let in and ended up right at the top of the stairs by the main entrance.

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Then the guests started arriving. Quite quickly it became obvious that once the guests had run the gauntlet of all the media outlets and fans, their chaperones had been told (as we overheard) to bypass the fans on the lower stairs and head straight for the top where the cameras are. Basically we were used to fill pens so the event didn’t look empty. Not impressed at all.

Most of the celebs obeyed their chaperones and kept walking.

Luckily, some did come and give a quick autograph/selfie but not many. When you consider the sheer number of celebs that were there, I would imagine that only 10-15 even bothered; even then, you could hear the chaperones telling them to move on to the top. Some at least said “Hi” or “I’m sorry, I’ve been told no.” Others were just very rude and totally blanked fans. I think they forget who made them popular.

Luckily, two did come my way. First was Dennis Quaid. He was walking past so I called out to him and waved my phone. He replied “Hell, yeh” and came over for a selfie. Nice guy!

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Then Letitia Wright from Black Panther walked by. Luckily, I had a Black Panther poster card. She happily signed that before posing for a selfie. I don’t think she signed many others.

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I couldn’t stand it much longer. I really wanted to come home and write a positive blog entry. All my other BAFTA experiences had been enjoyable. Not this one. It was spoilt by greedy dealers (I saw many items for dealers I know going for a lot of money on eBay the next day) and by poor organisation; they even let in another 30 people who didn’t have wristbands and tried to push in front of me and some friends I made. I had to leave. They said I wouldn’t be allowed out until it was over; I was essentially locked in which made me panic. Anyway, after some negotiation I got out and made it home.

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I’m saddened by the whole experience. I’m just a fan who likes meeting celebs and getting autographs etc. I’m not a dealer out to make an extortionate amount of money. I was glad that they made the change to wristband collection, but it was clear (and BAFTA can deny it all they want) that insider information was given out and the event, from a public point of view wasn’t very well run. I know that you can’t expect every celeb to sign for everyone, but to overhear that you are in an area that is going to be bypassed by pretty much everyone, is annoying and a waste of time.

Would I go again? Only if huge changes were made and the process was fair.

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