MBI Al Jaber Grand Hall Officially Opened in Naming Ceremony
A project to revive the birthplace of British cinema has reached a milestone with the official unveiling of the University of Westminster’s MBI Al Jaber Grand Hall following a careful restoration.
|King George V, Queen Mary and the Prince of Wales at the official opening of the new Polytechnic building on 11 March 1912.
(Reproduced by kind permission of the University of Westminster Archive Services)
|His Excellency Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber and his daughters, Mashael and Bashayer at the opening of the MBI Al Jaber Grand Hall on 12 March 2012.
The historic Grade II listed Grand Hall, at the University’s Regent Street headquarters in London’s West End, has been named after philanthropist and businessman Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber. Its restoration was made possible through a £1 million donation through Sheikh Mohamed’s MBI Al Jaber Foundation, a continuation of the charity’s long-term relationship with the University.
The MBI Al Jaber Grand Hall is the University’s only listed building. The adjoining cinema gained its place in history when it became the setting for the first ever public film show in Britain.
The re-opening of the entrance hall and foyer coincides with the 100th anniversary of the March 1912 completion of the re-construction of the building’s existing façade. The Prince of Wales who became Edward VIII, was photographed at the re-opening ceremony.
The MBI Al Jaber Grand Hall and adjoining spaces highlight the University’s activities and the building’s historical importance. The space provides an intellectual exhibition space for students, industry partners and the public alike and is a landmark venue at the heart of London life.
Its renovation is part of a wider £5 million campaign to restore the cinema as a working cinema for the first time since 1980 and to nurture the best of filmmaking talent in keeping with the site’s history.
Speaking on Monday (March 12) at the official Naming Ceremony of the Grand Hall, Sheikh Mohamed, the patron and chairman of the Foundation which works to forge links between the Middle East and the rest of the world, said: “The Foundation is honoured to have played its part in this project and the renovation of the Grand Hall. The part this site has played in the history of British cinema is special and it is only right it should be restored to its former glory. I am honoured and humbled that the Grand Hall carries the name of MBI Al Jaber. It is a symbol of our on-going commitment and long-standing relationship with the University of Westminster.”
Sarah Carthew, director of Marketing, Communications and Development at the University of Westminster says: “It has always been important for us to be able to showcase our history and the success of our students but the renovation project means that we will now be able to open our doors to a wider audience and share our heritage with our neighbours and industry partners alike.”
The project has also been recognised by the RIBA Higher Education Design Quality Forum which shortlisted the University of in its ‘Small Budget, Big Impact’ competition which looks to improve the performance of higher education buildings and estates.
Professor Jeremy Till, award winning architect and Dean of the School of Architecture and the Built Environment spoke at the event: “One of the great achievements of UK higher education estates is the reuse of historic buildings, many of which provide great flexible spaces into which contemporary facilities can be inserted. In this highly competitive world, the need for good quality learning environments remains paramount.”
The campaign was launched in 2009 with the £1million pledge from the MBI Al Jaber Foundation.
The on-going arts project will include a Middle Eastern Film Series showcasing the best of the region’s talent to audiences in the UK as part of MBI Al Jaber Foundation’s work to forge links between the Middle East and the rest of the world.
Among University of Westminster alumni are The Queen editor Lucia Zuchetti, Senna and The Warrior director Asif Kapadia, and Seamus McGarvey, Director of Photography on the film Atonement.
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