Kensal Rise cinema welcomes guests after second screen added

The Lexi is a social enterprise cinema in Kensal Rise

The Lexi is a social enterprise cinema in Kensal Rise - Credit: Henry Woide

A social enterprise cinema in Kensal Rise reopened its doors after building a new extension and refurbishing most existing interior following a fire. 

The Lexi collaborated with the Brent-based Rise Design Studio to build a second screen, the Lexi Hub, at the back of the building on an existing car park.   

As a social enterprise cinema, The Lexi is primarily run by volunteers and donates all its distributable profit to a sustainability charity in South Africa.  

The new bar area in the refurbished Kensal Rise cinema

The new bar area in the refurbished Kensal Rise cinema - Credit: Henry Woide

Sean Ronnie Hill, director at Rise Design Studio, said: “The Lexi cinema holds a special position in the Kensal Rise community, so we approached the project as an opportunity to contribute to both the built environment and social lifeblood of the area.  

“An exercise in community partnership, The Lexi Hub has been designed to respect its neighbours while providing them with invaluable space to gather, learn, contribute, connect, and relax.” 

Initially, the cinema hoped to build a beer garden as a social space for the community at the back of the building. However, the idea was rejected by Brent council due to concerns over potential noise disruptions to neighbours.  

Instead, The Lexi and Rise Design Studio developed a plan for a second screen extension, which was supported by 1,211 local signatories and construction began in July 2020. 

The first screen was refurbished after a fire 

The first screen was refurbished after a fire - Credit: Henry Woide

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To ensure minimal disruption to surrounding residents, the 99 square metre extension was built 1.5 metres into the ground and sits only two metres above neighbouring garden walls.  

The entire extension was constructed using reclaimed London stock brick and includes a wildflower roof replacing the biodiversity lost during the construction process.  

Buffed stainless-steel plates which partially cover the outside walls reflect the sky above and appear as a natural cinema screen camouflaging the roof form. The plates were cut to imitate the parapets of surrounding houses. 

Sally Wilton, founder of The Lexi, said: “The Lexi Hub marks the next phase in our capacity to contribute to our beloved neighbourhood and the ecological charities we support.  

“Rise Design Studio supported the project from the outset, bringing environmental expertise and creativity to the Hub to create a space that allows us to increase our public programme offering and keep serving our local community.” 

Customers of The Lexi can now enjoy a drink or coffee at the new bar

Customers of The Lexi can enjoy a drink or coffee at the new bar - Credit: Henry Woide

The second screen seats 30 viewers and includes space for two wheelchairs or panel discussions and events. 

As the Lexi Hub was still in the design phase back in 2020 an electrical fire from a fridge in the entrance caused major smoke damage to the original cinema.  

Designer Sean said: “The fire was definitely a silver lining because obviously after we got past the scary moment of not knowing if we could rebuild, we could then redesign the entire cinema to be cohesive.” 

Now, throughout the cinema the ceilings and walls are painted with a raw blush plaster while doors and screen entrances in black. 

The first screen is held in blue tones with dark navy seats and light blue walls while the second screen boasts emerald green chairs and turquois-coloured walls.  

The project was funded by local donations, the Bent Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy and £50,000 from the mayor of London’s community fund. 

The Lexi hosts a range of community initiatives from film education, senior’s discussion groups and birthday parties to baby screenings and the find-a-friend club Cinemates.  

The second screen was built on a former carpark 

The second screen was built on a former carpark - Credit: Henry Woide

The theatre believes itself to be the only one of its kind in the UK which is entirely run as a social enterprise and 100% of its distributable profits are donated to The Sustainability Institute in South Africa.  

The charity in Lynedoch trains local farmers in ecological farming methods, replants indigenous trees and hosts several youth programmes with nurseries and after school clubs which focus on using nature as a resource for learning.  

The Lexi first opened its doors in September 2008 in a building which had previously been a derelict pool club known as Pinkham Hall. 

Learn more about The Lexi here at thelexicinema.co.uk/TheLexiCinema.dll/Home