Managing Brixton’s Ritzy cinema … a labour of love

Nana Acheampong fell in love with the Ritzy as a youngster – and now she’s a duty manager at the cinema. Simone Richardson finds out how it happened …

woman in covid mask in cinema foyer
Nana Acheampong

“My Dad, Roland, asked me to come in and help out on his first day as a cleaner at The Ritzy,” says Nana Acheampong.

“I walked into the building – into Screen 1. I was really fascinated by how Screen 1 was and how amazing the walls were.

“I fell in love with the place and at that instant I told my Dad: ‘I want to work here’!”

Nana was born and raised in Ghana with her Dad and Mum, Edna, two brothers and a sister.

“My family is from Kumasi in the Ashanti Kingdom – the second capital of Ghana known as the Garden City,” she says.

Nana studied 10 subjects through primary and junior high school in the Garden City. Her favourite was art.

“I love art and wanted to be a fashion designer one day. Even though my Mum was against it, I still went ahead and did art in senior high (secondary equivalent) school.

“When I came to London, I went to South Thames College and studied a diploma in fashion design and art for two years.’’

Nana got a place at the world famous London College of Fashion at Oxford Circus, part of University of the Arts London.

She was elated – then disappointed: “It was my dream university, but I had to leave because student finances didn’t approve me.

“I even got another part-time job to pay for my fees, but had to leave as it was too much to handle.”

It was four years ago that her Dad Roland saw an advertisement for a staff job at the Ritzy.

“He told me, and I applied for the job and got it!’’

exterior of old cinema

Nana became a supervisor and is now a manager.

She says she had just started working at The Ritzy so did not take part when the long-running but now discontinued campaign by staff to be paid the London Living Wage took off for a second time.

“I wasn’t part of BECTU [the trade union involved] and also I was still new, but I did support them in spirit,” she says.

Now Nana is studying fashion design again – this time with Middlesex University.

Her art helped her survive lockdown. “It was OK for me because that was time I had to concentrate more on my fashion side and also uni,” she says.

“But when I heard The Ritzy was opening again, I was really happy because I had missed the staff members – the Ritzy Family – the good vibes that go on there and also Brixton.

“The Ritzy is like my second home with the people working there. We are like one family.”

Nana also finds working in Brixton really interesting: “There is lots of diversity around the area and also the history of Brixton and just working next to the Windrush Square makes me ‘wanna’ work there too!’’

Through lockdown Nana also enjoyed watching loads of Netflix movies. Her favourite was Korean dramas – ”I just love them!”

woman in covid mask in front od movie posters

Back at work, Nana prefers working late shifts, saying: “I love doing evening shifts rather morning shifts.

“I normally start at 9am if it’s morning. In the evening I start at 4pm.

“Throughout my shift, I make sure everything is alright and we are ready to go – dealing with paperwork, answering emails, making sure the staff know what’s going on if we have any special screenings, and also helping out on the floor when they need help.

“I don’t like staying in the office a lot. I love to work with the team and do what I love doing best – serving the customers.

“Another part of the day I enjoy is when it’s quiet and we just have a little chat and a bit of a laugh amongst ourselves.”

Nana is a big fan of Marvel movies: “I would say my favourite movie is Black Panther.

“I feel it was a really great movie. It allowed the beauty of African culture, and just seeing Black heroes made me really happy.

“Recently I have not been able to watch any movies in the cinema, but would love to see Judas and The Black Messiah if time permits.’’

The Ritzy is now open every day, usually closing about midnight.

You can book tickets online for The Ritzy cinema and its cafe.