Roundhouse main entrance
|Location||Chalk Farm, North London, UK|
|Opened||1964–1983 (as Centre 42)
1996–2004 (as Roundhouse)
2006 (reopened as Roundhouse)
|Owner||The Norman Trust|
|Capacity||3,300 standing. 1,700 seated|
The Roundhouse is a Grade II* listed former railway engine shed in Chalk Farm, London, England, which has been converted into a performing arts and concert venue. It was originally built in 1847 as a roundhouse, a circular building containing a railway turntable, but was only used for railway purposes for about a decade. After being used as a warehouse for a number of years, the building fell into disuse just before the Second World War. It reopened twenty-five years later, as a performing arts venue, when the playwright Arnold Wesker established the Centre 42 Theatre Company and adopted the building as a theatre.
This large circular structure has hosted various notable promotions, such as the launch of the underground paper International Times in 1966, The Doors only UK appearance in 1968 and Greasy Truckers Party in 1972.
Greater London Council handed control of the building to Camden London Borough Council in 1983. By this time Centre 42 had run out of funds and the building remained unused until a local businessman purchased the building in 1996 and performing arts shows returned. It was closed again in 2004 for a multi-million pound redevelopment. On 1 June 2006, the Broadway show Fuerzabruta opened at the New Roundhouse.
Since 2006, Roundhouse has hosted the BBC Electric Proms and numerous iTunes Festival, as well as award ceremonies such as the BT Digital Music Awards and the Vodafone Live Music Awards. In 2009, Bob Dylan performed a concert and iTunes promoted a music iTunes Festival, at the venue. In line with the continuing legacy of avant-garde productions, No Fit State Circus performed Tabu during which the audience were encouraged to move around the performance space.
In 2010, Roundhouse Studios set up its own in-house record label, Roundhouse Records.
The Roundhouse was built in 1846 as a turntable engine shed (or roundhouse) for the London and Birmingham Railway, and was known as the Great Circular Engine House, or the Luggage Engine House. The original building was built by Branson & Gwyther, using designs by architects Robert B. Dockray and Robert Stephenson. Within ten years locomotives became too long for the building to accommodate, and the Roundhouse was used for various other purposes. The longest period of use was as a bonded store for Gin distillers W & A Gilbey Ltd, for which the building was used for fifty years, from 1871. In 1964 the premises were transferred to Centre 42, which prepared a scheme to convert the building into "a permanent cultural centre with a theatre, cinema, art gallery and workshops, committee rooms for local organisations, library, youth club and restaurant dance-hall". This was estimated to cost between £300,000 and £600,000 (£4.5 million–9.1 million as of 2013), and was supported by "well-known actors, playwrights, authors, musicians and others". In 1966 the Roundhouse became a well-known arts venue, after the freehold was taken up by the then new Greater London Council. On 15 October 1966 Soft Machine and Pink Floyd appeared at the launch of the underground news paper International Times. During the next decade the building became an important venue for UK Underground music events Middle Earth and Implosion. Many of these were hosted and promoted by the Jeff Dexter. Others bands who played at the Roundhouse during this period included Gass, The Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, The Yardbirds, Zoot Money's Dantalian's Chariot, David Bowie, The Sinceros, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Incredible String Band, The Doors with Jefferson Airplane, Ramones, The Clash, Elkie Brooks, and Motörhead who appeared at the Roundhouse on 20 July 1975.
The building was used in 1996 during the filming of the promotional video for the Manic Street Preachers single "A Design For Life" prior to the start of redevelopment. Promotional videos for the singles "Handbags and Gladrags" by Stereophonics and "Burn Burn" by Lostprophets were also filmed there in 2001 and 2003 respectively.
The Roundhouse has also been used for theatre, and has had two periods of theatrical glory, with musicals such as Catch My Soul (1969). Under George Hoskins, the administrator, the first phase also featured experimental theatre productions, such as the Living Theatre production of 1776 and other plays directed by Peter Brook. The lewd play Oh! Calcutta! opened in July 1970 and started a run of nearly four thousand performances in London.
The Greater London Council passed the building to Camden London Borough Council in 1983, and it was closed as a venue due to lack of funds. The building lay empty until it was purchased for £6m (£8.4 million as of 2013) in 1996 by the Norman Trust led by the philanthropist Torquil Norman. In 1998 he set up the Roundhouse Trust and led its redevelopment, with a board of trustees which included musicians Bob Geldof and Suggs, and Monty Python writer Terry Gilliam.
The venue opened for a two-year period to raise awareness and funds for a redevelopment scheme, under the directorship of former BAC director Paul Blackman. Shows promoted at this time included the Royal National Theatre's Oh, What a Lovely War!, dancer Michael Clark's comeback performance, percussion extravaganza Stomp, Ken Campbell's twenty-four hour long show The Warp and the Argentine De La Guarda's Villa Villa which ran for a year, becoming the longest-ever running show at The Roundhouse, ending when the venue closed for redevelopment.
The website dance.com, commenting on the redevelopment project, said:
|“||The redeveloped Roundhouse will house up to 3,300 people standing or up to 1,700 seated. It will provide a highly flexible and adaptable performance space that will give artists and audiences opportunities and experiences they cannot find elsewhere. It will accommodate a programme of work that reflects the excitement and diversity of twenty first century culture. It will include a wide range of the performing arts including, music, theatre, dance, circus and digital media.||”|
The renovated Roundhouse, designed by architects John McAslan & Partners in association with engineering company Buro Happold, reopened on 1 June 2006, promoting Fuerzabruta. Since 1996 the renovations had cost £27m (£38 million as of 2013).
In 2008, Michael Boyd, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, transferred his RSC Histories Cycle to the Roundhouse, rearranging the performing space to match the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford upon Avon, where the cycle had first been staged.
On 31 March 2009, the charitable circus group No Fit State began a run of performances of Tabu, utilising the open space at the Roundhouse. On 26 April 2009 Bob Dylan and his band performed at the Roundhouse, whilst on a UK tour, and in July 2009 the iTunes Music Festival (supported by Apple Computer) was held at the venue.
In 2010, the Roundhouse introduced contemporary classical music to its events repertoire when it hosted the Reverb festival in January of that year, which included performances by the London Contemporary Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, The Magnets, Nico Muhly, Sam Amidon and the Britten Sinfonia.
Also in 2010 a bar and dining room called 'Made in Camden' with its own entrance was added.
In December 2012 Fuerzabruta returned for limited four-week run.
The Roundhouse Trust
Alongside its role as an arts venue, the Roundhouse is also a registered charity and runs a creative programme for 11-25s through the Roundhouse Trust.
From 2006 to 2012 the Trust taught over 13,000 11-to-25-year-olds in live music, circus, theatre and new media. Courses take place in the Roundhouse Studios, which include a music recording suite, film production rooms, TV and radio studios and rehearsal rooms. All of which are located directly underneath the Main Space.
The Roundhouse is Grade II* listed. It was declared a National Heritage Site in 2010, when a Transport Trust Heritage Plaque was presented by Prince Michael of Kent. It is regarded as a notable example of mid-19th century railway architecture. The original building, 48 metres (157 ft) in diameter, is constructed in yellow brick and is distinctive for its unusual circular shape and pointed roof. The conical slate roof has a central smoke louvre (now glazed) and is supported by 24 cast-iron Doric columns (arranged around the original locomotive spaces) and a framework of curved ribs. The interior has original flooring and parts of the turntable and fragments of early railway lines.
The 2006 renovation was supported with conservation advice and funding from English Heritage and with grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Arts Council England. The project included the addition of seven layers of soundproofing to the roof, reinstating the glazed roof-lights, and added the steel and glass New Wing which curves around the north side of the main building, to house the box office, bar and café, an art gallery foyer and offices.
Other buildings called Roundhouse
Derby College uses a converted roundhouse building next to Derby railway station, formerly of the North Midland Railway, as its Derby College @ Roundhouse campus. Opened in 2009, it is used for vocational training in a range of subjects.
- Bane, M., (1982) White boy singin' the blues, London: Penguin, 1982, ISBN 0-14-006045-6.
- Bob Brunning, Blues: The British Connection, Helter Skelter Publishing, London 2002, ISBN 1-900924-41-2 – First edition 1986 – Second edition 1995 Blues in Britain
- Bob Brunning, The Fleetwood Mac Story: Rumours and Lies, Omnibus Press London, 1990 and 1998, ISBN 0-7119-6907-8
- Martin Celmins, Peter Green – Founder of Fleetwood Mac, Sanctuary London, 1995, foreword by B.B.King, ISBN 1-86074-233-5
- Fancourt, L., (1989) British blues on record (1957–1970), Retrack Books.
- Dick Heckstall-Smith, The safest place in the world: A personal history of British Rhythm and blues, 1989 Quartet Books Limited, ISBN 0-7043-2696-5 – Second Edition : Blowing The Blues – Fifty Years Playing The British Blues, 2004, Clear Books, ISBN 1-904555-04-7
- Christopher Hjort, Strange brew: Eric Clapton and the British blues boom, 1965–1970, foreword by John Mayall, Jawbone 2007, ISBN 1-906002-00-2
- Paul Myers, Long John Baldry and the Birth of the British Blues, Vancouver 2007, GreyStone Books, ISBN 1-55365-200-2
- Harry Shapiro Alexis Korner: The Biography, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, London 1997, Discography by Mark Troster, ISBN 0-7475-3163-3
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- Mike Vernon, The Blue Horizon story 1965–1970 vol.1, notes of the booklet of the Box Set (60 pages)
- Cyril Davies – Blues from The Roundhouse (1957) reissued as The Legendary Cyril Davies (1970) and as Alexis Korner & Cyril Davies (1984)
- Hawkwind: "Silver Machine" (recorded 1972)
- Mott the Hoople: "Saturday Gigs" (recorded 1974) contains the line Float up to the Roundhouse on a Sunday afternoon.
- Man: "Maximum Darkness" (recorded 1975)
- Pink Fairies: "Live at the Roundhouse 1975" – released in 1982
- Motörhead: What's Words Worth? (recorded 1978)
- Opeth: "The Roundhouse Tapes" (recorded 2006)
- The Dresden Dolls: "Live at the Roundhouse" (recorded 2006)
- Erasure: "Tomorrow's World Tour" (recorded 2011)
- Ed Sheeran: "iTunes Festival Day 2 2012
- Fat Girl Gets a Haircut, a play created by artist Mark Storor in collaboration with a cast of teenage actors.
Cyril Davies was associated with the Roundhouse Pub, Wardour St, Soho not the Roundhouse ,Chalk Farm. http://www.cyrildavies.com/Roundhouse.html
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- Karen (2009-10-07). "iTunes Festival 24/07/09". wordpress.com. Retrieved 2010-04-03.
- Silverman, Laura (4 March 2010). "How to sell classical music to the masses". London: The Times. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
- "Reverb festival". London: Time Out. January 2010. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
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- "The Roundhouse". John McAslan & Partners. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
- "The Roundhouse". Derby College. Retrieved 28 January 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Roundhouse|
- The Roundhouse official web site
- Made in Camden's web site
- John McAslan and Partners
- The Round House and Open Space theatre companies records are held by the Victoria and Albert Museum Theatre and Performance Department.