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Roundhouse - Camden.JPG
The Roundhouse (during renovation in 2005)
Opened 1964, 1996, 2006
Location Chalk Farm, North London, UK
Closed 1983, 2004
Capacity 3,300 standing. 1,700 seated

The Roundhouse (Chalk Farm, London), is a Grade II listed former engine shed, best known as a performing arts and concert venue. It was built in 1846 as an engine shed and by 1867 the building was no longer used for engines. The buiding was then used for various purposes before being abandoned, just before the Second World War.[1] It re-opened in 1964 as a performing arts venue, when the playwright Arnold Wesker established the Centre 42 theatre company and adopted the bulding as a theatre [1]

This large circular structure has hosted various notable concerts, including the launch of the underground paper International Times in 1966,[2] The Doors only UK appearance in 1968[3] and Greasy Truckers Party in 1972.[4]

Greater London Council handed control of the building to Camden Council in 1983. By this time Centre 42 had ran 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 multy million pound redevelopment. On 1 June 2006, the Broadway show Fuerzabruta opened at the New Roundhouse. [1]

Since 2006 The Roundhouse has hosted the BBC Electric Proms,[5] also award ceremonies such as The BT Digital Music Awards[6] and the Vodafone Live Music Awards.[7] In 2009 Bob Dylan performed a concert and ITunes promoted a music festival, at the venue. In line with the continuing legacy of avantgarde productions, No Fit State Circus performed "Tabu" during which the audience were encouraged to move around the perfomance space.[8]


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,[9] Jeff Beck, Zoot Money's Dantalions Chariot, David Bowie, The Sinceros, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd[9]Led Zeppelin, Incredible String Band, The Doors with Jefferson Airplane,The Clash, Elkie Brooks and Motörhead who appeared at the Roundhouse on July 20, 1975.

Patti Smith performing at Roundhouse, 17 May 2007

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 the leadership of visionary producer Thelma Holt, 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[9] and started a run of nearly four thousand performances in London.

A second phase followed after The Roundhouse was purchased by the Norman Trust. 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 Argentinian De La Guarda's Villa Villa[9] which ran for a year, becoming the longest ever running show at The Roundhouse, ending when the venue closed for re-development work.

The Greater London Council passed the building to Camden Council, in 1983 and it was closed as a venue. The building lay empty until its was purchased by the Norman Trust led by the philanthropist Torquil Norman. In 1998 he set up the Roundhouse Trust and led its redevelopment. The website said this about the redeveloped London landmark:

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.[10]

The renovated Roundhouse, designed by architects John McAslan & Partners in association with engineering company Buro Happold,[9] opened once more on 1 June 2006, promoting Fuerzabruta.

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[11]. In her review for The British Theatre Guide, Anita Butler noted:

I had seen the plays several times yet the final cycle became an urgency: the last time all eight might be performed; the last time for this ensemble after more than two years; the last time an audience would see these actors together on this Roundhouse stage: too many 'lasts' create an unbearable fervour, so much so that Sunday's queue for Richard III began at 3am, grew to 150[12]

On 31 March 2009, the charitable circus group "No Fit State" began a run of performances of "Tabu",[8] utilising the open space at the Roundhouse.[13] On 26 April 2009, Bob Dylan and his band performed at the Roundhouse, whilst on a tour of UK.[14] In July 2009, ITunes EU hosted a music festival at the venue[15]


  1. ^ a b c "The history of The Roundhouse". Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  2. ^ "Archive 1966-1986". Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  3. ^ "The Doors: The Doors Are Open - The Roundhouse, London (1968)". Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  4. ^ "The Greasy Truckers Party (1972)". Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  5. ^ electricproms/2009/about/ "About Electric Proms". electricproms/2009/about/. Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  6. ^ Oates, Joanne (2007-30-08). "GCap strong contender for BT Digital Awards". Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  7. ^ "The 2006 Vodafone Live Music Awards". Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  8. ^ a b Tabu my Fear and Yours (programme). No fit State (2009). Reg charity no: 1102850. pp. 1-10. 
  9. ^ a b c d e James, Anthony (2007-05-01). "A House of fun London’s Roundhouse reopened and reborn". p. 45. Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  10. ^ "The Roundhouse". Retrieved 2008-03-23. 
  11. ^ "RSC The Histories". Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  12. ^ Butler, Anita (2008-30-05). "RSC The Histories cycle". Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  13. ^ "Theatregoers’ Choice Awards. List of shows". Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  14. ^ Williams, Richard (2009-04-28). "Bob Dylan at the Roundhouse". Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  15. ^ Karen (2009-10-07). "iTunes Festival 24/07/09". Retrieved 2010-04-03. 

External links

Coordinates: 51°32′36″N 0°09′07″W / 51.5432°N 0.1519°W / 51.5432; -0.1519



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