A steam engine repair shed in Victorian times, the Roundhouse From is now not only a north London landmark but a well-known cultural venue.
in 1964 the building was used as an arts venue for the first time when playwright Arnold Wesker established Centre 42 at the Roundhouse.
After extensive refurbishment, the Grade II listed Roundhouse reopened in 2006. While keeping many of the original features, architects John McAslan + Partners created a modern and dynamic 'new' venue. At the Roundhouse you can enjoy music festivals, theatre, circus, multi-media festivals, installations, talks and screenings. Recent events include the BBC Electric Proms, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Histories and Lucha Libre London. It has seen performances by artists such as of Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Paul McCartney, The Who, James Brown, Kasabian, Jarvis Cocker, The Chemical Brothers, The Beastie Boys, Morrissey.
What is probably most remarkable about the Roundhouse is the fact that it involves young people at every level. Every year, there are creative projects for up to 6,000 13-25 year-olds from all backgrounds. From radio, TV, sound engineering and music production, to drama, poetry or photography – all of the projects cost just £2 and are led by professionals.
London's best gig venues
Once a railway engine shed, the Roundhouse is now one of London’s most extraordinary concert venues. The shape, size and depth of the place puts it in a live music bracket of its own. And The Roundhouse also hosts performing arts.
Victorian remains in London
When it first opened in 1846 its purpose was as a warehouse for steam engine repairs. It then became a corn and potato warehouse, and then a gin distillery. It wasn't until the 60s when it was turned into an arts centre, and later a squat until it was transformed into the live music venue it is today. The cone-shaped roof which gives it its name was the first of its kind in Victorian Great Britain.
"£30 million well spent on Camden’s vast arts centre"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
Not only has the Roundhouse had incarnations as varied as a gin production warehouse and a steam engine repair factory, it has also managed to spring back to life after a period of neglect during the dark 1980s, when finding funding for art was like searching for water in the desert. Thankfully the venue was revitalized in the mid-90s to serve as a live music and dance venue, but its glory days are now, after undergoing a £30 million refurbishment in 2004. Since erroneous judgements like the Millennium Dome expenditures such as these come under intense scrutiny, but in this case the money seems to have been well spent, as the 3,000 capacity Roundhouse is now one of London’s most highly regarded venues thanks to its programme of music, art installations, dance, circus performances and other curious activities that never quite fit anywhere else. From pop stars performing to a mostly teenage crowd at the iTunes Festival to silent films being screened on a giant silicon curtain while DJs perform the soundtrack live, there’s something for all tastes. One downside – possibly the only one - is that the acoustics aren’t really suited to DJ performances, as the music sounds boomy, something which tends to drown out all the mid-ranges. Other than that it’s a great building; aside from the main space there is a large outdoor terrace with a bar, and the restaurant, Made in Camden, draws in diners irrespective of whether they’ve come to see a show or not. Additionally, the Roundhouse is a registered charity which has an ambitious programme for 11 to 25 year olds encompassing workshops in radio, sound engineering, photography, TV and more; membership is a highly inclusive £15 a year.
Leila reviewed The Roundhouse Camden on Wed 07 Sep 2011