The Roundhouse at 50

From Train Shed to Cultural Icon

If you’re a Camden local, a music lover, a young creative or one of the many visitors to Camden Beach each year, it’s likely you’re familiar with that circular brick building on the walk from Chalk Farm to Camden Town. Whether you’ve been to the Roundhouse once, twice or a hundred times, we bet there’s still thousands of fascinating of stories you haven’t yet heard from the building where anything can (and has) happened.

Roundhouse exterior

2016 marks 50 years since the Roundhouse was transformed from an old train shed to a performing arts centre and to celebrate their anniversary, the iconic performance venue has launched a very special website supported by Heritage Lottery Fund. 

The website paints a picture of how the Roundhouse shaped the cultural scene of Camden, London and beyond and recounts the seminal role of the organisation as a radical socio-political force over the last half century. The project includes a huge range of people’s memories of the buidling; from performers to gig goers to local residents, bringing to life incredible stories from the last five decades.

Ramones
The Ramones, © Danny Fields

Divided into eight chapters, the anniversary site takes visitors on a journey from the building’s first performance by a little-known band called Pink Floyd, through an LSD-fuelled haze of psychedelic music and avant-garde (often nude) theatre, to the Ramones’ first UK gig that saw the birth of punk, right through to the ground-breaking circus, incredible spoken word and iconic music performances the venue is known for today, stopping off at a world-record breaking bouncy castle and a week-long 90s acid rave along the way. Visitors to the site can also expect to uncover the early history of the building first built as a train shed in the 1800s, and the reason behind its unique and arresting architecture. Its story is told through a huge range of unseen photos, video interviews, articles and oral histories.

Gin store

“I felt part of a community while I was in here... I couldn’t tell you much about the majority of the concerts when I came here, it was just a sense of being here that was important.”

John Peel, taken from  BBC’s Arena Documentary The Roundhouse - The People's Palace. 

One thing that has remained at the heart of the Roundhouse over these past 50 years is its dedication to nurturing creative talent. Since the regeneration of the Roundhouse 10 years ago, the organisation has seen this commitment grow much further, providing a dedicated centre for young creatives after finding an unlikely saviour in Polly Pocket creator, Sir Torquil Norman.

 

So if you want to find out more about Camden’s creative island, delve in and discover the stories which have emerged from the walls of this beautiful building!

 

Roundhouse drawing 1847
Roundhouse drawing, 1847
(C) John Williams
© John Williams

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