The Roundhouse: An Icon of London’s Past and Present

September 13, 2011 by

Eating & Restaurants, Things To Do

Find the Roundhouse in London’s Chalk Farm
- photo courtesy of Trevor Harris via Wikimedia Commons

The Roundhouse is an icon of London music and performance. Located in Chalk Farm, the stunning round brick building dating to 1847 was originally a railway engine workshop, built round so trains could turn around inside. By the 1930s it was abandoned and became derelict, becoming home to a theatre company in the 1960s. The Doors played their only UK show here in 1968. But even this sort of history couldn’t save it from the closing during the 1980s when getting rich was much more popular than local theatre. Luckily in the mid-90s someone again saw the value of the place, bought it, and reopened the doors, giving it a major facelift in 2004.

These days the Roundhouse is thriving and one of many world-famous London attractions. The main hall fits 5,000 and people like Patti Smith and Bob Dylan have played here. It’s used for summer music festivals and still holds interesting avant garde theatre performances.

Downstairs the Roundhouse is a circular maze of brick passageways, performance spaces and small sound rooms. Sometimes there are exhibitions here, sometimes performances. Last time I was there I lucked upon a cello player and a few people sitting on the floor to listen; the acoustics made it even more evocative.

The latest addition to the place is Made in Camden, a bar and dining room open to the public 363 days a year which puts all its profits back into developing local youth talent. If you’ve got a ticket for a main space performance head to Meathouse on the terrace and have a burger (vegetarians not uncatered for).

- Philippa Burne

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