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The Roundhouse was built in 1847. This Grade II listed building was originally a steam engine repair shed before becoming a performing arts and concert venue.
Although the London & North Western Railway constructed this circular building to house a railway turntable, it hardly served the purpose for a decade. Today, the attractive cylindrical structure consists of a circular interior and a flexible auditorium that can be adjusted to suit a variety of performances. It has an unmatched capacity able to accommodate 3,300 standing and 1,700 seated patrons.
First, a railway repair shed and then serving as a warehouse for several years, the building was abandoned just before WWI. It remained unused for 25 years but later reopened as a performing arts venue in 1964. The reopening was thanks to playwright Arnold Wesker, who formed the Centre 42 Theatre Company and transformed the shed into a theatre. The Roundhouse hosted many different promotions in its early years like the 1966 launch of International Times – an underground paper, the 1968 UK appearance by The Doors featuring Jim Morrison, and the 1972 Greasy Truckers Party.
The Norman Trust bought the building in 1996 for £6m. Torquil Norman founded the Roundhouse Trust two years later and initiated a redevelopment project. Famous filmmaker Terry Gilliam, as well as musicians like Bob Geldof and Suggs, were on the board of trustees. The venue opened for two years to raise funds for redevelopment. Under director Paul Blackman, the stage hosted shows like Ken Campbell's 24-hour-long show 'The Warp', Michael Clark's comeback performance 'Stomp', the Royal National Theatre's 'Oh, What A Lovely War!' and Argentine De La Guarda's 'Villa Villa'. 'Villa Villa' became the theatre's longest-running show, running for a year and closing when the building closed for the project.
Architects John McAslan & Partners designed the building with the help of engineering company Buro Happold. The renovated Roundhouse reopened on 1st June 2006 with Fuerzabruta. The total cost of the renovation running since 1996 cost roughly £27m.
The English singer/songwriter George Michael's mother Lesley died from cancer in 1997. On 20th December 2006, he performed a free concert at the theatre. It was a sign of gratitude towards the NHS nurses who took care of her. The charitable circus NoFit State performed a run of their act 'Tabu' in March and April 2009, for which they utilised the round open space optimally. Bob Dylan also performed at the Roundhouse with his band On 26th April 2009. Later, in July 2009, the venue was the platform for the iTunes Music Festival.
In 2010, the venue added contemporary classical music to its range of shows by hosting the Reverb festival. The Britten Sinfonia, Sam Amidon, Nico Muhly, The Magnets, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the London Contemporary Orchestra performed in the festival. The auditorium was home to the Apple Music Festival in September 2015. For this event, Apple offered a makeover for the theatre. The renovation included upgrades to various components, helping reduce its carbon emissions by 60 tonnes!
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