If the walls of the Roundhouse could talk, the anecdotes would be immense. The iconic London venue is where Andy Warhol performed his only play, where the world’s biggest bouncy castle was inflated indoors, where Antony Gormley’s ominous You figure stands surveying Camden’s crowds from the roof, and LSD-fuelled naked theatre was once a thing.
Now to celebrate its 50-year history as an avant-garde performance venue, the Roundhouse has launched a website collating accounts, images and recordings from gig goers, local residents and performers, telling stories of their Roundhouse experiences.
The venue has also delved into its archives to reveal an enormous collection of posters from across the decades, just a few of which are published exclusively here on It’s Nice That. The designers are unknown, expected to be friends and fans of the performers, and therefore remain anonymous. Nevertheless, they are gems.
The Roundhouse began life in 1846 as a train shed, then became a gin warehouse before its transformation in the 60s into a performance venue. During this decade alone it hosted Yoko Ono’s happening, Led Zeppelin’s London debut, and The Dialectics of Liberation conference, which assembled some of the most radical speakers in the western world including Allen Ginsberg and Black Power leader Stokey Carmichael. The 60s also saw the Middle Earth Club Night host musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and The Doors.
In the 70s the venue played a key role in London’s counterculture, hosting events such as Kenney Tynan’s ’tasteful pornography’ show Oh Calcutta! featuring songs and sketches by Samuel Beckett, Sam Shepherd and John Lennon. The Implosion Club Night featured David Bowie (with The Hype), Black Sabbath, Elton John and The Rolling Stones, and in the late 70s the venue hosted gigs by The Clash, The Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie and The Police.
In 1983 it closed and faced dereliction, and years of failed revival attempts (not to mention a few week-long 90s raves), before it was renovated and reopened in 2006. Since then it has seen major site-specific visual art installations by the likes of Ron Arad and Conrad Shawcross, performances by Sadler’s Wells and the Royal Shakespeare Company, and concerts by Prince, Jay-Z and FKA Twigs.
Fans of the venue can contribute to its anniversary project by emailing submissions or through social media.