My Roundhouse History

Anyone who is attuned to writing funding applications will be aware of the word ‘legacy’ and it’s importance when clinching the deal, but what does it really mean?

Without sounding like Tulisa growing up ‘council’ in Kentish Town had its set backs but has proved to be novel in later life. As Labor’s optimism kicked in for working class young people in the year 2000 I found myself expelled from school with no qualifications and I had well and truly fallen from the system. After a brief two week workshop at Camden Peoples Theatre during the summer I realized the people ‘in theatre’ were not going to call me a batty boy or require a BTech or NVQ to perform with / for them.

During the same summer I also signed up for a theatre workshop with Roundhouse, at this time the building was a damp round thing with two spaces – one for Paul Weller and the other for fringe or community productions. After our fortnight of discovering ourselves in the Undercroft (the smaller space), wearing FCUK t-shirts (the sponsor at that time), we presented a piece about love, I remember it being a promenade piece, the floor being covered in photocopies of hands and bravely outing myself to an audience – this sounds pretty corny but it was giant leaps for a boy who at the time had a girlfriend with no idea what he wanted to be. I become more confident in myself and over time, my girlfriend became my girl friend (finger clicks), as I came out of my shell I signed up for more of the youth programs at Roundhouse, with this my confidence grew and I was, I like to think, head hunted by Elizabeth Lynch (Director of Studios at the time) to help set up and chair the Roundhouse Youth Board. Roundhouse were making moves to redevelop their spaces and extend the building – Elizabeth wanted the young people to help shape the destiny of the Undercroft. Over the next 9 months scaffolding was erected and we met in cold portacabins to propose ideas for the redevelopment. Unlike other youth consultations we seemed to be listened to – I remember meeting a group of architects who had to propose their ideas to a table of 14yr olds - Dragons Den meets Bugsy Malone. The space needed a major redevelopment during which time I grew up and I never got the use the finished product.

In the autumn of 2011 I was invited to have a look around the Undercroft, I nervously walked through the ideas we had conceived around a table in a car park in Chalk Farm - writing this I suddenly feel quite emotional about that, I guess feeling like adults are listening and your ideas are important at that time was… important. The Roundhouse continues to offer free space for young people to develop skills and encourage a career in the arts, walking through that day has left me with a feeling of accomplishment from my troubled youth.

This year as part of the CircusFest I have been commissioned to create a new show for Roundhouse. Camp is an exploration into my fetish of naff British culture (1960 – 1990) – from Jim’ll Fix It to Sunday Night at the Palladium – Campness or Campery (the act and art of being camp) seems to be present and encouraged. I have invited some of the young artists from Marisa Carnesky’s youth program at Roundhouse to perform alongside artists like Ursula Martinez, Jonny Woo and Bryony Kimmings - I think they call this full circle.  

So when I next scrawl ‘LEGACY’ on a funding application I think I’ll feel confident enough to articulate its meaning. 

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