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The Roundhouse


The Roundhouse was an arts venue at Chalk Farm (near Camden Town), in London, England, although it started life differently (connected with the railways).

On 15 October 1966 the Roundhouse hosted a concert by Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd to launch the underground press paper International Times. At the time The Roundhouse was a complete fire trap and had not been used since before World War II. Although it appeared to be a locomotive-turning shed it had never been used for that purpose. Its original purpose was to house the winding gear to pull the trains up hill from Euston Station and once steam power was strong enough, it became redundant. By 1966, it was grimy, derelict and (certainly in October at the time of the IT launch gig), very, very cold. In the late 1960s and into the 1970s, after the success of this initial gig (concert) the Roundhouse became an important venue for UK Underground and music events. The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and The Doors played at the Roundhouse (it was their only UK gig The Doors). It also hosted Punk gigs in the latter part of the 1970s, closing in 1983. In 1998, the Roundhouse Trust was set up to lead its redevelopment. It is currently (as of 2004) still closed, though the Trust hope to reopen the Roundhouse again in 2005 to return it to London's cultural life.

"The redeveloped Roundhouse will house up to 3300 people standing or up to 1700 seated. It will provide a highly flexible and adaptable performance space that will give artists and audiences opportunities and experiences they cannot find elsewhere. And it will accommodate a programme of work that reflects the excitement and diversity of 21st century culture. It will include a wide range of the performing arts including music, theatre, dance, circus and digital media and will include the Roundhouse Youth Arts." [1] (http://www.roundhouse.org.uk/home.asp).

The Roundhouse briefly hosted the UFO Club after its original venue was closed down due to police pressure and the imprisonment of founder John Hopkins. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Roundhouse [Apr 2005]

International Times [...]

The launch party for I.T. magazine on October 15, 1966 at the London Roundhouse featured performances by Pink Floyd and The Soft Machine. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Times_magazine

John Hopkins

John Hopkins (Hoppy) was trained as a physicist at Cambridge. He was influential in the UK Underground in the late 1960s in a number of areas:

Even though Hoppy was university-educated it did not stop him from favouring the more anarchistic elements in the "underground" centred around Ladbroke Grove. These included a key figure Mick Farren, who by 1967 was also working at the IT newspaper. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hopkins_%28political_activist%29 [Apr 2005]

Nightlife of Swingin' London, 1967

The following are article I've scanned in from a copy of The History of Rock (Issue 66) published in 1983. It is written by John Platt.

[...]Originally an engine shed, the Roundhouse had been taken over by the Gilbey's Gin concern, which had installed a balcony that stood on wooden pillars. The building had a marvellous, almost romantic atmosphere - it was a monument to nineteenth-century industrial design. Unfortunately it was cold, had almost no lighting, just two lavatories and the only entrance was via an ancient, steep and extremely narrow staircase. Nonetheless the IT party was a memorable event. Some 2000 people turned up and were greeted by Miles handing out sugarcubes (which turned out not to be of the LSD-coated variety, despite legend to the contrary). What took place set the style for later events - people in bizarre fancy dress rolling in huge jellies, dancing, revelling, tripping and watching films; a Bacchanal of the first order. Paul McCartney showed up dressed as an Arab, the Italian film director Michelangelo Antonioni was there taking a break from shooting Blow Up and Marianne Faithfull, wearing a nun's habit, won the prize for the 'shortest/barest' costume. Music was provided not only by Pink Floyd but also Soft Machine, whose instrumentation included a motorcycle with a contact mike attached to the cylinder head - the bike was revved up from time to time to add to the group's euphonious wailing. Pink Floyd, meanwhile, brought with them the light show they had been using at the Free School - oil dropped on photographic slides pulsated in time with music. Within months that light show was to seem incredibly primitive, but few people had seen one before and the Roundhouse audience was transfixed. Musically the Floyd played one of their best sets, even though the power short-circuited in the middle of 'Interstellar Overdrive'.

The IT party was also the first underground event to garner national press coverage; The Sunday Times ran a story on it, including an interview with Pink Floyd's Roger Waters. Over the next few months, further one-off events along the lines of the party took place. Some, like 'Psychodelphia Versus Ian Smith', were held at the Roundhouse; others, like the even more bizarrely-named 'Freak Out Ethel', were held elsewhere. However, none of them quite captured the magic of the IT party, especially as many (the 'New Years Eve All Night Rave' at the Roundhouse, for example) were obviously commercially-motivated ventures. But by the end of the year, the underground had found a new centre - at UFO, the Friday night club founded by Hoppy (aided and abetted by Joe Boyd and Miles) that had grown out of the Free School. --John Platt, http://www.nicke.abelgratis.com/uk_sixties.html

LFMC [...]

15 October 1966
First official Co-op screening forms part of the Roundhouse Rave - launch party of IT (International Times) newspaper held at the Roundhouse - includes Pink Floyd, Soft Machine and 6-hour film programme featuring Balch, Dwoskin, and Latham - IT, the press organ for the British cultural underground was published by Jim Haynes, John Hopkins (Hoppy), Barry Miles and Jack Moore, and edited by Tim McGrath

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