Visiting The Roundhouse Bar at Chalk Farm Road

Fancy some theatre in East London but don’t know where to start? Head over to the Roundhouse on Chalk Farm Road, about 40 minutes from Shoreditch. Also known as the Great Circular Engine House, Roundhouse is a live performance venue housed in a Grade II Listed building at the heart of bustling Camden.

This nationally recognized gem boasts decades of history and has had an immense impact on Camden’s social and cultural scene since it opened as a public, live performance venue in 1964. Read on for a lowdown on its past and present.

A Blast in the Past: the History of Roundhouse

Roundhouse began as a turntable shed for the London & Birmingham Railways in 1847. It served the purpose for a decade and was transformed into a warehouse for gin distillers, W&A Gilbey Ltd, for about half a century. It, however, fell into disuse before World War II. The venue remained derelict until Sir Arnold Wesker, a famous English dramatist, opened its doors as a performing arts venue for his theatre company, Centre 42, in1964.

It fell into disuse again in 1983 when Centre 42 ran out of funds and remained closed until 1996, when  Torquil Norman, a local businessman, purchased it on impulse and set up a trust for its redevelopment. It was renovated to accommodate 1700 seated guests and up to 3000 when standing.

Ever since the Roundhouse began functioning as a live performance theatre in 1964, it has hosted countless live promotions, including performances by notable names in global entertainment like The Doors, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stone, and even Kenneth Tynan’s controversial sex revues. No wonder it’s Camden’s most popular live performance theatre to date.

The Roundhouse on Chalk Farm Road Today

Today, the Roundhouse serves as a live performance venue for established and emerging artists in Camden and its environs. The space is committed to nurturing young talents(11-25 years) in dance, music, and other performing arts. It hosts numerous events annually, including the famous CircusFest, an annual fest created to celebrate and bridge the gap between circus, and live art, dance, media, and other live performances.

The best part? The Roundhouse features five different bar areas so revellers like you can seamlessly access refreshments regardless of where they might be seated. These include:

The Roundhouse Bar & Cafe

The Roundhouse Bar & Cafe is the main lounging area at the Roundhouse. Here you’ll find a rich selection of cakes, pastries, savory snacks, specialty teas, and coffees. The bar features a diverse selection of beers, wines, and cocktails. You might find live performances by emerging artists from Camden and surrounding areas if your timing is good. The bar remains open throughout the night.

Members Bar

The Members Bar is an exclusive member area overlooking the main stage at Roundhouse. Members get plenty of seating, a private cloakroom, and exclusive services from a member’s bar host.

Main Space Bars

The Roundhouse has two bars inside the main area, so theatregoers looking to enjoy every bit of the show can stay refreshed without stepping out of the venue.

Circle Bar

Located on level 2 of the Roundhouse, The Circle Bar often opens an hour before live performances. It remains open throughout the evening for theatre-goers who’d like to skip the queues at the main space bars.

Torquil’s Bar and Terrace

Torquil’s Bar and Terrace pays homage to Sir Torquil Norman, the local businessman who procured Roundhouse in 1996. It’s on the first level overlooking Camden and is the perfect spot to grab a drink before the show begins. Like all Roundhouse bars, it also has a rich selection of alcoholic beverages you’ll enjoy.

Visiting the Roundhouse at Chalk Farm Road

Opening hours often vary depending on the gig or event, so attendees are often advised to check the advertised time on the Roundhouse website. The venue features easily accessible toilets and performance spaces on all levels. There’s also parking with ramped access.