Roundhouse Time. – I discover the joys of the 130 hour working week

Working at the Roundhouse Theatre was both exciting and exhausting

About 1998, an old friend of mine, Robbie Simpson, asked me if I would care to be the next Production-manager at the Roundhouse Theatre where he was working at the time in some technical capacity or other. I thought this might be fun, so I applied for the job and to my considerable surprise got it, in spite of having really no real experience in that particular work. But then, the man who gave me that job – the Director of the Roundhouse Trust – had been in charge of the Egg Marketing Board before taking up his post at the Roundhouse….

Thus began what was probably the most amazing three years of my life.

Being Production Manager there meant being in charge of everything apart from Front of House and office type administration, so I was in charge of a staff of about 30 or so totally weird hippy-like stage hands, electricians, carpenters, cleaners and others, and was totally responsible to ensure that everything technical worked for incoming companies and the public.

It also meant working for anything up to 130 hours every few weeks as a new show came in (The Roundhouse was a sort of short run pre-west end theatre), as most shows came for about a month and then headed to the west end theatres if they were successful with us.

Being literally an old engine roundhouse – the first in the world built by Stevenson in 1836, it wasn’t actually a good structure for theatre, so we more or less completely rebuilt the auditorium and stage for each production…..

We had the most amazing variety of shows there, ranging from classical music concerts, musicals, film shows, huge rock shows every Sunday, drama and so on.. Anything you can think of could and probably did happen there at one time or another.

People who we worked with included, and this list is far from complete:-

Doctor John

Pink Floyd,


Stone Ground,

And outside the Roundhouse I had the pleasure of working with Frank Zappa as well… A man whose work I admired enormously…. And I am happy to say that he was every bit as pleasant and sharp in person as he seemed to be when one saw him being interviewed. An intriguing man and an incredible guitarist too.

Well to make the list shorter, we had almost every rock musician and band apart from The Beatles, the Doors, Hendrix and Joplin. For the rest more or less everyone who was busy with Rock in the years between 1969 and 1974 appeared there in one way or another…. One highlight was the first of the Stone’s Last concerts… That was circus to say the least, which I shall write about more fully later.


Pierre Boulez,

London Philharmonic Orchestra,

BBC Symphony Orchestra,

Le Grande Magique Circus,

Arian Menushkin’s Théâtre du Soleil,

Jean-Louis Barrault,


Peter Brooke,

Sir Lawrence Olivier,

Johnathan Miller

Jeremy Irons,

David Essex,

Bernard Breslaw (he was such a gentle person in spite of his impressive size)

Continue reading “Roundhouse Time. – I discover the joys of the 130 hour working week”

Tanks – Fascinating Beasts

When I was much younger, I was obsessed by tanks – the military sort, not water tanks.   I mentioned this in another post (link) as the reason I found myself working as a modelmaker in Amsterdam for many years.

To begin with my interest was sparked by the animal like quality of these machines, rather than the destructive potential they represented all too well,   If you watch a tank moving around in the forest or mud, with all its crew safely locked up inside it, they have a seriously animal like quality about them.  Obviously the animals they most resemble are dinosaurs, the larger ones who presumably also ignored such minor things as trees, smaller dinosaurs and so forth as they went about their daily business.

Like dinosaurs, tanks seem to be totally indifferent to the sort of country they are moving around in, be it mud, dust, forest, fields or whatever, all the same to them, as it must have been to the larger types of dinosaur I imagine.

This short video of a bunch of tanks training gives you perhaps an idea of what it is I mean.

If you can watch this video without thinking about the men inside those large machines, but simply watch how they move, lurching around, pushing through bushes and so on then I think you will see what I mean.

Here to give you a better idea of what I mean, are a bunch of dinosaurs doing their thing…  the similarity must be obvious to you.

While I was still trying to be a sculptor, roughly between the ages of 19 to 25, I sent a lot of time attempting to get this huge animal quality of tanks into my sculptures, creating truck loads of closed steel boxes that moved around in a blind but assured fashion, but none of them satisfied me, as inevitably they were relatively small, and both tanks and dinosaurs typically weigh in at around 20 to 60 tones – rather larger than I could manage with my limited financial and physical means. Continue reading “Tanks – Fascinating Beasts”

My Pig – Humber Armoured Personnel Carrier

Many, many years ago I was the proud owner of a 7 ton chunk of armour plate, affectionately known in the British Army as a Pig, or more formally as Humber Armoured Personnel Carrier.

This splendid vehicle boasted a completely waterproofed 4.75 Rolls Royce petrol engine (and by waterproof, I mean the entire engine was encased in a sealed steel box, with the various lines (fuel, air and exhaust) passing out through one way valves.   So when one opened the bonnet, a tricky job in itself as it was made of thick bullet proof steel, one was confronted with a large, rounded pale green steel box, and no engine to be seen…


Curiously enough, it only had one set of gear ratios, no low gearing as one would expect to find on any vehicle that was designed to go off-road, but the engine was so powerful, and 1st gear so low, and as it was always in 4 wheel drive, it went perfectly happily over mud, small rivers and so on on its enormous “run-flat” tires.


Inside it was remarkably spartan, no unnecessary comfort for driver or passengers, and of course, being military, no seat belts to be seen.

Anyhow, you can find the specs for this small monster easily enough on line, so I shall stop going on about that side of the thing, and talk about what it was like to own and drive around in such a vehicle.   It was in effect my car, as I had no other vehicle at the time, so I used it to drive to work every day, and to drive around at the weekends too.  As one would in a normal car.

Continue reading “My Pig – Humber Armoured Personnel Carrier”