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,

Yes,

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.

Further,

Pierre Boulez,

London Philharmonic Orchestra,

BBC Symphony Orchestra,

Le Grande Magique Circus,

Arian Menushkin’s Théâtre du Soleil,

Jean-Louis Barrault,

Godspell,

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”

Wavy Gravy, Stoneground, Hog Farmers and dope galore

Stoneground – Amazing band who lived outside the Roundhouse

During my time at the Roundhouse in the early 1970’s, we held large rock concerts every Sunday, which over the years featured just about all the bands, musicians and others who were busy with Rock and Roll in that period.   Generally these guys turned up in time to perform their sets, and then went away again, and that was that.   However, one group actually moved in and set up home in the car park at the back of the Roundhouse and became our House Band for some months.

This was a large group of musicians and their hangers-on (wives, children and lovers) called Stoneground, who were part of what was known as the Hog Farmers.   This was a sort of ad hoc commune based in California on a real hog farm owned and run by a most unlikely clown called Wavy Gravy, who deserves an entire book all about who he was and what he did and still does.

In passing I should mention that it was Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farmers who set up and ran the Woodstock Festivals, so if you happen to see the film of the first Woodstock festival, you will have seen Wavy Gravy in action, as he introduced most of the groups there.

Anyhow, for some reason Warner Brothers had taken up Stoneground and decided in their wisdom to fly them all to London and then set up a tour around the UK and Europe.    They may have looked like Hippies, and lived together in a sort of commune, but most of them were rather older than the average Hippy, and not at all given to standing around with flowers in their hair damply saying “Peace..Peace and love”   They were much more likely to hit you over the head and stomp you, as many of them were Vietnam veterans and suffered from Post Traumatic Stress in a big way.

Stoneground en masse

Though in one way they were very much of the Hippy persuasion, and that was in their use of dope.   They chain smoked the stuff.

Continue reading “Wavy Gravy, Stoneground, Hog Farmers and dope galore”