Round House and Open Space, theatre companies : records

Scope and Content

This collection is made up of the records of the Round House, followed by the records of Open Space. The records of the Round House consist of company management, financial and administration records and the records of the management and marketing of individual productions on the Round House main stage and Downstairs, art exhibitions and other events, including photographs and plans for individual productions. The records of Open Space consist of company management, financial and administration records and records of the management and marketing of individual productions, including photographs and plans.

Administrative / Biographical History

This archive collection deals with the theatre company housed in the Roundhouse building from the late 1960s to 1983. The collection also includes material relating to another theatre company, Open Space, that had some administrative overlap with the Round House. There follows some historical details on the two companies.

The Roundhouse was built in 1847  to house the turntable at the terminus of the London and North Western Railway, however within 15 years of its completion, engines had become too long for the turntable. In the early 1860s  it was converted into a good shed and in 1869  leased to W & A Gilbey Ltd as a liquor store. Arnold Wesker had founded Centre 42 in 1960 , named after Resolution 42 of the 1960 Trade Union Congress, which called upon the Trade Union movement to participate more fully in the arts. Centre 42 was incorporated as a Company Limited by Guarantee on 4 September 1961  and it was granted Charitable Status on 6 October 1961 . With the assistance of Jennie Lee (later Baroness Lee), Harold Wilson (then Leader of the Opposition), George Hoskins and Lord Harewood he attempted convert the Roundhouse into a permanent home for Centre 42. The property had been acquired by Louis Mintz and Alec Colman who were persuaded to donate the 16 year lease to Centre 42. A formal appeal was launched in July 1964  but failed, due to a lack of support from the Arts Council, the Government and the Trade Union movement and because there was no certainty of obtaining the freehold at the end of the short lease. In 1965  Hoskins advised that the Round House Trust should be formed to hold the leasehold interest in the Roundhouse and to separate the funds raised from debts incurred by Centre 42.

In November 1966  a Council of Management was formed, with Wesker as Artistic Director, Hoskins as General Administrator, Robert Maxwell as Hon. Treasurer and Mike Henshaw as Hon. Secretary. In July 1967  nearly GBP 80,000 was subscribed during a tea party at 10 Downing Street. Also negotiations had been completed with British Rail to buy the freehold of the property for GBP 27,500. From 1967  to 1968  the building was used as a studio by film companies and as a venue for rock concerts. The first theatrical event was Peter Brook's production of Themes on the Tempest in July 1968 . In 1970  Wesker resigned after his play The Friends closed and Oh! Calcutta! was brought in. The Round House became a London base for several companies including the Royal Shakespeare Company, Cambridge Footlights, the Lindsay Kemp Company, Prospect Theatre Company, Manchester Royal Exchange and the Oxford Playhouse. Hoskins stood down in 1977  due to ill health and Thelma Holt, formerly of the Open Space Theatre Company, took over as Director. The Round House Trust went into liquidation in 1983  and the building was bought by Camden Council and the Greater London Council.

Camden Playhouse Productions Ltd, trading as the Open Space Theatre Company began in 1958  as In-Stage in the studio theatre of the British Drama League in Fitzroy Street, London. In 1968 Charles Marowitz became Artistic Director and Thelma Holt the Executive Director. The theatre was based in a disused old people's home at 32 Tottenham Court Road and used a flat at 30 Tottenham Court Road as an office. Open Space functioned as a club requiring membership to attend events. Open Space put on many of Marowitz's adaptation as well as works by August Strindberg, Howard Barker and Samuel Beckett. In 1976  the Tottenham Court Road theatre was closed as EMI were developing the whole block. The theatre moved to temporary premises on Euston Road, while EMI built them a new theatre. Holt resigned in 1977  and took over the Round House. The Euston Road venue closed in 1979  and as EMI did not honour their promise, Open Space was homeless. A final season was put on at the Round House, before the company folded in 1980 .


These records have been arranged chronologically in the following sub-fonds, identifying each series as relating to the Round House or Open Space:

  • THM/271/1 - Round House Company Management records
  • THM/271/2 - Round House Event Management records, including production management
  • THM/271/3 - Round House Photographs
  • THM/271/4 - Round House Audio materials
  • THM/271/5 - Round House Press and Marketing records
  • THM/271/6 - Round House Buildings and Estates records
  • THM/271/7 - Open Space Company Management and Finance records
  • THM/271/8 - Open Space Production Management records
  • THM/271/9 - Open Space Photographs
  • THM/271/10 - Open Space Audio materials
  • THM/271/11 - Open Space Press and Marketing records
  • THM/271/12 - Open Space Fundraising records
  • THM/271/13 - Open Space Buildings and Estates records
  • THM/271/14 - Unidentified Photographs

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here:

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Thelma Holt and Charles Marowitz, 2002.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here:

Appraisal Information

This collection was appraised in line with the collection management policy.

Custodial History

Open Space records were given on loan to the Polytechnic of North London (now London Metropolitan University) in 1980 after the company closed. Round House records were also given on loan to the Polytechnic of North London when they closed in 1983. Due to their shared custodial history and some potential overlap in their administrative histories, these two archives have been kept together under one reference. However, each series (with the exception of the unidentified photographs) is clearly identified as being related to the Round House or Open Space.


No further accruals expected.

Related Material

See also V&A Department of Theatre and Performance Core Collections: material relating to the Round House and Open Space may be found in several collections, including Theatre and Performance production files, company files, theatre buildings files, biographical files for related persons, and photographs. Please ask for details.

Scripts have been removed and transferred to the V&A Theatre Collections library. Programmes and flyers have been removed and transferred to the V&A Theatre Collections Core Collections.


Schiele, Jinnie. Off-Centre Stages: Fringe Theatre at the Open Space and the Round House 1968-1983. Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press, The Society for Theatre Research, 2005. xvi, 240 p., ill. ISBN 1902806425.