Llamas, pigs and flying dogs - Roundhouse - Celebrating 50 Years


1977 – 1983

A Roundhouse staff member from the 70s reveals some of the unusual happenings during Thelma Holt’s Artistic Directorship of the Roundhouse.

Credit: Pietro Izzo, under the Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

I loved working at the Roundhouse during Thelma Holt’s tenure. The thing I liked about her was that she let people try stuff out.

She let me and a colleague Rena programme a modern dance and avante garde jazz festival, even though it wasn’t our jobs, we had no programming experience and it didn’t seem that commercially viable. We made it up as we went along – looked up artists in the phone book – but it sold out and was a great night!

We didn’t realise it back then, but it was an amazing time to work there – it was my first exposure to the world of theatre and I didn’t know what to expect.

I remember working on Ken Campbell’s Illuminatus. There was a scene with a black mass ritual and a live goat was needed, so I went down to the local urban farm who were happy to lend us their goat (which tended to crap all over the stage). What we didn’t realise at the time was that the goat was pregnant, and they didn’t have another to lend us. We ended up with a llama instead. Ken also wanted his dog Werner to feature in an underwater scene as well, so I found myself fitting a snorkel mask to its face every night and throwing him across the back of the stage to give the illusion of it flying through water!

Bartholomew Fair, conceived by Thelma, was also phenomenal. The whole of the building was turned into a 17th century fair, we all wore Jacobean outfits and there were live pigs let loose!

One of the other bits of my job I loved was giving local schools tours of the building when they came in for the daytime shows in our smaller theatre space. It was this experience that inspired me to become a teacher (I’m now a school inspector).